‘When you start on your way to Ithaca, Pray that the journey be long, Rich in adventure, rich in discovery.’
C P Cavafy, Ithaca, translated by Avi Sharon
Cavafy’s Ithaca, one of my favourite poems, is about the pleasure of thejourney. The traveller is urged to seize the delights of new harbours, Phoenician markets, amber, perfumes, Egyptian scholars: “Yet do not hurry your journey at all: better that it lasts for many years / and you arrive an old man on the island”.
Journeys seemed an appropriate theme for this, Magma’s 50th issue, as we hope we still have a long way to go, but have very much enjoyed the distance we’ve travelled the last 17 years with the support of readers and poets. To celebrate, we asked some questions of people who’ve been important to Magma’s story so far – we hope you’ll enjoy reading their responses, from favourite Magma memories to predictions for the future. We’re also marking our anniversary by launching an inaugural Magma Poetry Competition but, in typical Magma fashion, it’s a contest with an intriguing difference.
Along with Mary Tymkow, the assistant editor of this issue, I was overwhelmed by the number and quality of poems that the theme of journeys inspired. Our final selection of poetic travels includes commutes, honeymoons and dangerous assignments. There are trips to Tokyo, Basra, the Andes and Pucklechurch, as well as Rimbaud’s Bohemia and John Glenday’s impossible ‘Abaton’.
For some poets, journeys are of course not a choice but a necessity, and I am glad to be able to feature work from the Iranian poet Leily Mossini, currently seeking asylum in the UK. Her powerful poem, Buried Alive, translated by Clare Shaw, reminds us that movement itself is a precious freedom – “It is not that we could not live together -/ we could not walk down the street.” Elsewhere, Sian Hughes writes movingly of her work with Sadia Abdu, a Somalian writer searching for her children.
I am also very pleased to include an important essay about Romani poetry by David Morley, the Turner Prize winner Jeremy Deller’s thoughts on Neil Young’s time-travelling lyric Pocahontas, and Neil Rollinson’s poetic response to Peter Redgrove, as a poet of what “lies beneath, and beyond”.
Like Cavafy, we hope you have a “splendid voyage”.