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Magma Roadshow with Don Paterson at Cheltenham

This year Magma Poetry was lucky enough to be running a workshop at the Cheltenham Literature Festival. This was appropriately titled 'Writing Poetry' and we shared it with Don Paterson, who has just won this year's Forward Prize for his collection, 'Rain'.

Don spent two fascinating hours at the workshop taking questions and talking about the English language lyric poem, and covered large areas of poetic ground, offering us his take on prosody, metre, phonetics and even managing to squeeze in a brief sentence or two on the subject of metaphor.

I'm pleased to say he is writing a book about poetry - publication date still up for grabs - so that those who haven't had a chance to hear some of his insights will be able to read about them - eventually. Those who have been lucky enough to hear Don talk about poetry will know that it's partly his particularly original turn of phrase that is illuminating; for example, the idea that most poetry that uses iambic pentameter is 'magnetised' to the metre or a sonnet is just a 'wee black square' on a white page.

I offered the participants a chance to become editors for an hour so, putting into practice some of Don's insights and suggestions. Split into small groups, they were invited to select which of three very different poems by dead poets (selected so that there was no danger of offending the living) they would choose.

They pursued this task with enormous gusto and there was a wide range of opinions, all of them justifiable, which I'm delighted to say proved the point I was trying to make. Poetry, like all art forms, is a hugely subjective business, and once a poem has reached a certain benchmark of quality (also a subjective matter, I know), selection becomes a matter of the editor's personal taste. This is where Magma has the edge. A rotating editorship means that the flavour of each issue will be different and if one editor returns your poetry, the next one may publish it. Keep sending it in!

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Magma 43 Launch Reading — 2 March with Glyn Maxwell and John Stammers

Here's a date for your diary -- 2 March at The Troubadour, Earl's Court, for the launch reading of Magma 43, edited by David Boll and Andrew Neilson. We are delighted to welcome two distinguish guest readers: Glyn Maxwell, whose poetry collections have attracted awards including the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize (for The Nerve, 2004) and whose latest collection, Hide Now, was shortlisted for the 2008 T.S. Eliot Prize; and John Stammers, whose first collection Panoramic Lounge Bar won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection (2001), and whose second, Stolen Love Behaviour, was a Poetry Book Society Choice. Regular Magma readers will also recall the terrific issue John delivered for us as guest editor of Magma 31. The launch will also feature readings by many other poets published in Magma 43, The reading will start at 8 pm sharp, at The Troubadour Coffee House, 265 Old Brompton Road SW5 (near Earl's Court Tube). Tickets are £6.50 / £5.50 concessions.
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