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    Bones & Breath is the name of a book by the Scottish poet Alexander (‘Sandy’) Hutchison, published by Salt. It won the Saltire Award for Best Scottish Poetry Collection, 2014. Sandy died in November 2015. The title poem has the poet as a bird “barely out/ of the nest”:

    Heart brims
    and spills.

    Words try
    eyes and wings;
    try air.

    The bones light,
    my breath light.

    There is something wonderful about that image, which encapsulates both extreme fragility and surging power, the risk and emotional charge of words attempting flight. We would like to read poems that have the solidity and vulnerability of bones, the vitality and contingency of every breath. You can write about bones. You can write about breath. You can write about both. Or you can use the phrase to inspire poems that seem to be about neither. As ever, we’re also happy to receive off-theme poems.

    We don’t want to be too prescriptive. Breath can be spirit. It can be necessity. Denise Levertov said that a line of poetry was a kind of breath. Bones can be dead and find themselves roused, as in Ezekiel, chapter 37 (“Thus saith the Lord GOD unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live”).

    This sense of divine (re)creation is balanced by our knowledge of the inevitable end, our sense of mortality. In another poem, ‘Everything’, Sandy wrote, “Everything is racing/ Everything is vanishing/ Everything is hosted/ Everything is vanishing”.

    Serious poems are fine, but please try not to be dreary. In ‘Dream Song 30′, John Berryman speaks of Henry, his alter ego:

    Collating bones: I would have liked to do.
    Henry would have been hot at that.
    I missed his profession.

    The black comedy ensures this poem never becomes ponderous, despite its theme of mortality. Breath can burst, like laughter. So, breathe in. Get those skeletons dancing! You are bones & breath, words that try “eyes and wings;/ try air”.

    Rob A. Mackenzie and A.B. Jackson
    editors, Magma 67

    Submissions can be made from Wednesday 1st June until midnight on Sunday 31st July. Details of how to submit poems can be found on our Contributions Page.

  2. “Dying is easy, comedy is hard”, were allegedly the last words of the Shakespearean actor, Edmund Kean, and anyone who has tried to stand on a stage and make people laugh will know what he means. But what about on the page?

    The late James Tate said “I love my funny poems, but I’d rather break your heart. And if I can do both in the same poem, that’s the best.”

  3. Call for Contributions – Magma 65 on the theme of ‘Revolution’

    Written by Laurie Smith and Jane R Rogers at 9:55 am

    Might we be entering another revolutionary period?  Are the signs here?  Can we see revolution in the power of social media, the election of Jeremy Corbyn, the creation of the UK Women’s Equality Party by Sandi Toksvig, Scotland’s possible independence, Europe closing its borders, the realisation of climate change…?

    Perhaps the problem of being in the middle of a revolution is that we can’t really see it. The various revolutions in 50s/60s USA – anti-draft, Civil Rights, early feminism, gay rights – were made visible by poets like Bob Dylan, the confessional poets (Lowell, Berryman, Jarrell, Plath, Sexton) and the Beats. Are you one of the poets we can turn to now? Can you illuminate the changes occurring under our very noses?

  4. Ramping up Risk before September 30th Deadline

    Written by Dom Bury and Jon Stone at 12:21 pm

    When we set ‘risk’ as a theme, we had a rough idea of what we’d hope to see: poems pushing both form and content to the edges of what’s considered to be the normal range. We rightly anticipated that this would open the window to some pretty eyebrow-raising stuff – which is to say we’ve had quite a few submissions that have clearly set out to shock and disturb.We’ve also received poems about risk itself, about rolling the dice, which is great – but we’d also like to see poems which interpret the brief in unusual or unexpected ways. If we could tell you exactly what those are, they wouldn’t be unexpected!

    There are certainly things we’d like to see more of. Not many submissions have contained long poems. A well-achieved long poem really is a feat in itself. We’ve also seen less in the way of wild formal experimentation or poets setting out to use the space on the page in demanding new ways. Why not give Magma’s typesetter a real challenge? Or try to sneak something devilish past the editors’ watchful eyes, hidden in the poem itself? Click here for the full call for contributions.

  5. Call for contributions – Magma 64 on the theme of ‘Risk’

    Written by Dom Bury and Jon Stone at 10:02 am

    Magma has changed to Submittable. Please follow this link to submit.

    For the next issue of Magma we’ve chosen the theme of ‘Risk’. We’re aware that risk is in itself a risky word. It is open to interpretation. And what we hope to present in our call for submissions is just one understanding.

  6. The latest edition of Magma is very Street.

    Written by admin at 1:56 pm

    Thanks to everyone who came along and supported the launch of Magma 61 at the London Review Bookshop on Friday (15th May). We heard from a great mix of poets including Simon Kew, Geraldine Clarkson, John Wheway and Miranda Peake and our first guest reader, Christine Webb. Christine Webb reading ‘Wasting Time by Looking’

    We also had an impromptu turn by Gram Joel Davies who read his poem ‘World Away’ on the vagaries of gap years. And to round off the evening Simon Barraclough, read from his latest collection ‘Sunspots’, including his wonderful poem ‘Brightness’, a dark and troubled response to Byron’s ‘Darkness’. Simon Barraclough dazzled us with poems from ‘Sunspots’

  7. We’re launching the latest Magma magazine, M61, this Friday (15th May) at the London Review Bookshop (14, Bury Place, WC1A 2JL). The theme of Magma 61 is ‘The Street’.

    There will be readings from our guest poets Simon Barraclough and Christine Webb as well as a selection of other poets featured in the edition. Doors open at 6.30pm, readings begin at 7pm.

  8. Call for contributions – Magma 63 on the theme of ‘Conversation’

    Written by Susannah Hart & Lisa Kelly at 6:11 pm

    ‘What is the use of a book’, thought Alice, ‘without pictures or conversation?’ Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

    At Magma, we’ve been talking. As you know we’re having a National Conversation (about poetry) and we want you to share your poems on the theme of ‘Conversation’ with us to be published in Magma 63.

  9. We settled on ‘violence’ as the theme for Magma 62 since it seemed a stark contrast to the “big safe themes”, as Paul Farley might call them, that sprang easily to mind. Violence felt bold and a little bit different and these, above all, are the qualities we are looking for in the poems. We want poems like Paul Batchelor’s To a Halver an ode to a half-brick that mines the symbolism of this, apparently, simple object so it becomes more than a weapon; or poems that explore the theme of violence in the way they mean (through the use of syntax, typography, diction etc) as well as what they mean. Here we can’t help thinking of a poem like Gaddafi Gaddafi Gaddafi by Hannah Silva, first published in Magma 56, or Kerosene by Tim Seibles but these are just examples of the sort of poem we’re after. We are particularly excited to see what this provocation might mean to you. The deadline is 31st January 2015.  As ever, we are happy to consider poems on other themes, also. Please see the Contributions page for details of how to submit your poems.  We look forward to hearing from you.

    Kayo Chingonyi Chris Kerr Editors, Magma 62

  • Views expressed on this blog are those of the individual authors -- Magma seeks to present a range of views, not a single Magma view.
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