‘The art of losing isn’t hard to master,’ writes Elizabeth Bishop. However, the poetry in this magazine is testament to the fact that the opposite is true. It takes great patience, skill and courage to write about loss. In this issue of Magma, we present a breadth of experiences around loss and losing. These can be literal and figurative, physical and emotional, object and abstract. The writers within these pages have drawn on diverse experiences to summon up the varied and capricious spirits of loss. As with all spirits, some are here with unfinished business, but others are here to guide us and bring revelations: how to connect with your roots in a shifting world, how to cling to hope in the face of environmental crisis, how to send a plain dispatch.
Loss affects so many people that the response to Magma 75 was phenomenal. We received over eight thousand poems for The Loss Issue: twice as many as any previous issue. We felt a sense of loss because we weren’t able to include many poems that we loved. This was possibly the hardest issue of a magazine we’ve ever edited, and certainly the most personal.
There are many anthologies about grief. But for Magma 75, an exciting interdisciplinary collaboration between poets, counsellors and psychologists has opened up new ways of writing and thinking about loss. In our commissioned poems, Jackie Kay feels the presence of a phantom limb, Romalyn Ante uncovers a lost script and Zaffar Kunial evokes a country in confusion.
The poetry of loss is also political. What it means to be British is changing profoundly. We wanted the Loss Issue to have strong international links, and we’re delighted to publish poets from places as diverse as Nigeria, the USA, India, the Philippines and the Caribbean. It’s ironic that loss is an experience that brings us together – creating new bonds and shared empathy.
The literary world has had to come to terms with many losses over the past year, including the luminaries Toni Morrison and Paule Marshall. But the writerly legacies and presiding spirits of Nadine Gordimer, Dorothy Wordsworth and Susanna Blamire provide inspiration and guidance for Thomas Glave and Jessica Sneddon. Some of us keep our ghosts around like the osseous trophies in Tamar Yoseloff’s poem; some of us hold them close as a memento (or memento mori).
Yet loss can also lead to rebirth and resurrection. It can lead to discovery, as we reorient ourselves and try to find new ways to replace what we have lost. There are many daily losses we face as we leave behind the things that are no longer useful to us. That is how we adapt. That might even be how we reach the state beyond life and death which Hindus and Buddhists refer to as moksha – meaning ‘release’ or ‘liberation’. We hope that in perusing the pages before you, you might find new insights about both loss and liberation.
We’re very grateful to the Arts Council England for funding, and to the University of Central Lancashire for Public Engagement funding, to the Arts for Wellbeing Network, and to Young Enigma and to St Catherine’s Hospice for their participation in the collaboration between poets, counsellors and psychologists.
Yvonne Reddick and Adam Lowe, Editors, Magma 75
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