Poems are considered for one issue only. We write to contributors as soon as a decision is made. As Magma receives a very large number of poems, we cannot consider more than four poems per poet per issue which must be sent in a single document.
Poems published in the magazine may also be published on this website and as a PDF version for Exact Editions. Poems remain the copyright of their author. Contributors receive a copy of the issue in which they appear and and can purchase further copies at a discount. They may also be invited to read at the issue’s launch reading.
The submissions window for
the Climate Change Issue is open from 1 March – 30 April 2018. We welcome poems
that have not been previously published, either in print or online. You may
send up to 4 poems.
Looking back to the early 21st century from a few hundred years ahead – if there are humans to look and literature that’s survived, perhaps in an e-library of Borgesian proportions – people might expect to find a lot of climate change in the poetry section. But would they? And what would such poems be like?
Climate change is intangible, conceptual, scientific, vast, elusive, futuristic. It’s also concrete, specific and happening but even specific symptoms are hard to grasp. How to imagine desertification from a temperate climate, or unravel changing bird migration patterns? How reliably can an urban flood be traced beyond, say, floodplain building and local deforestation to larger causes? Then there’s the political discourse and our complicity, individual and collective, especially in rich countries where we emit and consume far more than the Earth can bear.
How do we, as poets, bring climate change into our work? There’s no ‘should’ about this – a writer writes what s/he has to write. Yet some of us might feel inadequate meeting a 26th century human, if the work of our Anthropocene era didn’t reflect our predicament.
Two of this issue’s three editors confess that though climate change preoccupies them, their poems mostly don’t show it and they feel guilty. Why the shyness, or lack of inspiration? Maybe poetry isn’t the best artistic medium… Maybe that’s a cop-out. Can the minds of the most imaginative dream us out of our ethical and emotional paralysis, in which case where does poetry fit?
Seamus Heaney set a universal challenge when he said in the 1970s, amid the Troubles in Northern Ireland, how for him “the problems of poetry moved from being simply a matter of achieving the satisfactory verbal icon to being a search for images and symbols adequate to our predicament”.
We’d like your help to explore the possibilities in this issue of Magma. We’re looking for poems that engage with the theme of climate change in any way, that reflect it, have it as an emotional underlay, or react against it. We want the magazine to be a place where poems work from and through their own uncertainties – isn’t uncertainty the richest space for the human imagination? So this is a call for impure poems, following Louis MacNeice’s plea (set against the backdrop of 1930s political crises) for “poetry conditioned by the poet’s life and the world around him”.
Send us poems of grief, anger, despair, dystopian angst, scepticism, devil’s advocacy, activism, optimism, humour, joy… Elegies, satire or whatever. Poems that explore natural phenomena (what becomes of nature poetry in the age of climate change?); and/or the human psychology, the dilemmas of our needs and wants from cultural to economic, local to global. Poems that renew form or push against its boundaries, that plunder the language of climate science and natural history. (Antevernals = spring flowers that now bloom early – that’s from Robert Macfarlane on Twitter.) As Norman MacCaig wrote:
Scholars, I plead with you,
Where are your dictionaries of the wind, the grasses?
And we’d love to read poems written from places already experiencing climate change. Above all, like editors everywhere, we want to read excellent poems.
Climate change affects our reading of earlier literature: Shakespeare’s “bare ruined choirs”, Emily Dickinson, Edward Thomas. As for the current conversation your poems might join, there are anthologies of eco-poems: e.g. Neil Astley’s Earth Shattering , John Burnside and Maurice Riordan’s Wild Reckoning, Peter Abbs’ Earth Songs and Harriet Tarlo’s The Ground Aslant. All except the last are over 10 years old.
There’s new nature writing, prose and poetry, from Roger Deakin to Kathleen Jamie. Karen McCarthy Woolf folds deep existential unease into everyday concerns in her collection Seasonal Disturbances. Jorie Graham’s Sea Change and PLACE wrestle with the issues; her poem ‘Embodies’ begins:
Deep autumn & the mistake occurs, the plum tree blossoms, twelve
blossoms on three different
Jonathan Bate’s The Song of the Earth makes a stirring case for why poetry still matters. A chapter in Jared Diamond’s Collapse speculates on how the Easter Islanders came to the point where they felled the last tree. Robert Macfarlane surveys the artistic response to climate change in the Guardian.
We look forward to reading your poems.
Eileen Pun, Matt Howard and Fiona Moore, Editors, Magma 72.