Is it lack of imagination that makes us come
to imagined places, not just stay at home?
Or could Pascal have been not entirely right
about just sitting quietly in one’s room?
Elizabeth Bishop, Questions of Travel
This issue of Magma is dedicated to the theme of foreign lands. The topic was motivated in part by the world’s circumstances – and what seems to me to be the need for a new level of global awareness, particularly in the US – when a decision about another war is being made after the mayhem of September 11th, 2001. The other motivation for choosing foreign lands was, frankly, that it is a salient subject to me personally, as an Englishman living in California, with half my roots in Canada.
Wherever I could, I selected poems that fitted the theme and, given the special role of the country where I live, poetry from the USA. This issue has poems about departure and journeying, arrival and return. There is first-hand experience abroad, and countries imagined from afar. The poems describe a world mediated through animals, music and food; a world crossed by letters and telephone calls. And there are poems about the intersection with the ‘other’ (if not the foreign) that may be found in the corners of our familiar territories – Atlantis discovered inside a dropped jam jar, and the places where the dead and missed leave their presence.
The prose in this issue is largely concentrated on the US. We bring you US author Thomas Lynch’s insightful perspective on the sonnet – part of the ‘Presiding Spirits’ series – and a review of ‘The Best American Poetry 2002’. ‘Lorca’s Poet in New York’ comprises articles by UK poet Clare Pollard and US poet Bob Vance on Federico García Lorca’s poem sequence on New York. Those pieces strike as richly at my theme as I could wish for, with perspectives from around the world (Clare reports on a Poetry International reading in London), on a deep personal encounter with the most symbolic of lands. Elizabeth Bishop asks interesting questions about place and the writer’s imagination. As the example of America shows in particular, foreign places are inextricably mixed with our imaginings. We cannot help but construct aspects of America, whether we live there or visit it; whether it visits us through the media; wherever we are between ‘with it’ and ‘against it’.
And for readers, isn’t a good poem somewhere to which we travel for a time – feel that we are there – and bring our own imaginative response? I ask our readers to buckle up, and wish them well on their journey through these pages.
Letters, please to us by post or e-mail via the Editorial Secretary.
Tim Kindberg, Editor, Magma 25