Last Friday I attended the launch of Magma 61 magazine at the Poetry Review bookshop in London’s Bloomsbury. I arrived early, as I always do when I can, and walked to the venue from Kings Cross St. Pancreas via the British Library with its Eduard Paolozzi sculpture in the piazza
The streets around Shaftesbury Avenue, where I used to wonder the guitar shops some thirty years ago (do you know the song ‘Wild West End’ by Dire Straits?) looked quite different, and the air was full of Spanish and Italian voices in this most cosmopolitan of cities.
I’d previously attended launches of this excellent magazine, which has a theme and a guest editor for each issue, at the Troubadour, a venerable coffee shop and relic of a bohemian past that had seen performances by luminaries of the British Jazz and Folk scene of the fifties and sixties including Bob Dylan and Paul Simon. Much as I had enjoyed the atmosphere at the previous venue, it was lovely to wander around the bright and fantastically well stocked Poetry Review Bookshop. With time to spare, I popped into the nearby Oxfam Bookshop and managed to pick up a Faber copy of Seamus Heany’s 1991 collection, Seeing Things for a bargain £2, as well as Don Patterson’s new ‘readers guide’ to the poems of Michael Donaghy ‘Smith’ for £6, which I’ve dipped into since and can highly recommend .
A good start to the evening. Returning to the London Review bookshop ,
I was pleased to see fellow Leicestershire poet Pam Thompson, as well as having a brief chat with headline reader Simon Barraclough whose new book ‘Sunspots’ (Penned in the Margins) has been recently published before the reading began.
This edition of Magma is entitled ‘The Streets’ and contains a marvellous range of work related in some way to this theme. Magma is a brilliant magazine, featuring established writers (this issue contains a poem by Christopher Reid, among many other widely published poets) alongside those with somewhat shorter publishing records. If you have tried to get into this magazine before, do keep sending them your work. As I’ve said before persistence pays off when submitting to magazines, and with revolving editorship, a new theme for each issue and a wide variety of styles of work published , you may just have the poem the editors are looking for to complete the next issue.
The poems and poets were introduced by Jon Sayers, co-editor of this edition, who spoke of the great pleasure (and hard work) that had gone into the selection of the poems in this edition from over 2000 submissions that were sent in. It was a great evening with many stand-out readings. I particularly enjoyed work by Christine Webb, Pam Thompson, Tiffany Anne Tondut (whose poems I’m hoping to feature here in the near future) and Linda Goulden.
Also impressive was Gram Joel Davis who faultlessly recited his long poem ‘World Away’ without reference to the text. Simon Barraclough rounded off the evening in fine style with a selection of work old and new.
I was pleased that several people approached me to say they had enjoyed my own poem, ‘Google Street View’ which I introduced by recalling that some seventy years ago bombs had fallen across this city and that my Dad was one of the people sheltering underneath them.
I had time to round off the evening with a drink or two with poet and teacher Neil Elder before heading home.