Some Thoughts on Jill Magi’s Book SLOT

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Due to Lisa Fishman’s sabbatical, Columbia will be welcoming Jill Magi to teach MFA classes in the 2012-2013 academic year. I worked with Lisa in workshop last semester, and she helped my poetry a great deal, so I was a bit bummed when the rumors started swirling about her sabbatical. However, I am a forward looking person, so when I saw that Jill was going to be teaching Lisa’s course load, I decided to pick up her latest book, SLOT, which is out from Ugly Duckling Presse.

This won’t function as a review, but I do want to share some thoughts going through my head reading the book. Check it out after the jump.

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I’ve given the book two reads now, and I think I definitely noticed a lot more on the second read and appreciated a lot more of the language. The book is essentially a long, segmented poem. It’s broken up stylistically so it feels separate enough that it doesn’t wear on like some long poems can, but the structure of the book is closer to long poem than poetry collection.

The book is, according to a blurb on the back by Jena Osman, “a meditation on public memory.” That seems spot on to me. Events such as 9/11, the Holocaust, and slavery are all invoked, as are the memorial sites attached to each. The poet’s experience navigating around these kinds of sites make up the majority of the book, although the book is very, very loosely narrative, so things are more suggestive than really addressing any one thing.

My favorite parts of the book are the more lyric sections, which if you read the acknowledgements, are composed using appropriated language. A selection from my favorite page:

when the impulse is to go away      to bury
I wade through the deep muddy

when the impulse is to pass behind a cloud
hide          I wade through the deep and muddy

when      come a drummer
come a-beating drum

when I feel the darkness deeply
twist in me like a river

to the hollow of my hands
to my city of sleepers come a drummer

come a beating drum I’m wading
through the deep muddy

fool says push on
fool says push on

The way she uses repetition here and allows archetypal images (drum, sleepers, etc) to be suggestive without directly portraying anything in particular is super, super interesting to me, and I’m now very excited to work with Jill next semester.