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The Michael Marks Awards – HappenStance

I invited each of the four publishers who were shortlisted for the Michael Marks Award to answer a few questions. Peter Hughes from Oystercatcher Press (winner of the award) was first to respond. Now Helena Nelson from HappenStance shares her…

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The Michael Marks Awards – Oystercatcher

I was pleased to see the creation in 2009 of the Michael Marks Awards, with generous £5000 prizes for an often overlooked area of poetry publishing – the pamphlet. The award ceremony was held on 24 June 2009. Congratulations to…

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Watch Clare Pollard, Magma Editor, Interviewed on the BBC

In this week's excellent episode of 'A Poet's Guide to Britain' on the BBC, the poet Clare Pollard is interviewed by Owen Sheers about Sylvia Plath's landscape poetry. Clare is a member of the Magma team and is currently editing Magma 45, which will be launched in November 2009.

The episode will be available on iPlayer for the next month - watch it online here or you can catch it on on BBC4, Thursday 14th May at 22.00. If you're in a hurry, you may like to know that Clare first appears 4 minutes into the programme, but it's well worth taking the time to watch the whole programme.

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[SUBMISSIONS NOW CLOSED] Call for Poetry Submissions: Magma 45 ‘Telling Stories’

I’m thrilled to be editing Magma 45, and have decided to ask for poems on the theme of ‘Telling Stories.’ As a poet who has written plays, as well as a screenplay that never got made (a rom-com about a psychic that I still feel would have been a surefire hit…) I’m currently very interested in the way we tell stories through poems – cuts, flashbacks, unreliable narrators, twists. Many playwrights believe in cutting everything that doesn’t drive the story forward, and, though poetry has always been more tolerant of digression, it is always interesting to think about what we should include (and edit out) of our tales. For example, should poetic scenes obey the screenwriting adage: ‘arrive late, leave early’? The theme also comes out of my own obsessions at the moment. I’m currently deeply into folk music – particularly ballads and the strange, subversive tales they tell. I’ve been listening to Fairport Convention and new-folk songbirds like Laura Marling, digging out my dog-eared Collected Yeats, and discovering the wonderful world of the Child and Border ballads. This has led me to write ‘cover versions’ of old poems such as ‘Twa Corbies’ and ‘Reynardine’, and liberally raid what Larkin rather dismissively called ‘the myth-kitty’ to rediscover stories of Zennor mermaids, malevolent faeries, werefoxes and witchcraft. I’d love to read your own attempts to engage with these ancient, oral traditions. Finally, I’ve also chosen the theme because I feel too much contemporary poetry is self-indulgent – concentrating on self-expression to the point where it forgets it has an audience. I feel strongly that, even if our subject matter is deeply personal, we should always be aware we have responsibilities to our reader – to give them everything they need to understand the poem; to entertain; to tell them something new. Great storytellers know how to keep us engaged, leaving space for the reader to make their own interpretations – as my favourite philosopher, Hannah Arendt, said: “Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it.” So the search begins for sparkling anecdotes and tall tales… Only remember the sign pinned above Anne Sexton’s desk: WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T BE BORING. The deadline for submissions is 15 July. 'Off theme' poems will also be considered. Please see the Contributions page for details of how to submit your poems.
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