Call for submissions: M85 Poems for schools


Magma 85: Poems for schools

Edited by Ashley Hickson-Lovence, Laurie Smith and Gill Ward. The submissions window for ‘Poems for schools’ is open from 1st July to 31st July 2022.

We welcome poems that have not been previously published, either in print or online.

Up to 4 poems may be sent via Submittable, or by post if you live in the UK. Postal submissions are not acknowledged until a decision is made.

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Poems for schools

For Magma 85, we’re looking for new poems that will help to revolutionise the way poetry is taught in schools. We are seeking poems appropriate for secondary school study and fitting with Magma’s ethos.

We believe the poetry taught in secondary schools in England can be too limited in style and subject, and we suspect this is true of other English syllabuses across the world.

As background for our international readers, England sets public exams for 16-year-olds (as well as for 18-year-olds) and puts great pressure on schools to make all their students take them. These are called GCSE and include GCSE English Literature. Students answer a question on an anthology of poems set by the Exam Boards and also on one or two unseen poems of a similar kind.

The poems in the anthologies set by the four Exam Boards for England all have to be from the late 18th to 21st centuries and, by Government policy, are almost entirely limited to British and Irish poets:

These anthologies influence the poetry taught with students aged 11 to 14, so limitation 1 is that schools in England tend to exclude the great wealth of poetry written in the USA, other English-speaking countries and countries where English is widely spoken as a second language.

We feel this is very regrettable and look forward to receiving poems from all over the world.

• Our limitation 2 is that the poems in the GCSE anthologies, and others designed for 11 to 14-year-olds, tend to be rather similar. If you look at the GCSE anthologies, the same poets – and sometimes the same poems – tend to reappear. And the topics of the poems (love and relationships, conflict including war) recur.

But there are many other topics which are central to modern life on which memorable poems are being written – climate change, #MeToo, race, decolonisation, place/displacement, impact of social media, disability, mental health, self-worth and peer pressure. Even such topics as sport, food and fashion, which are important in many people’s lives, don’t noticeably appear in the poetry in school anthologies.

We believe that all of these themes and topics, and others, can be expressed in poems suitable for schools and so we’re looking for poems that achieve this – poems that will help future generations to understand what it’s like living in the 2020s as memorably as Wordsworth and Blake did for the 1790s.

• This brings us to limitation 3 – the predominance of white male poets in the school anthologies which is a result of history and a reflection of who controlled the publication of poetry in the past. This situation is gradually changing and we acknowledge the efforts of the Exam Boards in England to make their anthologies more diverse and inclusive.

So, we particularly welcome poems from poets who wish to describe themselves in terms of race, gender or sexuality, but will be equally attentive to poets who don’t wish to describe themselves.

Lastly we hope to include some poems which use poetic form in bold and potentially boundary-breaking ways, to help introduce students to the rich variety of forms in which poets are writing. It would be great to receive poems like Raymond Antrobus’s Happy Birthday Moon which uses the pantoum form or Melanie Poonai’s Where I’m From with its vibrant use of different colours – or Hannah Lowe’s High Yellow with its contrasts between bold and non-bold.
It would also be great to discuss whether modern poems respond to similar experiences as poems of the past: for example, are the hip-hop inspired style of George the Poet’s My city has a lot of faces and the gripping imagery of Theresa Lola’s Despite the noise contemporary versions of Blake’s London?

So, we’re looking forward to reading your poems that teachers would enjoy teaching in schools.

We’re also asking English teachers from all over the world to tell us about poems which they’ve found illuminating to teach but don’t appear in their school anthologies. If you are an English teacher, please let us know about poems you’ve found and why you’ve found them successful to teach. Please let us know on info@magmapoetry.com using the subject Magma 85. All emails will be acknowledged and teachers who give us permission to mention them and the poem(s) they’ve chosen in Magma 85 (with their permission) will receive a free e-copy of the magazine through our partners, Exact Editions.

We will send paper and e-copies of Magma 85 to the Exam Boards in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic – and e-copies to any other setters of English Literature examinations across the world for which we’re given contact details.

With your help, we aim to make a difference to poetry in schools, starting by reading your own poems!

Ashley Hickson-Lovence, Laurie Smith and Gill Ward

Editors, Magma 85, Poems for schools

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Wanting to submit to Magma 85? You may submit:

Up to 4 previously unpublished poems in a single Word document.

We are now accepting simultaneous submissions – but please withdraw your submission or contact us if it is accepted for publication somewhere else first.



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