Thomas Fink with Jill Magi

Image from Jill Magi's Slot
Image from Jill Magi's Slot

Thomas Fink is a frequent contributor to The Conversant. The subject of this interview is Jill Magi’s SLOT (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2011). You can read part I of this interview here. 

Thomas Fink: Please tell me about your development of a relation between some of the photos in SLOT—especially those of the expressive hands—and the poetic text.

Jill Magi: You ask about the photographs. I recently wrote an essay on poetry and photography for Poetry Northwest. Here is a snippet:

As I worked on SLOT, I intuited that page after page of text only was not ideal, even if that text contained the visual via description and self-reflexive language on the act of looking. SLOT is about resisting landscaped memory in the post-disaster experience. Looking, including looking away and not picturing, is key in this work that asserts the importance of the personal gesture (incorporated memory) amid official versions of an experience (inscribed memory). The photos in SLOT attempt a turn away from received images of the World Trade Center disaster while refusing erasure.

I note the presence of my hands in the photos: untangling string and uncovering veiled museum brochures. I think of the common Estonian greeting my father taught me: “how does your hand go?” where “how are you doing?” is indicated by how well you are making, working.

Jill Magi with Thomas Fink

Jill Magi

The subject of this interview is Jill Magi’s SLOT (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2011). This is the first of two interviews Thomas Fink conducted with Magi; the second interview will appear in our September issue.

Thomas Fink: Would it go against your intentions—and I suspect it would—to say that SLOT is exclusively critical of contemporary museum culture and sees no positive role for it?

Jill Magi: I’m interested in our poetry community’s perhaps limited trainings in how to critique something without discarding it altogether. In other words, is it possible to critique institutions of modernity while not falling prey to the argument, “they [historical museums] are bad; they should not exist”? I want to say that poetry is especially good at capturing this state of “seeing” while not discarding. Poets don’t need to decide either/or—our possibility is one of simultaneous acceptance and criticality.