Solitude. There it is, the word on its own, with its twisting s, lamenting o, lonely l, and a bit of attitude – part barrier, part bravado in the face of overwhelming circumstances. When we put out the call for submissions to the Solitude issue of Magma, with its focus on mental health, we were expecting many poems in response to the theme; a theme that – it’s safe to say – we have all experienced at some point in our lives, and never more so than during a global pandemic. We were right, receiving almost 5,000 poems.
Ironically, reading through these poems as editors was a solitary business, bringing us together from time to time over Zoom, over email, but never as a three in a live setting. For many of us all over the world, this remoteness is the new normal, and since submissions closed, a new threat to international peace has emerged, in the form of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Watching such scenes of suffering (often on our own) compounds our sense of solitude, as we ask what we as individuals can do to help those bearing up under the weight of violence and imperialist ideology. Yet in the midst of destruction, separation, and displacement, we see inspiring examples of what individuals and communities are capable of, and how they can come together in solidarity to offer support and succour. We marvel at their resilience, and we offer this issue of Magma as testament to enduring possibility of finding love, resistance, and recovery through language that expresses the inexpressible. By navigating the rocky – and at times, lonely – terrains of grief, trauma, shame, social distancing, and the stumbling blocks of romance, the poems in this issue form a space for readers to bring their loneliness, their reticence, their touch starvation, and to partake in a mutual exchange fuelled by empathy, humour, and warmth. Thanks to a grant by the Foyle Foundation, we were able to commission several incredible poets to respond to the theme of Solitude, and we are honoured to include their work.
Across the prose features, too, the individual appears at their most contemplative and enduring. Alice Hiller retreated to the coast to excavate the memories of trauma she suffered as a child due to sexual abuse by her mother, and she shares her diary of that time here, reaching back to her isolated younger self to unlock extraordinary new work that demonstrates the empowering and reclaiming capacity of poetry. Ilya Kaminsky also interviews Kaveh Akbar – following the publication of his second collection Pilgrim Bell – discussing survival and staying sane in these complex times, and what poetry can teach us about community and the connections between mental health, lyricism, syntax, and craft. Finally, we are humbled and grateful that Ukrainian poet Ostap Slyvynsky in Lviv took time to write a new poem in response to fellow Ukrainian poet, Kateryna Kalytko, for our Inspired feature, navigating the stark feelings conjured by the Russian occupation.
We also hope that you are as moved by the issue’s cover as we are. Hannah Mumby is an inspirational artist who joined us in our exploration of Solitude and created a haunting and dynamic design that captures the disquieting psychological textures threading the entire issue.
Some of these poems and features will undoubtedly affect readers in ways we cannot foresee; in important and difficult ways tethered to writing that uncovers the depths of solitude in all its desperate forms. We are grateful to all our poets and contributors. We are grateful to our readers. We hope that you find, if not pleasure, humanity and hope in these pages.
Isabelle Baafi, Ilya Kaminsky, and Lisa Kelly
From Magma 83
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