[SUBMISSIONS NOW CLOSED] Call for Submissions: M87, Islands
Closing date: 31st March, 2023
Editors Niall Campbell, Safiya Kamaria Kinshasa and Fiona Moore welcome poems that haven’t been previously published in print or online, on the theme of Islands.
We also hope to discover poems by island poets around the world, from Madagascar to Orkney, Fiji to Trinidad. We’d love to read inter-island collaborations – call and response between two poets, or a chain of poems, from one island to the next to the next… We’d like to feature poems in island languages, from Gaelic to Javanese to endangered Pacific languages – please provide an English translation too, preferably as a poem.
Up to four poems may be sent via Submittable in a single Word document. (Poem + translation counts as one poem.) You may send by post instead if you live in the UK.
Islands: literal, metaphorical, mythical, sinking or surviving. Microcosms. Island languages, music, landscapes, wildlife. Small communities: refuge and sanctuary, prison or trap. Enislement, isolation – isola is island in Italian. Focus of romantic longing, place of hardship. Islanders at the centre of the world, and islomaniac tourists lured by the periphery. Preconceptions and cliches. Islands full of the sound of sea, or large enough that it’s hours away. Archipelagos. Islands in books and film, from Whisky Galore to The Beach.
The poem as written island in a paper sea. Library island, traffic island, kitchen island.
Islands of the mind; island carried inside you. In the words of Trinidadian poet Jennifer Rahim in ‘Wherever I go…’
there will be an island,
and an ocean will be
what rings me.
Island as paradise – and/or site of colonial exploitation where ‘the roads constrict like throats’. As Kei Miller’s Jamaican rastaman says in The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion, you may find placenames
like bright yellow caution – careful man! This here is bruising land.
Island as advance warning system, with ecosystems and wildlife extinct or under threat. And people: St Kildans forced by hardship to abandon their home. Chagosians deported by the UK to enable a US military base – a new report by Human Rights Watch tells the shameful story, not yet over. Marshall Islanders displaced, as told by poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, after
we mistook radioactive fallout
This poem of hers, ‘History Project’, was among those dropped from a helicopter (did that really happen?) at Poetry Parnassus on London’s south bank in 2012. ‘How does one bury an islet? Where do we mark the grave?’ Jetnil-Kijiner asks in the Guardian’s ‘Before it is lost’, a recent series from Pacific island writers about the multiple losses they are experiencing.
In 2021 Tuvalu’s foreign minister Simon Kofe addressed UN climate conference delegates in Glasgow while knee-deep in the Pacific Ocean: ‘We are sinking’. ‘Shall we make island a verb?’ asks Kiribati poet Teresia Kieuea Teaiwa,
As a noun it’s so vulnerable to impinging forces
Let us turn the energy of the island inside out
Let us island the world
The Torres Strait Islanders retain folk memories of very long ago when they lived on what’s now the sea floor, before thousands of coral reefs were formed. They are suing the Australian government to lower its carbon emissions, in the hope this might save them from rising seas.
From Scottish poet WS Graham’s ‘The White Threshold’:
Very end of land. What vast is here?
The drowning saving while, the threshold sea
Always is here. You may not move away.
The poetry of the island is often also the poetry of the risky uncharted waters that has left behind the mainland of regular life and charts an unusual route, out towards new emotion, new perspectives, that seeks new green, fertile land. We are thinking here of Derek Walcott beginning ‘Map of the New World’:
At the end of this sentence, rain will begin.
At the rain’s edge, a sail.
Which by the end of this poem has reframed the great old poem of The Odyssey in a fresh and vital manner. This is poetry that is also a setting sail, a pushing from land and out into the open waters of the line and rhythm. What do we make of this poetry of new and old discoveries? What does it uphold and remake by the tilting of its light?
Or perhaps your poetry of the island is less ornate and grand, more homely, more treasured and close at hand? Could it not also be as George Mackay Brown, the great Scottish island poet, describes and captures it:
The neighbours come with gifts –
A set of cups, a calendar, some chairs.
A fiddle is hung at the wall.
A girl puts lucky salt in a dish.
Can we understand this poetry as an act, instead, of preservation? Celebrated, denigrated or merely presented with only the lightest touch from the poet – can the poem of the island be a type of setting amber that holds in place the traditional, folklore and meaning of our less-frequented, less heralded places?
Or else might we ask about what other relationships are happening now on the islands around the world. How do we engage and impact on such places? At a time when our bird colonies are pestered by plague, what is our relationship to these wild outposts? How might we bring to the page both the terror and magnificence of such situations? Might we respond in the manner of Don Paterson in ‘St Bride: Sea-Mail’:
The last morning
we shuffled out for parliament,
their rock was empty, and the sky clear,
of every wren and fulmar and whitewing.
The wind has been so weak all year
I post this more in testament
than hope or warning.
Or is there hope or warning that we do indeed wish to offer?
We are eager to read all these different formulations. We are ready to be shown new scenes, new panoramas, new long stretches of water that lead to unusual shores. We are ready to be welcomed on to your own home islands, real or imagined, far-flung or nearby but overlooked and misunderstood.
We are ready to depart. Take us there.
Please share this call for poems – we’d like it to island hop across the world.
Niall Campbell & Fiona Moore, editors, now joined by Safiya Kamaria Kinshasa
You may send us up to four previously unpublished poems in a single Word document.
We accept simultaneous submissions – but if it is accepted for publication somewhere else first, please withdraw your submission on Submittable or contact us.
Here again is the Submittable link. We are open for poems from 1-31 March 2023. If you live in the UK and wish to send poems by post, our address is
23 Pine Walk