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”:
eyes and wings;
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.
General contribution information
We welcome poems that have not been previously published, either in print or online. Poems may be sent via Submittable or by post if you live in the UK. Postal submissions are not acknowledged until a decision is made.
Contribution deadlines for the three issues are the end of January, March and September. Poems are considered for one issue only. We write to contributors as soon as a decision is made. As Magma receives a very large number of poems, we cannot consider more than 4 poems per poet per issue which must be sent in a single email or postal submission.
Magma has moved all its submissions online to Submittable. Submissions will no longer be read if sent to our Magma email address. If you don’t have an account, you can create a new one easily in a couple of minutes. We accept contributions by post from the UK only, addressed to:
23 Pine Walk
Postal contributions must be accompanied by an s.a.e. The writer’s name must appear on each page.
Poems published in the magazine may also be published on this website and as a PDF version for Exact Editions. Poems remain the copyright of their author. Contributors receive a copy of the issue in which they appear and and can purchase further copies at a discount. They may also be invited to read at the issue’s launch reading.
We review books and pamphlets of poetry in the magazine, on our blog and in our e-newsletters. We regret that only poetry by living authors can be reviewed, although new translations of poetry of the past can be considered. Books and pamphlets for review must be sent to our reviews editor:
Rob A Mackenzie
30 Lochend Road