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

Exegg

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.

Bulbasaur

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:
http://www.snakeskinpoetry.co.uk/snake55.htm

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.


Orlando

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.


March Snakeskin

March 1, 2016

The March issue is on its way.

As well as the usual array of poems, this contains the first of our new (and probably irregular) series of e-chapbooks. Reading for Rush Hour is a downloadable .pdf file of poems by Thomas Land.

Thomas is a regular contributor to Snakeskin, of course, and we are proud to have published many of his translations from the Hungarian, mostly of poets whose lives were affected by the Holocaust. This chapbook is a selection of his original poems, and gives an engaging picture of his poetic character and concerns.

We have a couple of other possible chapbooks lines up, but suggestions for future publications will be welcomed by the editor.


Alison Brackenbury reads

February 14, 2016

I very rarely go to poetry readings. In fact, I’m slightly nervous of them. I’ve sat squirming during embarrassing recitals, and I’ve sat depressed while mumblers fail to do justice to their work.

There was no danger of either of these happening last week, though, when Snakeskin poet Alison Brackenbury headed northwards to Leeds University, to read from her work.

Alison is a very good poet who first appeared in Snakeskin in 2001; , she is also an excellent reader. Her gentle voice is clear and light, and lets you hear the poem’s form without over-stressing it.

The poems I liked best were the ones about her grandfather’s First World War memories and the intriguing one that invited us to wonder what Sylvia Plath would have become had she survived. And the poem ‘And’, with its first line: ‘Sex is like Criccieth…’ She also let us hear ‘Skies’, the title poem of her new collection, which will be published at the end of March.

skies

Alison writes about the new collection here: http://carcanetblog.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/skies-by-alison-brackenbury.html

Resolution: I must get to more poetry readings.


Short poems

February 5, 2016

I’ve already got quite a full inbox, packed with possibles for March. It should be a good issue.

In April we’ll have one of our SHORT POEMS issues, which always seem to be popular. Eight lines maximum. Haiku, triolets, limericks, double dactyls, clerihews and verse epigrams are welcome, as are shorties in any form you like, whether conventional or strange.

Send them to editor@snakeskin.org.uk in the body of an email, please (remembering that I don’t open attachments). 


‘An homage’?

February 4, 2016

Snakeskin has writers and readers from all over the world. We only print poems in English, but English, of course, is a variable language. It has its dialects, its slangs and its local peculiarities, And is all the richer for it. Sometimes this variety throws up interesting issues.

I’ve received, for example, a couple of questioning notes about a phrase in Daniel M. Shapiro’s poem in the February issue. Daniel writes:

We whispered, unplugged,
an homage to Wicked Lester days.

‘Surely that should be “a homage”? ‘  my correspondents suggest.

That’s what I thought, too. Or maybe, I wondered, Daniel meant the French word, ‘hommage’, with the emphasis on the second syllable. It’s a term used by film critics when one director steals an idea from another. And, being unaspirated, it takes ‘an’.

I checked with Daniel and guest-editor Jessy Randall. Both are from Philadelphia, and say that ‘an homage’ (with the stress on ‘hom’) is standard pronunciation in those parts. Other Americans don’t recognise the phenomenon, but that seems to be how they say it in Philadelphia.

Despite Daniel’s generously offering to allow the change, I decided to keep the ‘an’. This is how he hears the poem spoken, after all, and that matters.

I very rarely suggest changes to the language of poems submitted to Snakeskin. I correct spellings and tidy punctuation where necessary, but don’t go further than that. If the poem doesn’t work for me as submitted, I generally just say ‘No thanks.’ The main exceptions come (and there are no more than two or three instances a year) when I can see a good shorter poem struggling to escape from a longer one. Sometimes, for example, I might say that I would print the poem except for the last verse which added nothing to an otherwise interesting piece. Or once, I said that I would be interested in printing a poem if the poet removed all the adjectives that were clogging up the lines. But such occasions are rare.

I’m English, and yes, my ear is attuned to the English way of speaking. In twenty years of Snakeskin, though, I’ve got used to other dialects and accents. Sometimes I’m offered a poem that rhymes perfectly if you say it in an Australian accent, but not in a British one. No worries. I can cope with that, and expect my readers to.

Daniel’s ‘an homage’, though, reminds me that the language is more various than I’d supposed. If that’s his way of speaking, then that’s how the poem should read.

Except.

Do readers, coming across that phrase, and thinking it odd, get their attention directed away from the poem to a detail that has little relation to what the poem is saying? If it’s distracting, should it be standardised? What do you think?

 

 


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