Musing on the process of editorship this morning after the the launch of our spring issue, I was amused to discover that the production time of an issue of Magma from conception to delivery is not much short of nine months: Magma 46 began its journey in mid July 2009 and the launch was on March 8th 2010.
And what a ride it’s been. From the painful sieving and re-sieving of the poems, the to and fro between myself and my trusty and inspired assistant Norbert Hirschhorn, through to the ideas and commissioning of the prose and the reviews, to finally getting down to the cover copy and editorial, it’s been a mind-bending task.
Editing an issue of Magma Poetry can take over your life. It’s not just sitting down at your desk reading and making decisions, it’s those moments you wake up in the middle of the night with what feels like a brilliant idea (or a panic attack about something you’ve forgotten to do) and not being able to go back to sleep. It’s the pain of having to return poems you deeply admire which are just not right for the issue. It’s keeping track of the emails, the postal contributions, returning the phone calls, holding the whole shebang together.
And talking of holding the the whole shebang together, there is the totally absorbing and magical moment when all the poems are selected, the prose is safely delivered and there is delicious task of deciding on the order of things in the magazine. For me that was the highlight; deciding where to place every element in relationship to everything else so that each piece of work really shines and is given the platform it deserves.
The launch night is, I suppose, the culmination of all the blood, sweat and tears that have gone into creating the rather beautiful artefact that Magma has become. I feel I can say it’s beautiful, because I’m not the one responsible for the appearance; that is largely down to Neil Jarvis, our unsung designer who works like a demon to produce the wonderful layouts and illustrations you see on your copy of Magma Poetry.
Hearing contributors read their poems on the launch night was a revelation – not just because of putting faces to names, but because that is the time you can experience the poems read in order, enjoy the cumulative effect of the work and hear the theme reverberate through the sequence of poems.
The launch of Magma 46 was graced with a large and attentive crowd of poetry lovers, many of them familiar faces and loyal friends who return again and again to our events. Penelope Shuttle, our first guest reader, shared with us some of her more recent lively and moving poems which will be appearing in her next collection due from Bloodaxe in October.
Anne-Marie Fyfe, poetry organiser extraordinaire, broke her usual rule of not reading at Troubadour events, because this was the last launch for David Boll, our outgoing chairman. It was a great pleasure to hear Anne-Marie’s elegant and crystalline poetry (her New and Selected will be out from Seren in the Autumn) especially in the context of the eleven-year ‘special relationship’ as she put it, between Magma and Coffee House Poetry.
I’d like to offer my personal thanks to our subscribers, to all those who sent their contributions to us for Magma 46, all those whose poems appeared in it, and our loyal and lovely audience. It is often said, but nonetheless true, that you are the ones who make the magazine: it couldn’t exist without you.
Photos: Rebecca Root