Tuesday, December 16, 2008



TORCHWOOD by Jill Magi
(Shearsman Books, Exeter, U.K., 2008)

Okay! I respond enthusiastically! This is what’s meant by making it fresh vs. making it new! Here in Jill Magi’s TORCHWOOD, archetypes abound but the sense of familiarity does not translate to the tired, the cliché, the been-there/done-that déjà vu. Here’s the book’s first poem, also a most effective invitation into the rest of the book:

Carrying yellow between us
is pasture, soul—

beauty from the sun
to your exercise in dreaming, thinking.

Such days hatch tomorrow in my girlhood—

purple on gold, I may tell you
about church.

This poem actually uses the word soul”! I can’t recall the last time I saw a contemporary poet effectively utilize “soul”!

I turn the page and, again, this most gratifyingly lyrical freshness pleases:

I take a day.

Tell me to slide in
and drink your tea
lest I pour myself out.
                   (I pour out my age with all wisdom

I wear a veil. They insist
at my lion’s rage.

Shades of Linda Gregg. But the poet also keeps TORCHWOOD fresh with shifts of energy and a variety of styles, hence a reference by one blurber Kimberly Lyons to “Stein and Scalapino”, hardly names in the same category as Gregg. One of my favorite poems, “I Am Climbing Inssbruck”, begins:
I am climbing Innsbruck, I am pathways for skis and rabbit stew, at the Uni halls of blue smoke bludgeoning, I am a castle of Lederhosen, do you cook? Or volleyball? I am stamped of my passport, I am hot wine in iron, winter kettles of Strudel and by myself I am a projection across silence.

I wildflower,
I Schnitzel,
I lace,
I crucifix and Vienna,
I Salzburg and tunnel,
I castle,
I gypsy,
I Christmas, very Christmas.

You do cooking,
you do German,
you do knitting and not the gypsies again,
you do all night on the lake and dawn on the knoll,
you do dumplings and dumplings and dumplings.

I am Edelweiss speaking American, I am stamps and Post,
I am skiing down a strong coffee, I am silence
and I am by the River Inn,
a wish for a pizza pie, I am needing Alpenrose tea or Excedrin
from American, I am rare in feeling and climbing the shin air,
dancing behind the locked door, American.

…I didn’t want the poem to end!

Magi moves from textual density to the manipulation of space, both in terms of visual caesuras to textual parataxis, with a sure hand. For instance, the beginning section from “Nival":
A walk into what has eclipsed us.


                   “I feel barren”

                                    setting up for pause


Fallen into                   above.

Magi displays an effortless hand in generating poems whose intensities easily argue for their necessary existence. She makes it look easy when, actually, the last line in this excerpt below from “Thinking A Kite” sums up what can make (written) Poetry so elusive (the lines are presented quad-left in the book which I can’t replicate in Blogger-format, but you get the drift):

It is tender a hot shower in new places

It is tender a map of what is not said

wanting chords

Tender a rough history

of he and she

and she and you and so on

as anyone family

I feel a gift is difficult


Eileen Tabios does not allow her books to be reviewed in Galatea Resurrects, but she is pleased to point you elsewhere to Fred Muratori's review of her I Take Thee, English, For My Beloved in AMERICAN BOOK REVIEW. She feels lucky to have received reviews of her books and, one day, while wondering what to do with all these reviews, answered her own question with her newest book THE BLIND CHATELAINE'S KEYS: HER BIOGRAPHY THROUGH YOUR POETICS which recycles reviews and engagements of her poems into a biography--a biography because, as Ted Berrigan once noted, "there is a self inside almost all of the poems”.

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