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Footnotes

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.

Snakeskin Book Fair

September 2, 2013

November’s Snakeskin will be a book fair.

Here’s how it works. Poets who have produced a book or pamphlet during the past twelve months are invited to send us a sample poem, plus a short piece (120 words maximum) about the book. (Obviously Snakeskin’s usual rules about previous publication don’t apply in this case.)

We’ll display the results in the November zine, and with luck you’ll find some new readers.

Snakeskin goes to Huddersfield

May 16, 2012

Snakeskin editorial HQ is moving to Yorkshire at the end of this week. Which should make no difference to the operation of either webzine or blog – but could mean that email communication will be disrupted for a few days.

Snakeskin 185

March 1, 2012

The new Snakeskin is online, and there’s plenty of it.
In fact, there’s a whole cornucopia of very varied verse.
This issue is a double one, because the editor will be moving house at the end of March, and may be without Internet access for a few days.
The next Snakeskin will therefore go online at the start of May. All contributions are welcome.

An essay worth reading

January 25, 2012

There’s a very good essay by Paul Lake in the Winter Anthology. It is about ‘The Shape of Poetry’ at http://winteranthology.com/index.php?author=paul-lake&title=shape

Bruce Bentzman and the scruffy men

March 23, 2011

Bruce continues heading West:

Scruffy men roam the streets of Santa Fe. You see them walking into town, or leaving, on the highways. They appear lean and tough, toting perhaps all their worldly belongings (are there any other kinds of belongings?) in oversized, stained duffle bags or backpacks. Bearded and dark-eyed, their hair long and shiny, I think of them as mountain men walking into town to restock. I was expecting them to be leading mules, although I saw no mules. Santa Fe tolerated them.

The scruffy men occupied the the street corners and I never saw them molested by the authorities, and I’ve been told they don’t molest the public, not even to panhandle. Santa Fe is so decent. Read the rest of this entry »

Helena Nelson on Poetry Competitions

March 7, 2011

Anyone who goes in for poetry competitions (especially those that make you pay a hefty fee for participating) will find Helena Nelson’s latest Happenstance blog post well worth reading.

Dog

January 20, 2011

Please don’t expect Snakeskin‘s editor to pay too much attention to poetry in the near future. His mind is fully occupied with an even more deeply involving subject – his new dog.

Bill is a Labrador, aged 19 months, whose previous owner has moved to New Zealand. The photo does not do justice to his colour – which is dark chocolate.

Maybe we should have a special Snakeskin theme issue on the subject of dogs some time…

M.A.Griffiths

January 16, 2011

That very talented poet, M.A.Griffiths, died in 2009. I am very pleased to learn that Grasshopper, a collection of her work, has been published by Arrowhead Books.

Here is a poem of hers that appeared in Snakeskin.

Pumpkin Pie

He’d sworn that she was not his type, too thin
with, at the most, three-quarters of a mind
and, Geez, that laugh – a gerbil drowned in gin!
He’d stressed again that he abhorred that kind
of wet-lipped tart with slap fit for a clown,
all tawdry flesh and flash, a laughing stock,
hems hoist like flags and necklines plunging down:
sure signs of too much mileage on the clock.

His wife soon read the tale in Visa’s sums,
his statements contradicted, line by line;
how odd a modern fairytale becomes
when fantasy and fact and lies combine.

That ugly sister was a myth – instead
he’d had a ball in Cinderella’s bed.

Portraits and Self-Portraits – December theme issue

September 10, 2010

December Snakeskin will be a special theme issue,  guest-edited by David Graham.Its theme will be Portraits and Self-Portraits.

That’s pretty self-explanatory, but please note that verse of all forms and styles, and in all moods will be welcomed for consideration. Descriptions could be physical, moral or metaphorical. So please send your word-pictures of your granny, your boss, your favourite film-star, your worst enemy, yourself, or anyone else, to David Graham at: grahamd@ripon.edu.

He is looking forward to hearing from you.

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