The Lesser Mortal

November 26, 2018


There ought to be more poems about science. We’re living through a remarkable age of discovery about the universe, and of speculation about its nature and origins. We can see almost to the beginning of time and almost to the very heart of the elementary particles. Shouldn’t poets be explorers of such  great subjects?

Of course, it’s actually useless to dictate what poets ought to write about, since the good poems are those that have to be written, coming from the themes that truly grip the poet. So most poets will continue to write mournfully of love and death and maybe of Mr Trump and Brexit.

Still, it seems a missed opportunity. So I was glad to receive a pamphlet from Happenstance (beautifully produced as all their pamphlets are). It’s The Lesser Mortal by Geoff Lander. Its twenty-one poems are all light-hearted verse reflections on the history of science, neatly expressing some of the big stories of post-Einstein discovery.

Geoff Lander has appeared in Snakeskin. Here’s an  example of his work, a jolly explanation of the periodic table. If you like this, you’ll enjoy The Lesser Mortal.

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Potcake chapbooks

November 18, 2018

Snakeskin poets seem to be spreading their wings everywhere these days, and the latest enterprise to feature several of them is the new series of Potcake Chapbooks, published by Samson Low.

These are neat little pocket-sized pamphlets, sixteen pages packed with poems, mostly witty, all featuring the snap and buzz of rhyme.

The first pamphlet, Tourists and Cannibals, is about travel; the second, Rogues and Roses is full of poems about love and sex. More titles are on the way.

Edited by Robin Helweg-Larsen, whose work will be familiar to Snakeskin readers, these modestly priced (£2.60) pamphlets are just the right size for slipping in with a Christmas card to spread seasonal good cheer.



On the subject of Libraries…

October 31, 2018

The special November Snakeskin on the theme of Libraries and Bookshops has been a pleasure to edit. A nice variety of approaches, and plenty of warm feeling for these vital but threatened institutions of our culture. the zine should be going online late this evening.

UK readers who are concerned about the erosion of library services might like to consider signing this petition asking the government to ring-fence library spending. https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/228742https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/228742https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/228742


Bookshops and Libraries

October 2, 2018

The November issue of Snakeskin will be one of our theme numbers. The subject is

BOOKSHOPS AND
LIBRARIES

Both of these sometimes look like endangered species these days, but we don’t just want elegies. Tell us about your favourite library, or the bookshop whose owner glared at you. Or the library where you learned the facts of life, or the bookshop where you learned the secret of love. Or whatever. Deadline 27th October.


Barbara Keogh

June 27, 2018

Readers of Bruce Bentzman’s essays in Snakeskin will be saddened to know that Bruce’s wife, Barbara, whom he so often mentioned, died  in Cardiff last week. This notice will appear in the South Wales Echo:

Barbara Anne Keogh: Barbara, aged 65, passed away at UHW on Sunday 17th June 2018, her husband and family by her side.
Barbara was a mid-level practitioner of medicine specializing in the care of women.  She was also an artist and an active supporter of local culture.
She is survived by her husband Bruce Bentzman, her two children Benita and Marcus, and four grandchildren.
She will be interred at the Natural Burial Meadow, St Nicholas CF5 6SF on Friday 6th July at 11 a.m. ¶ No flowers please, but if you wish, donations may be made to www.forgetmenotchorus.com. [This is a Cardiff based charity.  For those of you living in the United States, an alternative charity would be https://www.plannedparenthood.org/.  Those living in other countries, use your imagination.]
Any enquiries to Green Willow Funerals, 31-33 St Isan Road, Cardiff CF14 4LU – Tel :02920 755555 .


Archive

June 26, 2018

I’d let the Snakeskin archive get into a terrible state, but a plea from a poet has finally induced me to clean it up.

It’s working fairly well now, but if you notice any problems or gaps, please do let me know.


June Snakeskin

May 31, 2018

I’ve been putting the June issue together – and it’s a good one.

I’m away from home at the moment, though, so publication will be a little late – maybe on June 5th or 6th.

Watch this space for further news.


Work

April 30, 2018

The WORK issue is on its way. I hope it will be online tomorrow, all being well. All not being well, it will arrive on Wednesday at the latest.

In terms of numbers of submissions, this has been the most successful special issue ever, I think.  At first I didn’t receive many WORK offerings, but then they arrived and arrived and arrived.

Choosing has been difficult. the main criterion is whether or not it’s a good poem, but I’ve also borne in mind the need for varied subject matter; this issue will present many many kinds of work. I’ve also had a tendency to prefer poems that seem to come from the writer’s own experience, rather than those in which a job is merely imagined – though one or two of those have crept in.

I’m still selecting, rejecting, wondering, making difficult choices. Editing can be hard work. The results of my labour will be online soon.


Aunt Margaret’s Pudding

April 17, 2018

249auntmarg

Dot was Alison Brackenbury’s grandmother; she was ‘small as a wren and with the same fierce energy’. Before her marriage (to a shepherd descended from a long line of shepherds) she worked as a cook; later, her talent for cakes and puddings nurtured her family.
Alison Brackenbury’s new book, Aunt Margaret’s Pudding, is a joy. It interweaves poems remembering Dot and other members of her family with the recipes her grandmother wrote in a battered black notebook. The poems linger lovingly on small recollections. Many celebrate  the part that food played in the lives of this family, never rich, always well cared for. Life in rural Lincolnshire meant hard work:

She knitted, hemmed. She lit, at dawn,
slow coppers, pounded dolly pegs
into the snarling sheets, tramped down
three miles to school, the youngest kept
in jolting pram to save his legs.
She scoured the sink. Sometimes she slept.

Through the book we get a sense of Alison Brackenbury rediscovering her family. She tells us her own memories and family stories, and even more than this she lets us get close to Dot by sharing her recipes for cakes and puddings.
These are simple but delicious. Dot mostly just wrote a list of ingredients – she knew the method, so did not need to remind herself of that. Alison Brackenbury helps out today’s cook-reader by providing her own expanded, slightly modernised versions, with clear instructions.
And very good they are, too. On the day I got the book I had a go at Quaker Oat Scones. The recipe made six scones, and Marion and I demolished the plateful in minutes. Yesterday I made Raspberry Buns.
I am something of a fan of the Bake-Off on TV, and have discovered that the programme can be made even more enjoyable if you eat cake while watching it. The same is true of Alison Brackenbury’s poems; they are even better when accompanied by a Raspberry Bun.
The book is published by Happenstance, to their usual high standard.

Update:

Yesterday the family came for lunch, and I baked Aunt Margaret’s Pudding. Delicious!

Aunt Margaret's Pudding


WORK

April 11, 2018

A reminder – May Snakeskin will be a special issue on the subject of Work.
Please send us poems (in a style of your choice) about jobs (your own or someone else’s.
We’d like to hear about hard work and soft jobs, about rewarding labour, about easy skives and about work of mind-numbing tedium.
We hope to include as many different types of work as we can, so please send your version to editor@snakeskin.org.uk within the next couple of weeks.