October 10, 2014


Every February, the brilliant Jessie Randall takes over the editorial controls at Snakeskin for a special themed issue.

Next February, she will be filling the magazine with MONSTERS.

As always, the theme is open to interpretation, but the more monstery your poems, the better.
Send up to 6 poems to No attachments, please. Simultaneous submissions are fine.
Jessy likes to sort things out in advance, so the deadline is December 1. Expect a response by December 15.

National Poetry Day

September 29, 2014

October Snakeskin will probably be a day late, appearing on the 2nd of the month.

It’s been pointed out to me, though, that this is reasonably appropriate, since the 2nd is National Poetry Day.

Here is a poem about NPD that I wrote a few years ago:

National Poetry Day

The Head was ambitious and nobody’s fool,
A big man, efficient, and proud of his school.

At the start of the term, as he sorted his post,
The item of mail that intrigued him the most

Was a piece puffing National Poetry Day,
Including a list of the poets who’d stay

And workshop and somehow persuade the whole school
That poets were groovy and poems were cool.

“Here’s status,” the Head thought. “It’s not to be missed.”
The one problem, though, was the names on the list;

Though doubtless they wrote quite respectable stuff,
Not one of them, frankly, was famous enough.

His school deserved more; his ambition took wing,
And so he decided to do his own thing.

With his usual flair, and with chutzpah exquisite,
He invited the whole English canon to visit.

Geoffrey Chaucer came first, on an equable horse,
And Spenser, and Marlowe, and Shakespeare, of course

(Who was grabbed by the teachers of English, imploring
“Do come and persuade the Year Nines you’re not boring.”)

Keats arrived coughing, Kipling marched vigorously;
Matthew Arnold began to inspect the school rigorously -

Which delighted the Head, who with pride and elation
Showed the bards of the ages today’s education.

Vaughan was ecstatic, though Clough was more sceptical.
Dowson puked up in a litter receptacle.

Coleridge sneaked off to discover the rates
Of an unshaven person outside the school gates;

Soon he’d sunk in a private and picturesque dream,
While Auden was ogling the basketball team.

Plath lectured the girls: “Get ahead! Go insane!”
Algernon Swinburne cried: “Bring back the cane!”

Dylan Thomas soon found the head’s cupboard of booze,
And Swift was disdainfully sniffing the loos.

And then the Head twigged, with a horrified jolt,
That something had sparked a Romantic revolt.

Shelley’d gathered the students out in the main quad,
And roused them to rise against school, Head, and God.

Byron soon joined him, and started to speak.
(He showed his best profile, and quoted from Greek.)

The bards of the thirties were equally Red,
And Milton explained how to chop off a head.

Decadents undermined all the foundations.
Surrealists threw lobsters and rancid carnations.

Pre-Raphaelites attacked the technology rooms,
And the First World War poets trudged off to their dooms,

Sidney with gallantry led a great charge in
(Tennyson cheering them on from the margin).

The Deputy Head, who was rather a dope,
Got precisely impaled on a couplet by Pope

(Who, while not so Romantic, was never the chap
To run from a fight or keep out of a scrap).

Then the whole solid edifice started to shake
As it was prophetically blasted by Blake.

Soon the School was destroyed. Eliot paced through the waste,
And reflected with sorrow and learning and taste,

Which he fused in a poem, an excellent thing,
Though rather obscure and extremely right-wing.

He gave this to the Head, who just threw it aside
As he knelt by the wreck of his school, and he cried

Salty tears that went fizz as they hit the school’s ashes.
He said words that I’d better imply by mere dashes:

“——– Poets! ——– Poetry – rhyme and free verse!
Let them wilt in the face of a Headmaster’s curse!

“Let poetry wither! How sweet it would be
If all of the world were as normal as me!”

Spam alert

August 29, 2014

Most annoyingly, someone has hijacked the email address.

It is being used to send out spam messages, apparently from a lady seeking a friend – but actually linking to a site that my ISP recognises as malware.

Please be careful with any strange messages apparently coming from Snakeskin.

I don’t think, though, that the spammers have got at my address book. They are sending the messages out randomly. many go to non-existent addresses, as I learn from the ‘could not deliver’ messages clogging my inbox.

It’s a pain. I’ll see if anything can be done to stop it.

Something new

February 1, 2014



February Snakeskin is up and running, and it’s quite a change from the usual offering. Jessy Randall has taken on the Guest Editor stint again, and this time she has filled the zine with graphic surprises, in a Poetry Comics special.

Next month we’ll be back to business as usual again. Please send your poems to



All sorted

December 14, 2013

December Snakeskin is now properly online at as usual, and all is well.

While there was a problem with the domain name, mail sent to the did not reach me. If you sent poems during the first week or so of this month, and have had no acknowledgement, please send them again.

Because of the disruption, I am making the December Snakeskin a double number, running through January as well.

February will be the special Poetry Comics number, guest-edited by Jessy Randall (for which the deadline is already closed).

In March we will continue with business as usual.

It never rains…

December 11, 2013

Back from hospital, I finished getting the December issue belatedly together, and put it online, only to find that the address does not work. The firm that provides the address is proving elusive (or at least, I can’t get past the receptionist) but I shall persevere.Meanwhile,  the December issue can be found online at this rather ungainly address:

And a damn good collection of poems it is, too.

December will arrive a little late…

December 3, 2013


Your editor had set aside several days at the end of November for completing December Snakeskin, but illness intervened rather melodramatically. He is now out of hospital, and will resume editing as soon as possible…

Preparing for the Book Fair

October 27, 2013

I’m getting the Book Fair issue together today, and it’s very enjoyable work.

We’ll have a very good (and very mixed) collection of poets showing off their wares in November, and the issue will make good reading.

I’m linking book covers to – just because most of the books are available there, and this is the easiest port of call for British readers.  On the other hand, prospective buyers in America and elsewhere might find their own branch of Amazon more convenient… Besides which,  as I’m well aware, Amazon is a problematic firm, and none of us like the way that its publishing might seems to be inexorably killing off small local bookshops.

Any suggestions of a better way?


Poetry and the Brain

October 10, 2013

Neuroscientists at Exeter University have been looking at what happens to your brain when you read poetry. Interesting stuff.

Details here:


October 3, 2013

Snakeskin 201 is now online, and a very good issue it is, too, if I may say so. Snakeskin is lucky in its contributors these days.

Some of the poems raise a question that often bothers me as an editor – the matter of footnotes and explanations.

Often poems compress their language and their argument so that they are not immediately clear without explanation. Sometimes I’ve rejected poems submitted because I didn’t understand them at all (and sometimes I’ve asked the poet for an explanation, and haven’t understood the explanation.

I’m not very happy about supplying footnotes to poems, though I have done occasionally, but I think they tend to be distracting. Often I try to make an illustration do the work of a footnote – as with Ken Head’s poem about Heptonstall in the current issue. A photo of Plath’s grave tells the reader what the poem is about, without, I hope, making those who would anyway have got the reference feel condescended to. Snakeskin is sent quite a few poems about or referring to artworks or buildings.  Whenever I can I include a picture of the artwork, to make the poem clear to readers who don’t know it.

Seth Braver’s poem Circulation raises more of a problem. Seth explained to me:

A few words on the formal constraints of “Circulation”: besides the rhyme scheme and Fibonacci-based syllable count (1,1,2,3,5,8), five words are common to all stanzas: heart, beat, heel, toe, and muffled.

Should I have appended this as a note to the poem?  I finally decided that if I had done, people would read the poem as an exercise, and not as a poem.  Anyway, those who pondered the poem would have noticed these patterns at work (though not all would have recognised the Fibonacci sequence). Now I’m having second thoughts, but maybe this blog post will suffice.

Annie Fisher’s For You who did not go to Waterrow is different. It is a poem based on a personal experience, and unless you realise why she is talking to people who did not go on a walk, and why she is riffing off Dylan Thomas, the poem would be puzzling. So in this case I thought a headnote was needed. In any case, it gave me a chance to link to Helena Nelson’s Happenstance blog post about her Arvon weekend.

My general principle, though, is not to have anything on the page that will distract from the poem itself. That’s why I don’t include poet bios. I realised that when I looked at ezines, I often looked at the bios before I looked at the poems. occasionally the bio prejudiced me against the poem. Sometimes it was more interesting than the poem. In either case, it was a distraction. I try to follow the motto: Let the poem be the star.


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