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Call for submissions — Magma 79, Dwelling

Closing date: 31st July, 2020

The submissions window for ‘Dwelling’ is open from 1st June – 31st July 2020.

We welcome poems that have not been previously published, either in print or online.

Up to 4 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.

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.   I gaze through a telescope at the Orion Nebula,
a blue vapor with a cluster of white stars,
gaze at the globular cluster in Hercules,
needle and pinpoint lights stream into my eyes.
A woman puts a baby in a plastic bag
and places it in a dumpster; someone parking
a car hears it cry and rescues it.
Is this the little o, the earth?
— Arthur Sze, ‘Before Completion’

This issue on “dwelling” asks questions and seeks new possibilities for the way we, human beings, have been living. “Dwelling” means existing with the earth i.e. viewing the natural world with respect, and acknowledging it as an autonomous life-force beyond human possession. Since a global pandemic was declared, dwelling has taken on new significance, as communities seek ways to live in isolation. The global pandemic of COVID-19 has drawn into stark attention the fragility of human and natural worlds in which we dwell.

COVID-19 has forced us to reassess our being in the world, asking questions about how to explore our sense of grief at the people lost to COVID-19, at being separated from loved ones, and at the freedoms lost. How can we be empowered to write about new ethical ways of being, a world beyond this crisis? How can we engage with wider issues, such as human erosion of the natural world, the underfunding of health services, ill-health, and the different experiences of the crisis depending on our privileges or lived inequalities? To sum up, we are open to receiving poems written in the context of the pandemic, but more than anecdotal accounts, we are especially interested in writing that engages with issues surrounding the pandemic. We are also open to exploring language as a structure we dwell within, and how it structures our responses to the pandemic.

What would dwelling mean in intimate relationships? In a post #metoo era, could we reaffirm W.H. Auden’s words “Let the more loving one be me”? Could we see the ‘Person’ in the ‘Other’ rather than detecting something alien, offensive or repulsive? How has the global pandemic changed or magnified our attitudes to each other, and could we move towards qualities like gentleness, care, openness, and listening? What would ethical intimacies look like? This could apply to romantic relationships, but also to the care and attention we give to relatives and friends. For example, are we extending care and compassion to elders or other vulnerable populations during the current crisis?

Dwelling and geographies are important given current Western anti-immigrant rhetoric. We seek poems that explore alternatives to the hard borders of the nation state. Also, in urban spaces, how might we dwell without harming others, e.g. through the marginalising of poor communities, gentrification, or racist institutional policies? Under COVID-19, black men in London have complained about abuses of stop and search and extreme incidents of police brutality occur with regularity in the United States. What responsibilities do we have to our fellow humans? For example, consider the recent protests against lockdown disregarding social distancing, or the irony that despite men dying of COVID-19 in greater numbers, they are less likely to protect themselves and others. We seek poems that find more ethical ways of living in and moving through our communities.

Finally, we want to explore dwelling with the natural world, nature being an idea only as old as the agricultural fence-line distinguishing crop-field and forest. What would it mean to dwell beyond ideas of the natural versus the human? Could we rethink narratives of dominating or civilizing nature, and might this mean moving towards different tellers of the story for example those with dis/abilities? In Jillian Weise’s words, ‘WHY IS IT ALWAYS A POEM IS A WALK’? In an age of potential pandemics and mass extinction, can we relate to nonhumans in ways other than as pets, pests, or commodities? How arbitrary is the borderline between the human and the nonhuman? Many traditional cultures view animals and plants, rivers and mountains as persons. We seek work that smudges or re-draughts customary paintings of the natural, explores the personhood of the nonhuman, and questions the distinction between the domestic and the wild.

It lit on a damp rock,
and, as water swept stupidly on,
wrung from its own throat
supple, undammable song.

It isn’t mine to give.
I can’t coax this bird to my hand
that knows the depth of the river
yet sings of it on land.
— Kathleen Jamie, ‘The Dipper’

For more on dwelling, see this video, and this conversation in Wales Arts Review.

We look forward to reading your poems,

Zoe Brigley, Kristian Evans and Rob A Mackenzie, Editors, Magma 79

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Wanting to submit to Magma 79? You may submit:

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

We are now accepting simultaneous submissions – but please withdraw your submission or contact us if it is accepted for publication somewhere else first.

Go to Submittable for more details.

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