This issue might be the last of Magnapoets, as Editor Aurora Antonovic is taking a year-long break to work on other projects and assessing whether to let her publication die or give it a new birth. The cover—a gorgeous red photograph of the Horsehead Nebula, taken by Don McCrady—is a perfect tribute, as nebulas are either the remains of old stars or material for new ones.
The international magazine, which first came out in 2008, has had a good run. Antonovic has used her own small press, Magnaprint, to print both the magazine and poetry anthologies on topics such as love, epiphanies, and the four seasons. The press has a penchant for Japanese forms such as haikus, senryus, and tankas. Past issues have also had interviews with major poets such as Robert Pinsky and Charles Simic. One issue was bilingual. One contained a supplementary booklet with contributor’s responses to a “Proust questionnaire.” There’s a sense that an imagined community has formed around the magazine’s writers and readers.
The latest issue, though, is uneven. The quality of the poems range from clichéd, abstract doggerel to ones with decent lines such as “And I once speared a carp with one hand. / Its mouth was awful & ancient in the sun” (Rick Marlatt) and “a young frog mistakes / her for a little mirror” (Will Cordeiro on the half-moon reflected in a river).
There are a couple of interesting duet poems, including the pleasant “Hollyhocks and Smocking” by BM George and ML Grace. In a special self-portrait feature, there’s a Louis Simic-like “Playing Chicken on the Long Island Rail Road” by William Cullen, Jr. and Patricia Prime’s haibun “Deliveries,” which uses prose and short poems to describe different delivery men. There are no great or startling poems in this issue, but there are some quietly pleasing ones.
Perhaps Antonovic’s struggle with this magazine comes from the fact that she is currently the only editor. The magazine receives 3,000 to 7,000 poems each submission period, and according to her post on “what goes into the making of a print magazine,” “No poet waits more than one month to hear if his/her work has been accepted.” She also mentions frustration at having to find a new printing press and hints about other writing and editing projects she herself would love to complete.
Antonovic sounds amazing and energetic and has done impressive things with her magazine. If she decides that it’s time to put it to rest, great—there should be no shame in ending a project as successful as this. If she decides it should continue, that’s great, too. The subtitle of Magnapoets is “taking over the world one poem at a time.” Judging from its history it might well be able to do so, especially with the help of a larger and more discriminating staff.