Friday, December 20, 2019

REVIEW: Annie Finch's The Poetry Witch: Little Book of Spells

The Poetry Witch: Little Book of Spells by Annie Finch, Wesleyan University Press (2019) $6.95, trade paperback, (64 pages) 4.2” x 0.5” x 6.2”

You may be familiar with the maxim, Good things come in small packages. That saying could well have been created to describe this book, which is small in size but large in scope and beautifully organized.

In an online note to me, Annie Finch mentioned that Little Book of Spells is connected to her much larger and previously published book, Spells: New and Selected Poems, published in 2013 by the same press.

Little Book of Spells will hold interest for many readers, not only for its poetry, but also for its use of fonts and color. The titles of the main sections of the poetry are all set in bold face caps (often abbreviated as “bfc” especially by professional editorial personnel) In this book, these section titles are: East: Casting; North: Wheel of the Year; West: Covening; South: Creating; Center: She Who. Readers who are active or at least familiar with Pagan and Wiccan ritual will recognize that these are the major parts in the ritual circle casting. In the table of contents, the poem titles in these sections are set in very light typeface and, in fact the use of such light type is my major criticism of this book. Not only the names of the poems in the table of contents, but also some sections in the fore matter and the back matter are printed in type several shades lighter than the other sections of the book. The light type is hard-to-read for many people and includes the Acknowledgments section in the back matter, the “Poet’s Note” in the fore matter, and the subtitles in the table of contents (since they are short, however, they–at least for me–do not pose as much of a reading problem as the Acknowledgments and other longer light-printed sections).

Most of the poems themselves are printed in regular dark (but not bold) typefaces, although some, apparently to contrast with the color of the background on which they are printed, are printed in white. In another unusual aspect, the poems in the book are generally only 1-4 lines long. Here are some examples of these short yet usually deep poems:

The first poetry section, whose 2 title pages and 2 of its 5 poems are set in white type on a deep yellow background and titled East, North, West, South, and Center, opens with this poem for “East:”
“Web-weaver spin the air;
Sing dark; sing light; aware”

The 2nd section, is “Wheel of the Year.” Its title pages and 2 of its 9 poems (8 of which are related to individual Pagan holidays) are set in white on a green background. One of these, “Litha” is an illustrated one-liner:
“Point your fire like a flower.”
Also illustrated and in the same color scheme, the poem for “Yule” reads:
“Vines, leaves, roots of darkness, glowing.
Come with your seasons, your fullness, your end.”

In the the 3rd section, “Covening,” title pages and 2 of its 5 poems are set in white on a blue background. Its closing poem, “Communion,” reads:
“Now the worshipping savage cathedral our
mouths make will lace
death and its food, in the moment that refracts
this place.”

In the 4th section, “Creating” title pages and 2 of its 6 poems have white type on orange background. In it, a poem titled “Nightmare” reads:
“Nightmare, oh woman lost in the depths of me,
Lost to the rage that has risen up with me,
Lost till I ride you home – nightmare of me.”

“She Who,” the 5th and final section, has title pages and 3 of its 9 poems set in white type on deep blue background. All but one of the poems in this section are named for Goddesses. For example, its poem, “Yemaya” reads:
“Star of the ocean, flow wide in us;
Blessings, grow round and abide in us.”

Regarding the length and size of this book─that depends on how you count and measure. considers the book 64 pages long and the measurements in inches at the top of this review are Amazon’s. I count the pages this way: poetry sections, 49 pages; front matter, 7 pages; back matter, 4 pages. (These do not include the blank pages.) My measurements in inches differ only in the depth, which my tape measurer tells me is less than half an inch. However, this may reflect compacting that occurred in shipping.

Ways of counting pages may vary, but of one thing I'm sure: In size, use of color, and text of poems, Annie Finch’s The Poetry Witch: Little Book of Spells will be considered by many readers as one of the most inventive poetry books one can obtain.

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Judith Laura

More blogs about /goddess/feminist theology/spiritual feminism/pagan/feminist spirituality/.