1. Call for Submissions: Magma 67 on the theme of ‘Bones & Breath’.

    Written by Rob Mackenzie — June 1, 2016 8:11

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    Bones & Breath is the name of a book by the Scottish poet Alexander (‘Sandy’) Hutchison, published by Salt. It won the Saltire Award for Best Scottish Poetry Collection, 2014. Sandy died in November 2015. The title poem has the poet as a bird “barely out/ of the nest”:

    Heart brims
    and spills.

    Words try
    eyes and wings;
    try air.

    The bones light,
    my breath light.

    There is something wonderful about that image, which encapsulates both extreme fragility and surging power, the risk and emotional charge of words attempting flight. We would like to read poems that have the solidity and vulnerability of bones, the vitality and contingency of every breath. You can write about bones. You can write about breath. You can write about both. Or you can use the phrase to inspire poems that seem to be about neither. As ever, we’re also happy to receive off-theme poems.

    We don’t want to be too prescriptive. Breath can be spirit. It can be necessity. Denise Levertov said that a line of poetry was a kind of breath. Bones can be dead and find themselves roused, as in Ezekiel, chapter 37 (“Thus saith the Lord GOD unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live”).

    This sense of divine (re)creation is balanced by our knowledge of the inevitable end, our sense of mortality. In another poem, ‘Everything’, Sandy wrote, “Everything is racing/ Everything is vanishing/ Everything is hosted/ Everything is vanishing”.

    Serious poems are fine, but please try not to be dreary. In ‘Dream Song 30’, John Berryman speaks of Henry, his alter ego:

    Collating bones: I would have liked to do.
    Henry would have been hot at that.
    I missed his profession.

    The black comedy ensures this poem never becomes ponderous, despite its theme of mortality. Breath can burst, like laughter. So, breathe in. Get those skeletons dancing! You are bones & breath, words that try “eyes and wings;/ try air”.

    Rob A. Mackenzie and A.B. Jackson
    editors, Magma 67

    Submissions can be made from Wednesday 1st June until midnight on Sunday 31st July. Details of how to submit poems can be found on our Contributions Page.

  2. Jane Bonnyman’s first pamphlet, An Ember from the Fire: Poems on the Life of Fanny Van de Grift Stevenson, is a gothic wonder of a book, an adventurous, swashbuckling exploration of an extraordinary life. The pamphlet opens as the heroine travels from Indianapolis to California (her daughter in tow) to meet up with her first husband who is hoping to cash in on the gold rush. It covers Fanny’s scandalous divorce, her meeting with Robert Louis Stevenson, his death, and her quiet retirement in her own small Eden. The life expounded here is startling and vivid (it is difficult for me to believe that no one has written a collection about this subject this before) and luckily the writing lives up to the challenge, sheathing those good bones in appropriate flesh.

    The first poem, ‘Dawn’ traces Fanny’s journey across America in pursuit of her treasure-hunting husband. A taut, precise poem, it perfectly encapsulates the triumph of hope (in the guise of will) over the conventional stagnation of death. It begins with a description of seemingly-inescapable desolation: Among stagnant pools where dead fish float and coconut leaves drift over rotting flesh like helpless souls, and feverish women lie curled in hammocks chattering to revenants of their lost men Across this landscape, Fanny strides armoured with her purpose. She wills her way through the land of death, like a heroine from one of her future-husband’s books: she buys liquor, hot coffee for her daughter, finds a guide, three mules and a road that leads beyond the cemetery to Panama City ‘Dawn’ is structured in two evenly-divided parts; there are nine lines for death, and nine for forced rebirth. Not a word is wasted. The effect of reading this poem is very much like inhaling the first breathless fifty pages of an adventure novel, when the story first starts to get really good.

  3. Magma 64 Launch on the theme of ‘Risk’

    Written by Wes Brown at March 20, 2016 12:12

    The launch of Magma 64 will take place on the 24th of March, 7pm at The London Review Book Shop. Formed around the theme risk, we were delighted with the huge variety of poems that we received. Risks in every form, size and daring, cunning, moving shape. The challenge we had was weighing every one. To see if the risks paid off, to see if after all, the poem was worth writing.

    The event will feature readings from contributors to the issue and a guest performance from Philip Gross. Tickets are free but booking is essential. Click here to reserve your place.

  4. Poetry Film: Poésie d’Alphaville – Paul Éluard

    Written by Wes Brown at March 10, 2016 15:00

    The rise of Poetry Film much like music videos and Fashion films, breathes contemporary life into work.

    Poesie D’alphaville by Paul Eluard is a timeless expression of love, Mathis Sananes directed with his team of Tara Trangmar (producer) and Eric Gonzalez Garcia (DOP). The short film is narrated by Yohan Agelou to bringtender visuals to this celebrated work. Combining poetry, music and motion picture, the project focuses on bridging three contemporary relationships with an eternally relevant text.

  5. Magma Competition celebratory evening at Keats House

    Written by Lisa Kelly at March 7, 2016 12:10

    The winners and special mentions of the Magma Poetry Competitions – for the Judge’s Prize and the Editors’ Prize – will be reading their poems at Keats House in Hampstead on Friday 11th March at 7pm, and you can buy your £5 ticket here or pay on the door and join us for a wonderful night of winning poems and a reading by Daljit Nagra, as well as some sparkling refreshments to celebrate.

    For the Judge’s Prize judged by Daljit Nagra: