Saturday, September 14, 2019

Jill Magi, SPEECH

Is this version of city
to cross your outpost

a light blue gauze
a desert skin

a thick grey fog
a south side a redline

                is your outpost this
comfort version

your heart tent
your lopsided outpost

a crowded kitchen
a blocked window

blocked by too many beds
stacked for rent

is your north
crossing your south (“Outpost/_____”)

American poet and visual artist Jill Magi’s latest is the book-length SPEECH (Brooklyn NY: Nightboat Books, 2019), following Threads (Futurepoem Books, 2007), Torchwood (Shearsman Books, 2008), Cadastral Map (Shearsman Books, 2011), SLOT (Ugly Duckling Presse Dossier Series, 2011), Pageviews/Innervisions: A Textimage Theory and Curriculum (Moving Furniture Press/Rattapallax, 2014) and LABOR (Nightboat Books, 2014). In “An Interview with Jill Magi and Pierre Depaz, Author and Programmer of SIGN CLIMACTERIC,” conducted by Brandon Krieg and posted at NANO: North American Notes Online, December 2018, Magi references the book, then still forthcoming:

I thought about a section in my manuscript SPEECH—forthcoming from Nightboat in 2019—about “the climacteric,” which refers to menopause in women, and in botany, refers to a stage when a fruit has finished growing but the ripening is completed on the vine. If you look up climacteric, you’ll see that the menopause version of the meaning is lack, death, decay, and symptoms. But the botany meaning is positive! There are all sorts of interesting things going on with cellular respiration at that stage in ripening.

About two years ago menopause became visible in my life, and I was floored by the onset of hot flashes—by how little I knew about it and by the bind I found myself in: taking hormone supplements could cure the hot flashes, but HRT (hormone replacement therapy) has also been linked to cancer. I decided to sweat it out.

The poems in SPEECH see the narrator walking around her city, akin to Vancouver poet Meredith Quartermain’s Vancouver Walking (Edmonton AB: NeWest Press, 2005), walking and meditating on space, thinking and geography, but Magi also moves through ideas of boundaries, borders and the citizen, writing: “where impossible citizen / does not stop walking but // folds impossible glimpses / inside // not fully seen speaking / here joins the unfolding // pushing air up out / through enormous fans” (“Outpost/_____”). There are comparisons, also, to be made to Erín Moure’s ‘citizen’ trilogy, as Magi writes: “impossible citizen lands // a job in a place eaten up by / origins” (“Outpost/_____”).

Through ten extended sequence-sections—“Introduction / She went out for bread,” “Outpost/_____,” “Sign Climacteric,” “Various East Various South,” “Until she hosts,” “Some Various West,” “This steep repeat —,” “Now words float down. See the gentle of that.,” “Post-Script / A Third Space” and “Painting a bibliography”—Magi walks and absorbs, articulates and advocates. Magi writes on the refugee (from the domestic homeless to the stateless migrant), the climate crises, the subject of freedom and nationalism, western relationships with developing nations, the destructive myopics of capitalism, and the existential void it creates; she writes of the citizen, and the responsibilities that should come automatically with living in the world, from concerns ranging from the local to the global, crossing thresholds and boundaries and borders. “who is deported or shot / for roads for mining // as inroads come / hailed as progress // for hauling off the wealth / as a presidential visit // in whose ski / has the developing // world arrived—” (“Some Various West”). The poems reach through conflict, crises and trauma for solutions but hold no solutions but the obvious, that we should be better to each other, and for each other. Why aren’t more readers listening?

fold safety back
into the search for a system

where a study is not a singular pose
as it feels for the roots that make
a self a city a country sink
under the great spine of democracy
the great glow of a crown

SPEECH a lake of lack
of desert valve
of the haves and not—
(“Various East Various South”)

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