I’d never been to a Magma launch before, so I was looking forward to it, even the journey south. I took the so-called Quiet Carriage on the Edinburgh-London train, thinking I’d have the opportunity to make notes on a book I’m reviewing for Magma 49 but a family got on at Newcastle who wanted to quarrel, listen to music through headphones, and shout to one another (even though there were four of them round a table). I’ve left out the most revolting details involving a suitcase, a teenage hand, and some animal deposits. The train, miraculously, was on time. One tube ride later, I was at the Troubadour, sampling the menu while the rest of the Magma board filed in.
The launch was busy – few empty chairs, if any. Anne-Marie Fyffe introduced the evening and Laurie Smith took over as MC for the first half. This featured well-published poets like Elizabeth Barrett and DA Prince and new names like Sue Coats and Mark Burnhope, whose poems in Magma 48 are their first ever publications – not that you would have guessed. Guest poet, AB Jackson, finished off the first section in style with mainly new work – simultaneously serious, funny and distinctive – including poems from Apocrypha, due from Donut Press in early 2011.
I was MC for the second half. It was great to have three of five winners of this year’s Eric Gregory Awards at the launch (all five have poems in the magazine) – Sarah Howe, Phil Brown, and Abigail Parry – who all seemed like good writers to me. Guest poet for this half was Philip Gross, 2009 TS Eliot Prize winner for The Water Table (Bloodaxe). He mentioned, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, how he had won his Eric Gregory Award in 1981 and how he hoped it wouldn’t take this year’s crop so long to win further prizes. His reading was excellent, with plenty of interesting asides on beauty (Magma 48’s dominant theme).
I enjoyed the launch and hope it won’t be long before I’m back for another one. Even the delayed 11.27pm train to Sutton afterwards couldn’t spoil for me what had been a great evening of poetry.
All photos © Rebecca Root, 2010