SIX NOTES FOR CADASTRAL MAP AND “A CURRICULUM FOR BOYS: A VIDEO POEM”
By Jill Magi
1. Cadastral Map came out of a desire to reinsert people into the landscape and eco-discourses because I think environmentalism and conservation erases them, especially the poor and working class.
2. I am wary of writing that celebrates the beauty of nature or pits “city” against “country.” Nature and beauty, city versus country: constructs often at the service of power. The irony of land conservation/beautification efforts and the absence of policies aimed to help those who live there. The poem “A Curriculum for Boys: A Video Poem” is about this.
3. “A Curriculum for Boys” features the notebooks of James Taylor, a turn-of-the-century Vermont progressive who established the lasting notion of Vermont as “playground” for the wealthy.
4. Can poetry help us grasp our impermanence? I hope so. Geologists imagine the existence of the human race as just one crease in the palm of your hand compared to the vast timeline of the earth made by spreading your arms out side to side like wings. If we are not afraid of death—our own extinction—can we than focus more on the way we live life at the moment? Would this open up channels of empathy, sacrifice, and a concern not just for progeny but all children?
5. As a child, I walked the aisle of our New Jersey drug store and one day was overcome with the feeling that American Indians had walked on this exact tract of land. I went down vertically, sensing the tiles beneath my feet, the concrete under the tiles, and then the earth and leaves, perhaps pressed into a path, beneath. North American land as palimpsest. Also, eastern forests in this country as historical hiding places and routes for escaped slaves. How do you feel in the woods? Certain cellular memories: a map. On another day I unearthed an arrowhead from a freshly plowed cornfield. I set this arrowhead to rest up against the spine of my childhood books.
6. “Still, I crave a walk in the woods. Poetry meanders its way away from this essay—and toward The Psalms: ‘I look unto the hills from whence cometh my help.’” These are sentences from the ending essay in Cadastral Map. I feel this ecopoetics: “At every turn, degrees of legibility, a focus that comes in and out, position-depending. Don’t look away. Listen, there is history. Earth and bones beneath your map give weight back with each authoring step.”