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Like all the best ideas our theme for this issue arrived backwards: wondering how to follow the music of words it struck us that an issue which put poetic shape in the foreground would be a nifty counterweight. Plans changed as plans do and shape now comes in Magma 57, music in Magma 58 – but which is the cart and which is the horse?

This issue makes an argument by examples for the significance of shape in poetry. Paula Claire’s article provides both some historic background and passionate advocacy for the concrete poetry tradition. Visual rhythm may also be important to more conventional-seeming poems. Mario Petrucci suggests ways of looking at poems that can help us both in our proper work as readers as well as in our proper play as writers. However, any attempt to classify all the ways poets have used shape very soon trips over its own bootlaces. In this issue we have poems about shape, poems that use shape as a form of logic, poems that use shape as a joke (and a joke can discover a serious punch-line), poems that use shape to shadow or disrupt their rhythm…and more. What we don’t have (we hope) are poems where shape is mere decoration – in every case shape is put in the service of the poem.

It’s a great pleasure to have Patience Agbabi as the commissioned poet for our regular Inspired feature. Chaucer is a canonical choice, but the way she has transformed this material in her poem is both complex and revelatory. Rob Montgomery, an artist whose practice is somewhere on the borderlines between visual art and poetry, chooses a favourite poem by John Ashbery (and we have permission to reproduce it, take a look!). Stevie Ronnie is our showcase poet and we are also pleased to present our annual feature of poems by the winners of this year’s Eric Gregory awards.


Alec Finlay Tomorrow/today
Olivia Dawson &
Penelope Shuttle Along the great moon
Allison McVety from Honeymoons: Dubai


John Ashbery Requested by Robert Montgomery So Many Lives by John Ashbery Sometimes I get radiant drunk when I think of and/or look at you, Upstaged by our life, with me in it. And other mornings too Your care is like a city, with the uncomfortable parts Evasive, and difficult to connect with the plan That was, and the green diagonals…
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