Magma 69 Editorial

by Lisa Kelly and Raymond Antrobus

This issue is not perfect. It is not definitive. It is not even deafinitive on deafness and poetry. Before our call for submissions, we realised there was a risk in calling Magma 69 ‘The Deaf Issue’; addressing deafness as a theme and inviting responses from non-hearing and hearing poets alike, from British Sign Language (BSL) poets to poets who wear hearing aids and poets who have never misheard a word in their life. OK, the last example is pushing it, but we wanted range, and range can mean not satisfying everyone’s expectations. If you are introduced to a poet outside your normal ‘range’ then for us, that is an achievement.

Meet poets who have never been published before, who are expressing something real and cutting, meet poets who have been exposed to prejudice in their lives and a society that is deaf to their concerns, meet poets whose first language is expressed through the body.

For our Inspired section, we commissioned BSL poet Alison Smith and filmmaker Sandra Alland to collaborate on a BSL film-poem, the inspiration for which is Dorothy Miles, a legendary poet and activist in the Deaf Community. You can watch the film online and read the translation in the magazine. Go to our website and watch other BSL poetry films after reading the translations. Ask yourself how you interact with these poems on the page and on the screen.

Welcome to a wide-ranging issue that we hope reflects multiple ways of looking at ‘deafness’ and what it means to an individual and society. One thing we are adamant about is that sound is not the high priestess of poetry. We both love and respect music in words, but there can be so much more. You’re an educated reader, so you know what that ‘more’ can be, but we are very excited by the visual poetry in this issue: poetry that you might not be able to read or access easily. Perhaps you can only ‘see’ the odd word or phrase at first. Perhaps you must ask the visual equivalent of ‘What?’ Good. Poems that make us question our relationship with our senses and how we use those senses to communicate with each other are at the heart of this issue.

With Magma 69, it is not so much time to turn up the volume, but time to open up the spectrum. Anthologies such as Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability (Cinco Puntos Press) and recently, Stairs and Whispers: D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back (Nine Arches Press) as well as the excellent online journal, Deaf Poets Society, have inspired us to continue exploring Deafness as well as accessibility for disabled writers. We hope this inspires all poets with disabilities to feel they can submit to literary magazines (beyond ‘one-off special’ editions), to have their work alongside hearing and able-bodied writers too. We hope this issue continues to challenge what poetry is considered in magazines, like Magma, or any literary magazines in the future.


We thank everyone of our contributors, supporters and subscribers. We also owe a huge debt of thanks to Arts Council England for its support for Magma 69, which we are proud to introduce.


Lisa Kelly and Raymond Antrobus


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