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Call for submissions for Magma 58: The Music of Words

We want to explore the music of poetry – not necessarily poetry about music as in Magma 53, but music within poetry. We would like to receive poems where the meaning is expressed or strengthened by the sound of the words – perhaps going beyond sound effects like alliteration and onomatopoeia to the wider organisation of a series of sounds and thus their flow : features such as rhythm, pulse, pitch, tonality, articulation, dynamics and mood, all of which can express meaning. And we’re very much aware that poetry, like music, can be harmonious, dissonant or both!

A recent example of music within poetry is Paul Stephenson’s The Pull which won Magma’s short poem competition last year:

Moon is a dare:

a raid on a haystack,
a stock of silver,
a salver of harvest,
a hay vest of gathered

together field;

the fold’s reflection,
the flock’s reflex,
the heart’s flux,
elected flicker.

So we hope you will send us new poems that explore the musical possibilities of language:
perhaps less obviously than The Pull – we’ll be alert to nuance – but more obviously if you wish!

Thinking about poems in this way has made us remember some of our own favourites from the past – “They flee from me that did me sometime seek”, “When to the sessions of sweet silent thought”, “O rose, thou art sick”, “Downhill I came, hungry, but not starved”, “Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone”. And we’ve realised music in verse can range from, say, the wild rhythms of Hilaire Belloc’s Tarantella to the quieter music by which Frank O’Hara celebrates the dead people he loved during a lunchtime walk (A Step Away from Them, The Day Lady Died) or Elizabeth Bishop transforms industrial ugliness into something beautiful (At the Fishhouses, Filling Station).

This in turn has made us think about people’s personal anthologies. We think everyone interested in poetry has a number of poems which they remember, perhaps by heart (at least partly), and return to from time to time, perhaps for comfort or in a particular mood. These are the poems Neil Astley describes in his introduction to Staying Alive: “poems which have moved us profoundly and unforgettably… poems that speak to us with the same power now as when we first came across them.”

As far as we know, people’s personal anthologies haven’t been investigated and we want to do this in Magma 58 because we think that poems may be remembered and loved because their sound fits their meaning in some special way.

We will therefore be asking some well-known poets and also anyone interested in poetry about a favourite poem – why do they remember it and turn to it again and again? And how do personal anthologies increase? Why do we remember a particular poem on first reading and return to it, but not to dozens of others?

So please let us know one of your favourite poems with where and when you first came across it (if you can remember) and why you have remembered it. We will summarise everyone’s responses in an article on personal anthologies in Magma 58. No-one’s name will be mentioned unless we’ve cleared this with them beforehand.

Laurie Smith
Richard Morris

The deadline is 31 October 2013. Please see the Contributions page for details of how to submit your poems.

Laurie Smith

Laurie Smith works on English teaching methods at King’s College London and teaches poetry at The City Lit, Central London.

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