Each new Magma theme raises the question: how will people write it, how will they startle and delight us? This time we were set on capturing something of the variety and scope that the theme of Islands offered. We hoped to invert majority notions of centre and periphery. We wanted the wild and windswept. At the same time we looked for poems that subverted, ignored or went beyond island clichés, far from the island gift shop cards with yearningly beautiful images.

There was the desire, too, to find ways of exploring the idea of the island as a psychological outlook, or place of private myth, or symbol of the art of poetry itself – perhaps small but self-sustaining, and with a vibrancy that is sometimes underacknowledged by those who view it from the outside.

Our call brought in poems from far and wide. We often seized on work by islanders or writers with island heritage: poems that introduce mystery or humour into themes of claustrophobia or remoteness like those by Karólína Rós Ólafsdóttir, Christie Williamson and Ingrid Leonard; poems that create islandscapes of wonder like those by Richard Georges, Christine de Luca and Ian Stephen; José Buera’s rich and flowing Epitaph. In our Inspired feature, Shivanee Ramlochan draws energy and golden inspiration from an iconic poem by Jamaican Poet Laureate Olive Senior (adored by Poetry International audiences this summer), and writes her a moving tribute.

Climate and ecological crisis are a backdrop to Magma’s Islands issue. Human displacement including loss of accent, of intergenerational bonds – diaspora existence, often the aftermath of colonisation or clearances – is a more overt theme, explored by among others Elontra Hall, Colin Bramwell, Yvie Holder and Tim Scott. We are thrilled to feature four compelling poems from Clementine Burnley, our Selected Poet, who reminds us Britain is an island and islands can keep you out, or in.

We have Nancy Campbell’s beautiful translations that capture the hard cold of Greenland; we have Tariq Hassan’s gloriously fantastical The Seven Islands and Keith Jarrett channelling John Donne’s unruly sun. Even on first reading, Fran Lock’s On islands startled us by embodying all that we were hoping for. Rich, complicated, profound and fiercely political – it is a privilege to publish such a work.

Two commissioned prose pieces investigate the island of poetry. Kathryn Maris sets up a metaphor from a schlocky sci-fi island film for the psychology of the poetry world, which she explores with hilarious acuity. Rising Scottish poets Roshni Gallagher and Charles Lang talk openly and illuminatingly about their paths into writing, about language, influences, silence and ‘postmemory’.

A poem can sometimes feel like both the object thrown into deep water and that moment right afterwards when the initial splash begins to ripple out. It is an act that disturbs the surface and sends sometimes large and sometimes small waves out way past itself. And, in line with just this act of spreading far beyond itself, it feels so apt that so much of the world feels present within the pages of this one issue: Iceland, Trinidad, Scotland’s Northern and Western Isles, Singapore, Dominican Republic, Ireland, Cyprus, Tasmania and more. It feels of particular pride that a map of these poems would have dots spread across the world.

Niall Campbell and Fiona Moore

It was a privilege to be part of this editing team as I was eager to read work from writers who confronted the theme of ‘islands’ (metaphorical and physical). I was amazed and excited about the poems which escaped clichéd and familiar ideas, these poems gleamed like rubies in baked earth. Writings about islands tend to evoke feelings of isolation and escapism, however I found myself particularly drawn to work which recalled a sense of community, tenderness and belonging. There are so many exquisite surprises and unexpected twists and turns in this series of poems, and I found myself travelling across the world and through landscapes I thought I knew yet felt like I was visiting for the first time. I hope as readers you feel a sense of adventure and become inspired to reconnect with the world.

Safiya Kamaria Kinshasa

 

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From Magma 87, Islands

 

 

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