February Snakeskin: Maths!

October 23, 2016

Once again Jessy Randall will guest-edit the February 2017 issue of Snakeskin. (You can find out more about Jessy at:http://personalwebs.coloradocollege.edu/~jrandall/ )

This year the theme will be NUMBERS / MATHEMATICS. As always, the theme is open to interpretation.

Send up to five poems to jessyrandall@yahoo.com. No attachments, please, except in the case of visual poems (please send jpegs). Simultaneous submissions are fine. The deadline is December 1. Expect a response by December 15.


Jessy Randall
(Photo by Wendy Lovell)

Down with Poetry!

October 18, 2016


The proper kind of poetry
has resonance – it’s heavy.

Her verse is light, the critics said
she writes it on the bevvy.

This is part of Helena Nelson’s ‘Self-portrait as an Unsuitable Poem’, in her new collection Down With Poetry, which the postman brought to my door the other day, to my huge delight.
The book brings together her previous ‘unsuitable’ collections, and adds more to them. The term ‘unsuitable’ is inspired by a magazine’s rejection note many years ago: ‘Many thanks for the poems. These aren’t quite suitable…’ Helena has a keen ear for the intricacies of language, and realised that the editor wasn’t saying the poems were no good – just that they were ‘unsuitable’ – they didn’t fit the standard category of poems that get published. Maybe because they don’t make a show of taking themselves too seriously.
Helena’s ‘Unsuitables’ are sometimes rude about poetry and poets: Read the rest of this entry »

The Politics issue

October 1, 2016

I’m currently putting the final touches to October Snakeskin – the politics edition. It will probably go online late on the first or early on the second of October.
When I set the politics challenge a couple of months ago, the EU referendum had just produced a result that showed Britain divided, after a campaign that a fractious and divided nation, whose tribes were hardly able to communicate with one another, and often showed little respect for one another. In America the bullying demotic of Mr. Trump seemed to be overtaking civil discourse. Worse than that, it was producing its mirror-image in the rhetoric of his opponents, whose anger at his success was increasingly expressed in language marked with bitterness, stereotyping and an unattractive intellectual snobbishness. Read the rest of this entry »

October Snakeskin – Politics

September 7, 2016

A reminder:
October Snakeskin will be one of our theme issues, and its topic will be Politics.
I set this challenge because we live in odd political times, when old certainties seem to be shifting and new possibilities can seem very disconcerting.
I ought to tell you that I am not especially fond of some kinds of political poems. I don’t much like the sort that are expressions of resentment and negativity, or attempts to get easy laughs from obvious targets. Wit and satire are welcome, but I’d like to get beyond stock attitudes.
What am I hoping for? Poems that intelligently describe modern life and conflicts, poems that describe the political process, poems that observe where we are today politically, poems of analysis and poems that point positively to a future. It’s a big ask, I know, but some excellent examples are already coming in.

Please send your poems to editor@snakeskin.org.uk, preferably before September 26th.

Thomas Land – review and interview

July 29, 2016


Thomas Ország Land

Thomas Ország-Land

Over the past years, Thomas Land’s poetry has made regular appearances in Snakeskin. We have been especially pleased to publish his translations of Hungarian poets who died in or survived the Holocaust.

Admirers of his work will want to read the interview with Thomas recently published on the Penniless Press website, together with a review of his Snakeskin pamphlet Reading for the Rush hour.

The review and interview can be found at: http://www.pennilesspress.co.uk/NRB/reading_for_rush_hour.htm

Pokemon – still going

July 18, 2016


All over the news this week (or at least in the spaces left free by horrors) is Pokemon Go, the new interactive game for phones.

Things go, things return. Just a couple of weeks ago I was looking through back numbers of Snakeskin, and thinking that one of my favourite numbers, our Pokemon special in June 2000, would never again be topical, and might be incomprehensible to younger readers.

I had not realised that the world of Pokemon, after its wild craze at the turn of the century as a trading card game, had persisted, at a lower level of fame,  in computer games and elsewhere. Now it’s back in the big-time, apparently, so let me remind you about our poetic tribute to it.


This began when K.M.Payne’s son, Spencer, became very interested in the strange creatures of the Pokemon world. Ken wrote some rather brilliant poems for him, and sent them to me at Snakeskin. As a teacher of young teenagers, I had also come across the card game and rather liked it, so I joined in with some parodies, showing how a few major poets might have responded to Pokemon. And Phil Barker sent us a nice poem about Avem Frigidum.

The issue is Snakeskin 55, and can be found here:

This is one of the issues now properly restored in the Snakeskin archive. I’ve worked my way through quite a few of the issues now, but there is still plenty more to do. It’s enjoyable work, though. I’m amazed by the range and quality of the work we have published over the years.

Geoffrey Hill (1932 – 2016)

July 2, 2016

Geoffrey Hill died this week. He was a great poet, but one who saw it almost a duty to be difficult. It was a good thing for public toilets should be accessible, he thought, but not poetry, which should always be at the cutting edge of sensibility, forever questioning the received ideas and self-images of the age.(A typical Hill poem will begin to challenge  itself half way through.)

He was also one of the best critics of the age. I had the privilege of hearing him lecture at Oxford a few years ago. I described the event on my other blog: https://greatwarfiction.wordpress.com/2010/05/08/geoffrey-hill-at-oxford/

He was like no other poet.

A refugee from Baghdad

June 21, 2016

Then one day, men with serious moustaches came knocking on our door. Would my father care to join them for a little chat? Mum’s face grew ashen as the hours passed slowly and Dad hadn’t returned. I knew something was wrong, but no one, not my mother, nor my grandmother, would tell me why Dad was suddenly taken away.

In today’s Guardian newspaper, Snakeskin poet Hassan Abdulrazzak writes about his childhood in Baghdad, and the reasons why his family became refugees, eventually settling in England: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jun/20/baghdad-refugee-saddam-iraq-hassan-abdulrazzak

The experience of leaving Iraq has also been described in his poems, for example in  ‘The Shadow of their Former Selves’, which appeared in Snakeskin back in 2001: http://www.snakeskinpoetry.co.uk/67form~1.htm

Hassan’s play, Love, Bombs and Apples is at the Arcola theatre, London until 25 June 2016.


June 15, 2016

His mind a toxic bubbling mess
of envy, spite and righteousness,
dark self-disgust and wounded pride,
he tries to ease the pain inside
by, from a harsh and ancient creed,
selecting parts that match his need.
There is no kind of crazy hate
the Internet won’t validate,
so he absorbs the oratory
of men as rancorous as he
and, desperate, grabs at the excuse
to turn his bitter feelings loose,
to try to ease his tortured brain
by making others share his pain.
Young people dancing do not guess
the sight of them gives him distress;
they cause him hurt by having fun.
Omar Mateen buys a gun.


Snakeskin is moving

April 12, 2016

For several years Snakeskin has nestled fairly happily on the web servers of Virgin media. The webspace came with a package of telephone, broadband and cable television, and has suited me fairly well.

Recently, though, Virgin sent a message saying that they will no longer offer webspace. Didn’t make them enough money, I suppose. They offered to transfer me to a ridiculously pricey package with another firm, but I have found a better deal, and got us a new domain name. The Snakeskin files can now be found at www.snakeskinpoetry.co.uk .

You can still type in the old http://www.snakeskin.org.uk and you will be redirected to the new site without problems. If you have links or bookmarks pointing to http://www.simmers1.webspace.virginmedia.com however, these will become outdated soon – so please update them.

The new site is working pretty well, but one or two things need adjusting. And I definitely need to sort out the archive page, plus one or two others that have fallen into disrepair.

Please do let me know if you have any problems with the new site.