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[SUBMISSIONS NOW CLOSED] Call for Submissions: Magma 74, Work

Closing date: 8th December, 2018


The submissions window for ‘Work’ is open from 8th October – 8th December 2018.
We welcome poems that have not been previously published, either in print or online. Poems may be sent via Submittable, or by post if you live in the UK. Postal submissions are not acknowledged until a decision is made.


You know what work is — if you’re
old enough to read this you know what
work is, although you may not do it.
Forget you. This is about waiting,
shifting from one foot to another.
— Philip Levine, ‘You Know What Work Is’


As Philip Levine says, we know what work is. But of course, work is many different things. It serves different functions for different people – apart from the need to eat and provide shelter. Work can, for some, become an expression of who we are or what we aspire to be. Or it can be humdrum, dull and boring. We want to see poems about all kinds of work, poems that transfigure the humdrum or normalise the extraordinary, poems that take us to your desk or your farm or your grandmother’s sewing machine.

Work can happen in offices, factories, hospitals, on the stage and in schools. There are many well-known poems about teaching and medicine, but perhaps not quite so many about factory work and office work. People work in the sky, on the sea, underground and in the forests and fields. Some cannot work — they are unemployed, redundant or retired. Some are disabled or have children and unable to afford childcare costs. We want to hear all your experiences, real or imagined.

You are
the lone no
on the shop-floor –
the habitual reader
of all the wrong news,
the public library ghost,
the vote cast for some
Old School
that’s long since closed.
— Jane Commane, ‘The Shop-floor Gospel’

We can withdraw our labour. Join a picket line. There’s the experience of the middle manager, those who are managed and the chairman of the board. Perhaps you can write a protest poem about a time when you refused to work or disobeyed your boss, or a time when someone was insubordinate to you.

Work pervades identity. Some jobs like nursing, medicine and teaching are seen as vocations and carry a professional code which influences behaviour in every aspect of life. Work comes with uniforms and dress codes. Special languages — jargon and banter — which define a set of workers, the jokes which dispel tension. We’d like to see poems that take the special languages of workplaces and translate them into something we can all identify with.

Work can help to ease us through life and stave off thoughts that might overwhelm us.

As all the others do who with a grin
Shake off sleep like a dog and hurry to desk or engine
And the fear of life goes out as they clock in.
— Louis MacNeice, ‘Autumn Journal’

Computers have transformed most jobs and generate the ability to monitor workers closely — as well as a punishing demand for data. It also allows more people to work from home (is it possible to be professional in your pyjamas?) or even as ‘cyber nomads’ across the globe. What does AI mean for work? What does it mean for poetry?

Work is often brutally exploitative — roads and railways were built from the sacrifice of cheap labour. Power plants and factories place people at risk every day. There is forced work — in labour camps and gulags. And slavery in plantations. And what about the modern-day slavery of nailbars or the newest recruits to the oldest profession in the world? However, you earn your pound, your dollar or the roof over your head, we’re sure there’s a poem about it.

The stories of those who travel to other countries in search of work. The experience of the dust-bowl migrants in The Grapes of Wrath.

The coal dust lies too far inside, it will lie there forever like a hand squeezing your heart, choking at your throat.
— Tilly Olsen, Yonnondio: From The Thirties

This is a call-out to new poets, previously unheard voices, as well as established writers. We are particularly interested in hearing from those underrepresented in poetry publications. We are interested in the politics of work, unions and history — change and speculation about the future. We want to go beyond the cliché of the 9-5. And we are interested in hearing about the arcane and unusual occupations — as well as flights of fancy.

Send us your craft, artistry, passion and playfulness.

Benedict Newbery and Pauline Sewards, Editors, Magma 74


Wanting to submit to Magma 74? You may submit:

Up to 4 previously unpublished poems in a single Word document.

Magma does not accept simultaneous submissions

Go to Submittable for more details.

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