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Magma at StAnza: international poets Huang Fan & Patrick Sylvain; StAnza panel

Magma was at StAnza last weekend.  It was super friendly, with many excellent events.  There were some interludes of heavenly StAnza weather (proof in the photos).  We’d reprinted the sold-out Climate Change Issue, partly with the festival in mind.  It was a difficult decision…  But thanks to StAnza audiences, interested and generous as always, and much to my relief, we sold over 40 copies so are well on the way to recovering the reprint costs.  You can order it here.

This post contains two things: audio from international contributors to M72, and some thought-bites from the StAnza panel on poetry & climate change.

At the Saturday reading from Magma 72 (see previous post), we played recordings of two of our international contributors, Huang Fan and Patrick Sylvain, reading their poems.  Here is the full set of recordings, so that you can listen to: the poems in their original languages, the translations, and some context for both poets.

1.  M72 co-editor Eileen Pun talks about the background and introduces the two poets


2.  Huang Fan reads his poem ‘A Trip to Mount General in Late Winter’ in Chinese


3.  Eileen Pun reads Huang Fan’s poem in English, in a translation by Dr Lei Yanni and Eileen herself


4.  Eileen Pun and translator Lei Yanni interpret Huang Fan’s poem: origins, influences, attitude to climate change


5.  Patrick Sylvain reads his poem ‘Ego’ in English and Haitian Creole


6.  Patrick Sylvain reads his poem ‘Howling Gale’ in English only


7.  Patrick Sylvain talks about his approach to writing about climate change


8.  Patrick Sylvain talks about his decision to write in Haitian


9.  Patrick Sylvain talks about the background to ‘Howling Wind’


                                                                                                                                                                          Photo @stephenkeeler

On Friday we were on stage with a panel on poetry & climate change, featuring Polly Atkin (who has a poem in Magma 72 as one of the collaborators with CCI), Harry Josephine Giles, Jon Plunkett and Alice Tarbuck – four eco-poets with different backgrounds and practices, who spoke and interacted so well together.  I’d have taken notes if I wasn’t chairing it…  For the rest of the festival, people kept coming up to me to say how much they’d enjoyed it.  Thanks to fellow Magma committee member Selina Rodrigues who was in the audience, here are some thought-bites.

Poetry and perspectives:
– from the Timeline of the Far Future (google this, for interesting results)
– to paths for walking through the world, their ground on temporary loan from nature, like the Corbenic Poetry Path in Perthshire
– and straight new paths for walking over nature, hated by Wordsworth and conservationists
– and specific, material reality: standing underneath the Fin Whale skeleton in Cambridge’s Zoological Museum.

How can/does poetry engage with climate change?
– there’s plenty of detail, images to use, from the moors burning during too-warm February to stranded polar bears.  The challenge is how to frame that detail
– bloody, violent, angry artistic engagement. Dealing ethically with rage. Poetry can support your conscious ethical engagement. The power of groups
– context changes: you may be writing about the same stuff as 10 years ago, but now it’s seen as political.

How can we make it new/startling?
– deep textual exploration about truth-telling
– cultivating a habit of thought and being. There are many speeds of activism, from shaking a bucket to the slower speeds of thought.
– poetry can go viral: that’s what happened to a line on time and silence, projected onto Reykjavik government walls during a protest.
– poetry can alleviate or remove; or create a space of inertia or rest
– poetry should not have to have a function!

Poems / poets to read:
– at the barricades, John Kinsella, who reads his at literal barricades and protests against environmental ravages in Australia.
And for calming, for wakefulness or sleep:
– Thomas A Clark
– Gillian Allnutt
– D A Powell
– Bertolt Brecht, these famous lines:

In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing
About the dark times.

Where does your gaze fall? (Asked by someone in the audience):
– in the woods
– through a window, watching long-tailed tits
– on the river, as near as possible to it
– on the horizon…

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