Poem: ‘The Illusionist’, in The Rialto

by Mark McGuinness on 26 June, 2014

My poem ‘The Illusionist’ has just been published in Issue 80 of The Rialto, which has been one of my favourite poetry magazines for years.

Opening lines of The Illusionist by Mark McGuinness, from The Rialto Issue 80

The poem is loosely based on an experience of watching the filming of a TV magic show, one of those rare instances of what might be called poetic déjà vu: life starts to imitate a verse form, and you become aware during the experience itself that you are inside a potential poem.

In this case, the verse-form was the pantoum, and I could almost see the machinery of the poem moving and grinding around me, in the two-steps-forward-one-step-back process of filming the show in multiple takes.

(Apparently Philip Larkin experienced poetic déjà vu on the train journey that turned into ‘The Whitsun Weddings’. Although he was crafty enough to recreate the experience by taking the same trip several times, as research.)

Cover of The Rialto Issue 80

One of the nice things about The Rialto is the quality of the presentation – the paper, printing, design, and the way poems are given plenty of room to breathe on its A4 pages; ‘The Illusionist’ has the luxury of having two whole pages to itself.

It’s an honour to share the contents pages with so many excellent poets. My teacher at the Poetry School, Mimi Khalvati, has three gorgeous poems in the issue. Others that have caught my eye so far include Maitreyabandhu’s ‘Night Driving’, of especial poignance for those of us who have experienced a family holiday in Cornwall in the seventies; ‘Mifune’ by Jon Stone, about the unforgettable Toshiro Mifune; ‘Secrets in a Siheyuan’, by my ex-Magma colleague Jennifer Wong; and a delightful poem called ‘What I Want to Tell You’ by Shazea Quraishi, which I recognised from an earlier workshop incarnation.

Finally, it was great to read in the News section that Maggie Sawkins, whose first pamphlet I reviewed for Magma back in 2004, has just won the 2013 Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry. When I read Charcot’s Pet I could tell I was in the presence of a special talent, and I’m thrilled for Maggie that she is now achieving recognition at the highest level.

Thank you to the editors, Michael Mackmin, Fiona Moore and Abigail Parry, for including me, and for hosting a very enjoyable launch reading earlier this month.

Check out Issue 80 of The Rialto here.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Naomi Dunford June 27, 2014 at 1:59 pm

It’s gorgeous, Mark. Well done. (Between the picture and the first few lines, I want to get my hands on this baby. The paper looks practically creamy.)


Mark McGuinness June 27, 2014 at 2:12 pm

Thank you!

The picture doesn’t lie – the paper really is creamy.


Marial Shea June 28, 2014 at 3:34 am

Fabulously exciting. Congratulations! What a beautiful reward for your years of devotion to the craft. The poem itself looks wonderful, and the magazine is luscious. I have to get my hands on a copy and read the whole poem.


Mark McGuinness June 30, 2014 at 2:34 pm

Thank you Marial. I hope you enjoy the rest of it…


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