Magma has launched for the first time in two venues. After many years at the Troubadour in Earls Court, London, through the sterling support of Anne-Marie Fyfe, we are now holding launches in London and another part of the country convenient for more poets in the issue. Our new London venue is the London Review Bookshop and, as over a quarter of the poets in Magma 58 live in Scotland and the very North of England, we launched in Edinburgh too.
The LRB was packed out with poets, their friends and Magma readers. Nineteen contributors read two or three of their poems in Magma’s tradition of giving equal space for poets in all stages of their career – newcomers to the poetry scene, poets with their first pamphlet and poets with several collections.
The theme of Magma 58 is ‘the music of words’ and we were delighted to hear some of the amazing poems and poets this inspired: Wendy Klein’s dance-of-death; Sally Festing’s Norfolk dialect; Isobel Dixon’s beautiful elegy; Paul Stephenson’s beetroot-paean to Lord Sugar; Daniel Roy Connelly over from Rome for the occasion; Alex Bell’s very hot sonnet; the intensely musical poems of our Selected poet, Geraldine Clarkson; and many more.
Our special guest was Simon Armitage who had been interviewed about his new translation of the mediaeval poem, Pearl, in Magma 58. Pearl is about the death of a young daughter and Simon talked movingly about the experience of translating it, as a father himself and as a poet who had written about the killing of a girl (Black Roses) and worked with the parents of Madeleine McCann. As he read from it, a 14th century poem suddenly felt very real.
The interval followed, giving a chance for more drinks and networking, and when the evening finished just after 9pm, many of the audience repaired to the Pizza Express in the next street to continue the conversation.
Our Edinburgh launch was very different – in the main bar of a large pub in the University district with a stage and lights, intriguingly called The Blind Poet. The evening was arranged by Magma’s reviews editor, Rob A Mackenzie, who lives just outside Edinburgh and hosted the evening jointly with me. Ten contributors from Scotland and Northern England read two or three poems including Seth Crook all the way from the Isle of Mull, together with Geraldine Clarkson by invitation as Magma 58’s Selected poet.
We were joined by four guest poets who had contributed to the Personal anthologies article in Magma 58: John Glenday, Helena Nelson, Kona Macphee and Andrew Philip. They each read and talked about the favourite poem in the article and then some of their own poems. Helena (who also runs Happenstance Press) spoke illuminatingly about Gerard Manley Hopkins and the evening ended stirringly with Kona singing unaccompanied at the editor’s request, as she had at the Magma 53 launch in June 2012.
This wasn’t quite the only music in the evening – strains of a tango class upstairs could be heard from time to time – but it sent us out feeling that if Magma can move and entertain 60 people in an Edinburgh pub (including regulars who stayed) we’re on the right track to reach all parts of the UK.
Many thanks from my co-editor Richard Morris and me to the LRB staff who made the evening such a success; to the staff of the Blind Poet who were so welcoming; and to all the Magma team, especially Jon Sayers who liaised with the LRB and came to Edinburgh too.