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Magnapoets – January 2010

Short and sweet is probably the most appropriate description of Magnapoets, a biannual literary journal out of Ontario, Canada. The 8×10, saddle-stapled journal features four essays on poetry, six pages of Free Verse and Form poetry, six pages of Haiku and Senryu, and six pages of Tanka.

Short and sweet is probably the most appropriate description of Magnapoets, a biannual literary journal out of Ontario, Canada. The 8×10, saddle-stapled journal features four essays on poetry, six pages of Free Verse and Form poetry, six pages of Haiku and Senryu, and six pages of Tanka.

The Letter from the Editor discusses universality in poetry—taking a look at how the “personal” in poetry speaks to readers. This opening is appropriate for the journal, as the poems featured in the Free Verse and Form section are very personal. This emotional, relatable poetry addresses issues ranging from a father’s last birthday, veterans returning from war, watching a ball game on TV, stereotyping, and the beauty of the earth. There is a diversity of lengths and subjects featured in this section of Magnapoets—some of the poems are comical, some very serious—but each poem is incredibly rhythmic.

The first essay featured, entitled “How Do You Capture the Poetry, Rather Than the Literature, of an Idea?” by Ursula T. Gibson, uses advice from Now Techniques for Today’s Poets by Eddie-Lou Cole to expound on the tools of poetry. Comparing poetry to prose, she says, “the imposed limitations of condensed emotion, rather than the detailed exposition of place, times, persons, and occurrences” are what differentiate the two. This essay is a nice introduction for a beginning poet.

The next section, Haiku and Senryu, fills each page with half a dozen or more three line poems. These, as tradition dictates, are mostly not personal, featuring tiny snapshots of nature or the surrounding environment—for instance, one haiku by Peggy Heinrich watches passengers inside an airport, a senryu by RK Singh captures the uneasy coexistence of humans and animals.

The second essay, “Defining Haiku” by Robert D. Wilson, delves into the art of haiku, largely misunderstood by the North American public. Unfortunately, haiku doesn’t seem to be the easiest poetic form to explain. As Wilson tells us, “A haiku is a haiku regardless of the geosphere it’s written in. Either it is or it isn’t.” Despite this imprecise definition, Wilson’s essay would be helpful for those interested in learning more about the art form of haiku.

The last section of poems is Tanka, followed by an essay by Aurora Antonovic “Tanka, A Brief Synopsis.” To quote Antonovic, “Tanka is a Japanese-form, five-line poem, known for its lyricism. In fact, the word tanka means ‘short song.’ . . . Tanka differs from the Japanese form of poetry called haiku in that it is longer, and requires an emotional response or interaction from the poet.” The poems featured in this section are emotional, yes, but they are also mysterious, and their bursts of beauty are so contained.

The last essay, “Three Readings of Ezra Pound’s ‘Metro Haiku’” by Chen-ou Liu, discusses Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro,” giving it a “Haikuesque Reading” and an “Ideogrammatic Reading.”

Those interested in the art of Japanese poetry as it is written in North America today would do well to purchase a copy of Magnapoets.
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