How to be a Tarot Card (or a Teenager) by Jennifer A McGowan

cover copyright Tom Charlesworth

ISBN: print: 978-1-913665-64-7 eBook: 978-1-913665-65-4

28/10/2022 96pp £9.99


Taking one of the major Arcana of Tarot as the starting point for each of the poems, Jennifer A McGowan explores the joys and angst of adolescence, her father’s falling out with the military, and many other themes in between.

Jennifer A. McGowan dances language like a true storyteller in poems built on the firm and true foundations of Tarot archetype.  She writes with mordant wit and a sharp intelligence of the nettlesome vulnerability of a body which breaks and does not rightly heal. What she has are the cards, the elements and all the sky, fire and water that will hold and will cleanse.  And these words too – these poems will reach you in the gyring world.  They will endure.

Helen Ivory


With McGowan in charge of the cards, you know you’re in for a reading like no other. Pithy, wry, with unique insight via her all important third eye, this oddball poet knows how to stack her stanzas. Original, beguiling, with a deft touch for the line, and a wit all of her own, she is simply a joy to read, whatever her cards reveal.

Mark Connors, YAFFLE PRESS.

With her wry, slant look at life and the relationship between ourselves and others, McGowan catches us off balance. We think we know the meaning of the readings she puts before us, then we are smacked sidelong by something else. A teenager is likened to a pack of cards so precisely that you hate yourself for not coming up with the analogy yourself. And love, grief and disappointment so accurately imagined that you nod along to this collection as it is laid out before you. McGowan deftly and swiftly reels you in with slight of hand and in the end you are glad of it.



Gill Lambert

A pack of delights indeed.  Using tarot as a source of imagery and inspiration, one enticing poem after another is turned up for the reader to decipher and interpret.  Here there are stories, and portraits, ekphrastic pieces, experiments with form.  The past and the epic mingle with the present and autobiographical day to day observations.  From the beautifully dealt ‘To My Mother, 100 Years from Now’ to ballad like tales such as ‘A Little Space’, McGowan’s work is highly engaging, at times mystical (even trippy), and yet always successfully remaining in the borderlands of accessible.  I predict good things for this new release. Buy it!  


Emma Purshouse (First Poet Laureate for the City of Wolverhampton, and third prize winner in the National Poetry Competition 2021).

The tarot has been used to play games since the 15th century. Since that time each card has also accumulated meanings.  By the 18th century the tarot was used for divination or for oracular purposes, much like the Delphic oracles of old. Nowadays the trumps, or major arcana, are believed to chronicle, symbologically, the journey of the Fool through life.

How to be a Tarot Card (or a Teenager) explores, exploits, and sometimes downright twists the major arcana and the meanings they have accumulated, in the order in which the many hundreds of tarot decks now travelling the world present them. The Star, connoting hope, exists simultaneously as metaphor and feral dog; the rebirth nestled inside the Death card becomes female friendship and escape from patriarchal binds.

To revise means to re-see. These poems are revisionist, for what is poetry but a way of seeing, and what is the poet except the fool playing games, chronicling their journey?

Listen to Jennifer McGowan reading from How to be a Tarot Card (or a Teenager) on Eat the Storms Poetry Podcast.