1. It’s been a busy summer for Magma Poetry; we’ve taken part in three fantastic festivals all in the space of a month.

    Clare Pollard and I took the train up to Bridlington in June, and spent a couple of days at the fabulously located Bridlington Festival, in the setting of the gorgeous Sewerby Hall. The hall itself is grand enough, but the grounds are even grander and overlook the sea. Clare took an editing workshop which sounded brilliant. I say sounded brilliant, because as I went up there to see how things were going, I could hear the laughter coming all the way down the stairs. But of course serious things were said and done, and it was clear from the faces of the participants that they were enthused about poetry and the editing process. Later, I took part in a panel discussion with Peter Sansom, longtime editor of The North, and Clare did a wonderful reading from her new book, Changeling.

    On the same weekend as our trip to Ledbury, Magma ran a poetry afternoon at St John’s Waterloo, the church on the roundabout by London’s Imax cinema.  The afternoon was part of a five-day festival about War and People, remembering the bombing of the church in 1941 and its restoration. St John’s became the Festival of Britain Church in 1951.

    Clare Pollard ran a workshop on how poets express feelings about war. Later, workshop members read their original poems, and members of the Magma team read poems like Sitwell’s Still Falls the Rain and MacNeice’s The Streets of Laredo, coming up to date with a great poem originally published in Magma 37 – Steve Lorimer’s Gandhi’s Statue, Tavistock Square, about 7/7.

    The afternoon ended with David Harsent reading poems about the experience of war. He finished with a new poem, The Headshot, written specially for the Festival.  Everyone felt it was a moving occasion, especially as a celebration of people’s resilience and humour in a time of great suffering.

    Meanwhile, in a two-pronged Magma attack, I headed to Ledbury with Roberta James. I’d been invited to read, as a past prizewinner, from my new collection, The Kitchen of Lovely Contraptions. The event was a Magma-sponsored one, and so I was lucky enough to have, also as readers, two poets I very much admire, both of whose work has appeared in Magma Poetry. Tim Turnbull gave us a lively and thought-provoking reading which included Dionysus is Our Friend from the recent Magma Poetry and also Ode from a Grayson Perry Urn, originally published in Magma and nominated for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem. Simon Barraclough read from his second collection, Neptune Blue, which is simultaneously clever, moving and funny.

    Alongside the readings, Magma’s Tim Kindberg, always at the cutting edge of technology, supplied a Poetry Turntable where viewers could interact with poems, as well as watch short films. He also curated and set up ‘Poetry in Motion’ where visitors to Ledbury could download poems onto their mobile phones using key words displayed on posters.

    It’s always a pleasure to go to Ledbury where it feels as if the whole town mobilises to host the festival, and you meet a friend on every corner. Now we take a deep breath and begin to plan for next year … suggestions, anyone?


    Tim Turnbull, Jaqueline Saphra and Simon Barraclough at Ledbury Festival. Photo by Harry Rook.

    David Harsent reading at Waterloo.

    The sea at Bridlington

    Matthew Hollis and Clare Pollard at Bridlington

    Jacquiline Saphra, Simon Barraclough and Tim Turnbull at Ledbury

    Tim Turnbull at Ledbury

    Simon Barraclough and Tim Turnbull

  2. Video: Magma Poetry in Motion at Ledbury

    Written by Tim Kindberg at 2:13 pm

    The Poetry Turntable was in action at the Market Theatre during Ledbury poetry festival.  The turntable featured as part of Poetry in Motion, the joint initiative by Magma and Ledbury poetry festival to bring poems and poetry-related content to people out and about in Ledbury.  For further details, see the Poetry in Motion page.

    Note to those trying to follow the instructions to connect to the turntable via their mobile phones: this facility was for those standing around the turntable itself, to request the turntable to play their choice of content.

  3. Magma celebrated its 50th issue on Monday 27 June with a full-house Troubadour. A huge and yummy cake was brought in, and everyone collected their Magma 50 souvenir badges. This issue is edited by Clare Pollard, with the newly redesigned Magma magazine featuring  fabulous hand-drawn illustrations by poet-and-designer Henry Simmonds.

  4. Magma 50 is now available to buy from the Magma website and in bookshops. The issue edited by Clare Pollard with the theme ‘Journeys’.

    Don’t miss the Magma 50 launch reading on Monday 27 June at The Troubadour, Earl’s Court, London.

  5. Meet the Magma Poetry Editors – Q&A Session on Twitter

    Written by Mark McGuinness at 11:08 am

    Magma Poetry is going to be hosting its first Online Meet-the-Editors Q&A session via Twitter on Friday 3 June at 1.00 p.m. British Summer Time (12 noon GMT) for about an hour. And we welcome questions and queries – on Twitter please! – from now until Friday.

    Julia Bird, editor of the current issue, Magma 49, will answer your questions and queries about editing the magazine. You will need a Twitter account to ask a question, but you can read the dialogue even if you don’t. So if you’ve ever wondered whether poems have to be on theme, how the rotating editorship affects decisions, whether you can submit a poem if you’ve never been published before, or how long a poem should be, or any other query related to publishing poems in Magma, on Friday 3 June, Julia will have the answers.

  6. Listen to Poems from the Launch of Magma 49

    Written by Julia Bird at 3:38 pm

    If you weren’t able to attend the launch of Magma 49, you can still listen to poems read on the night by some of the contributors to Magma 49.

    These recordings are introduced by Julia Bird, the Magma 49 editor. (If you’re reading this via email you may need to click through to the main site to listen to the recordings.)

  7. Magma 49 is from the Magma website and in bookshops. The issue is edited by Julia Bird with the theme ‘Build It Up and Knock It Down’. Don’t miss the Magma 49 launch reading on Monday 14 March at The Troubadour, Earl’s Court, London. We are delighted to have and Jackie Wills reading at the launch. As usual, all poets published in the issue have the opportunity to read, which will make for a lively evening. The evening will start at 8pm sharp, at The Troubadour Coffee House, 265 Old Brompton Road, London SW5 (near Earl’s Court Tube). Tickets are £7 / £6 concessions. Hope you can make it!

  8. Call for Submissions: Magma 51 ‘Profane and Sacred’

    Written by Jacqueline Saphra at 4:39 pm

    I’m pleased to be editing Magma 51, with Ian McEwen as assistant editor. We invite you to send us your poems on the theme ‘Profane and Sacred’. Some days, although we cannot pray, a prayer utters itself. writes Carol Ann Duffy in her famous sonnet, ‘Prayer’. Is this, I wonder, symptomatic of a society where very little remains sacred, but we still hunger for spiritual fulfillment? In a largely secular world how many of us even attempt to write poems like Donne’s later works, or RS Thomas’s tortured offerings? Can language itself really give us the kind of nourishment we need?

    I find that friends frequently ask me to suggest poems for weddings, christenings and funerals. Scorned by some, and adored by others, Khalil Gibran is quoted prodigiously at such rites of passage. Although the epithalamium has never gone out of fashion since the Ancient Greeks coined it, there do seem to be plenty of new poems on the subject of marriage. Perhaps poetry is taking over some of the role of religion to help us come to terms with the inexplicable and mysterious aspects of life. Duffy of course has said that poetry and prayer are very similar. You only have to look at the bible or read some Sufi or Hindu poetry to start yourself asking whether poems are in fact a subset of prayers, or prayers a subset of poetry.

  9. Should We Restrict the Title of 'Poet'?

    Written by Rob Mackenzie at 6:56 am

    Here’s an interesting with Ryan Van Winkle conducted by the Scottish Book Trust. One commenter (anonymous, of course) got upset over Ryan’s answer to ‘What’s the best thing about being a poet?’ Ryan isn’t comfortable with calling himself a ‘poet’ and the commenter didn’t seem to understand that his answer wasn’t supposed to be altogether serious. That’s the problem with the Internet so often – humour, irony, sarcasm don’t always travel. Personally, I’ve had no difficulty in calling myself a poet but that’s because, to me, a ‘poet’ is simply someone who writes poetry. It might be good, bad or indifferent poetry but if someone writes it, then they’re a good, bad or indifferent ‘poet’. I don’t care much what other people call themselves. It all comes down to the words in the end, the poems. That’s what counts. The aim is to write good poems, not to achieve some kind of meaningless title. That’s always been my attitude. In many countries, such as Syria (which Ryan mentions in his passport story at the interview), poets are held in very high regard, although people can only be publicly ‘smitten’ by the officially sanctioned ones. There may be a certain loosening in that regard, if this story about the weekly Damascus literary salon is anything to go by. It does explain why the stern military-type customs officials were so taken by Ryan’s ‘poet’ designation on his customs card. It’s obviously a big deal there to write poetry and it has value to the society of a kind money can’t buy. I think a society loses that attitude at its peril, although Britain may well have already lost it. Perhaps if I lived in Syria, I may be less keen to use the word ‘poet’ of anyone who writes poetry, as it clearly confers cultural status. Maybe in Britain I am complicit in society’s downgrading of poetry by so far refusing to attach value to the title of ‘poet’. Our society thunders against elitism, while eagerly creating and maintaining its own elite classes (the rich, celebrities, actors, supermodels etc). A nation’s elite groups reveal the common values (money, power, glamour, fame etc) people tend to live for. What Do You Think? Should we restrict the title of ‘poet’ to a few, mainly dead, poets? Not so much as a mark of respect, but as a political act, a symbol of what we believe has value?

  10. Have Some Words Passed Their Sell-by Date for Poetry?

    Written by Roberta James at 3:03 pm

    I am surprised by the passion in the poetry community about the word “shards”. Having heard from two reputable poets / teachers of creative writing whose opinions I value that “shards” is a no no, and having read on the website of another poetry magazine that the word “shards” should be avoided, I said on twitter that it was pretty clear the word should not be used.

    But opinion is divided. There was support for the view that such, what I shall I call them, old-fashioned or twee words should not be written into poems, with people volunteering other words such as “gossamer” and “flux” that should also not be used. But I was reminded that luminaries such as Heaney with “In ash-pits, oxides, shards and chlorophylls”, Hughes with “Then you smashed it/Into shards, crude stars/And gave them to your mother”, and Khalvati with “our algebra of shards” clearly have no such qualms.