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Magma at StAnza, and the Big Survey (and possibly a very cold swim)

We had 430 replies to the Big Survey.  Thank you very much to everyone who took part.  One lucky person won a free subscription (announced on Twitter).

The survey had some messages for us… The clearest one was that people would like Magma to do more events outside London.  More on that further down this post, but first, this week we are doing it – Magma’s Climate Change Issue will be at StAnza!  That’s Scotland’s international poetry festival, in St Andrews, north-east of Edinburgh.

On Saturday morning this coming weekend, 9 March, at 11.30, seven Climate Change Issue contributors will be reading and talking about their Magma poems at a Meet the Artist session in the Byre Theatre’s conference room:  Davina Prince, Christine de Luca, Jen Hadfield, Matthew Griffiths, Michael Grieve, Polly Atkin and Siún Carden.  I’m also delighted that co-editor Eileen Pun has got us recordings from two international contributors, Huang Fan and Patrick Sylvain – we’ll be hearing their poems in Chinese, Haitian Creole and English.  Do come along, listen, ask questions, tell us what you think about this issue of Magma.

Alas Eileen can’t come back from Italy for StAnza this year.  Last year we went swimming together from the beach under St Andrews’ castle ruins, in the super cold post-Beast from the East sea.  It was more a quick dip, surrounded by sea-murk mist, than a serious swim.  It certainly wasn’t serious – there was appalled laughter, with squeals.  Some of the others who dipped with us will be at StAnza again this year.  Any other intrepid potential StAnza swimmers, please make yourself known…

On Friday morning 8 March I’m chairing a panel on poetry and climate change – with Alice Tarbuck, Harry Josephine Giles, Jon Plunkett and Magma contributor Polly Atkin.  Whatever the term Eco-poet means, they are all it – from activism to contemplation, from poetry of (and in) place to exploration of form.  The event is one of StAnza’s famed 10am Poetry Breakfasts, whose tickets come with free pastries from a local bakery (and tea/coffee).  I always book for these because it’s very enjoyable to lounge in a comfortable chair in the Byre Theatre Studio sipping, munching and listening to other people talk, first thing in the morning.

All through the festival there will be a digital loop displaying some of the short poems from the Climate Change issue, projected onto the foyer wall of the Byre.

Eileen and Helen at the Poetry Market last year

Some film poems from Magma’s Film Issue will be showing every day in the Byre Conference Room.

Magma will have a stall at the Poetry Market from 12pm-4pm on Saturday so please come and say hello to us – Helen Nicholson will be there and so will I some of the time.  And you can buy Magma from us of course – the Climate Change Issue has been reprinted partly so that we’ll have supplies for StAnza.

Finally, not a Magma event but anyway, I’m reading at Five O’Clock Verses on Thursday, with Scottish poet Alan Spence, in the Parliament Hall.

Back to the Big Survey.  A lot of people asked for more events outside London: from the Scottish Highlands & Islands to Cornwall, from South Wales to Manchester, from the South to the Midlands to Northern Ireland.  StAnza’s a start.  For Magma 75 (the Loss issue, which is calling for submissions now and due out in the autumn) we are planning to hold events in the  North of England.  More about those in due course.  We will think creatively about how it might be possible to overcome obstacles of time and money, and do more.

You were generous about Magma itself in the survey, rating the magazine very highly for quality of content.  There was also over 90% support for Magma’s policy of changing editors and themes for each issue, with over 60% strongly supporting it.  This interested me, because it’s a tricky thing to keep a readership engaged with a magazine that behaves like a chameleon.

Our supporters change too – the majority of respondents who subscribe rotate their subscriptions between different magazines.  I do that; just about everyone I know does it.  Our challenge is to keep Magma on your favourites’ list.  We asked what single thing would most encourage non-subscribers to sign up, and the main answer was cost.  Yet only a little over  10% said Magma isn’t good value for money…  And it was heartening how strongly you expressed support for print on paper.  This is the reality of poetry finance, and of today’s low incomes.

We had several requests for more international poetry and poetry in translation – noted.

You (nearly 70%) said you’d like Magma to come back to climate change and the environment at some point in the future.  Noted.  In the detailed comments, someone said the Climate Change Issue focused too much on loss of biodiversity at the expense of politics and the causes of climate change.  It’s a fair comment, though some poems do focus on the casuses, and I’d say the politics mostly comes out slant.  The emphasis reflects what people are writing about and how they are doing it; and also the nature of our collaboration.  Maybe if we return to climate change we can frame it in a way that attracts poems with a different focus.

And finally… we have a digital version of Magma!  You can buy it here, a yearly subscription is £14.99.  I’m saying that because several people asked about one.  We will be advertising it better…

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