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 .

You can still type in the old and you will be redirected to the new site without problems. If you have links or bookmarks pointing to however, these will become outdated soon – so please update them.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.


Alison writes about the new collection here:

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 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.


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?




January 31, 2016

Snakeskin has many friends, but one of the best is Jessy Randall, who once a year takes over editorial responsibilities and gives your usual editor a holiday.

This month Jessy has collated an issue on the theme of Friends. It is now online, and well worth taking a look at.

While you’re investigating the magazine, take a look at the Plans page, and see what we have in store for April…

New year, new Snakeskin

December 30, 2015

January Snakeskin is online a little early, because I’ll be away from home tomorrow, celebrating the new year as only Oxford knows how.

I’m very pleased with the January issue. And plotting what will happen next in the Snakeskin saga.

February, of course, is the month when Jessy Randall takes over as guest editor. She has already sent me her selection of poems on the theme of friendship, so if you’ve missed that boat, you’ve missed it.

March will be an all-purpose issue. Just send me plenty of poems, any subject, any style. April, though, may be rather different…


Allen Ginsberg’s Christmas Howl

December 22, 2015


I have seen the best teeth of my generation broken upon the crust of a neighbour’s mince pie.

I have seen men struggling through aisles laden with tinsel, buying chocolates uglier than sphincters and enduring carols.

I have seen ecstatic visions of Noddy Holder and of King Wenceslas naked upon a reindeer.

For it is Christmas.

Therefore I rejoice.

I rejoice in the truths that will emerge in shallow Yuletide arguments.

I rejoice in television specials, for mindlessness opens gates into nirvana.

I rejoice in gifts of underwear.

I rejoice in the mother cooking resentfully, and in the drunken aunt.

And in the farting vegan who refuses turkey.

In these I rejoice.


Twenty years on

December 1, 2015

December Snakeskin is online, celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the month when I decided, just for fun, to make use of a tine amount of webspace that I had been offered. You can read the story in the interview reprinted in this month’s magazine.

In the interview we talk about e-chapbooks. Snakeskin hasn’t printed many of these recently, so perhaps it’s time to revive the practice. If you’ve ten or so poems on a theme, maybe, that would fit neatly into a smart little pdf file that readers could print off to read at leisure – let me know.

The interview harks back to the ambitions of the early days of the internet (and some of us are ancient enough to remember when there wasn’t a single advert in the whole of cyberspace…) Some of these ambitions have been realised, others not.
To remind us all of how once we had a sense of the medium’s possibilities, here’s Ken Payne’s Manifesto for the Internet Poem, from 1997:

Because the Bit moves through a virtual space, across beleaguered continents and doomed regimes, unabashed by the sniper’s ballistic veto, the reprimand of cannon, and the armoured tread of tanks, because the Bit moves across seas unhindered by the submarine and the belligerent battleship, over the walls and past the fences of the snide censors, the moral Mommas and the mad dictators, I assert the ubiquity of the Internet Poem.

The tyrant tore and torched the texts.

Because the Bit can replicate, because the Bit can be stored and multiplied, because the Bit can be printed on paper or T-Shirts, because the bit can be carried on diskette in the back pocket of a pair of democratic Levis or the jacket pocket of a Saville Row suit, because a purse or handbag can hold an archive of epics, I assert the continuity of the Internet Poem.

On magnetic media, millions of minds.

Because the Bit is not in the gift of Academics, Editors, Critics and Pundits, because the Bit is unabashed before the terminals of the mighty and unashamed on the laptops of the low, because the Bit is created at the screens of the outcast, the unconventional, the dreamers, the dispossessed and the exiled, because the Bit is prolific, precise and passionate, I assert the quality of the Internet Poem.

Postings of passion were placed on the server.

Because, by the grace of the Bit, reader and writer are drawn into a closer community, because the Bit enables the creation of new types of verse and new ways of meaning, because the Bit unites the artist, the poet and the musician, I assert the superiority of the Internet Poem.

The landscape is lively with electric laureates


November 26, 2015

It was a week or two ago that I suddenly realised.
December will mark a notable Snakeskin anniversary.
It was in December 1995 that the first issue of Snakeskin went online, which means that we’ve now been carrying on, more or less steadily, for twenty years.
I thought about writing some sort of account of Snakeskin’s early days for the December issue, but then remembered that the job had already been done. A few years ago, Helena Nelson was interviewing poetry editors for her excellent and fondly remembered print magazine, Sphinx. When she interviewed me, I said quite a bit about Snakeskin’s origins, aims and history.
Quite a few readers will not have seen that interview, so, with Helena’s permission, I am reprinting it in the anniversary issue.
But – twenty years!
Are we the only webzine to have survived from those early days?
If so – how did it happen?
Well, I suppose I got into the habit. And I don’t feel like stopping quite yet.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 129 other followers