Archive for January, 2011

The Food Issue is Served!

January 31, 2011

February Snakeskin is now online at

Jessy Randall has done a great job on the editing, and it’s an issue full of pleasures.

It may give you some ideas when next you’re recipe planning. You could try a turducken, for example (a chicken inside a duck inside a turkey).

Hmmm… Perhaps I’ll pass on that one. Limpa bread, however, is another matter.

I was intrigued by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer’s poem about this, so looked up some recipes. It is a rye bread flavoured with fennel, caraway, star anise and orange zest. Liking the sound of this, I adapted one of the recipes slightly for my breadmaker (because I’m afraid I don’t really go in for craftsmanlike hand-kneading, and prefer to let the machine do the hard work). I can assure you that limpa is absolutely delicious – especially when spread thickly with marmalade, though it’s good with cheese, too.

If I’m ever asked which of Snakeskin’s poems has given me most pleasure, Rosemerry’s will be a strong contender.

January 27, 2011

Snakeskin webzine is at This is logical, because the org suffix is supposed to be for non-profitmaking institutions, and Snakeskin is definitely one of those.

Some people find this difficult, however, and I occasionally get emails from people who claim that the zine has disappeared, becuae they have typed in, and have found no poetry.

I’m sure that there are others who have typed There they will have found “tall, blue-eyed and flame-haired, bellydancer Lynette”, now retired from public performance, it seems, but teaching her delightful art in classes and workshops in the San Francisco area.

Oh how I wish I could write a poem as sinuous and exhilarating as a bellydance!


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…


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.

Happy New Year

January 13, 2011

Well, my attempt was only a runner-up in the Spectator acrostic competition, and I never did wish the readers of this blog a happy new yesr, so I’ll use the poem do so now, belatedly:

Hardy once heard an aged thrush whose song
At the dreary end of one more uphill year
Persuaded him not everything was wrong.
Pessimist Tom half-raised an almost-cheer,
Yet we today can’t follow him in that;
Now turdus philomelos is under threat
(Efficient farming’s junked his habitat –
Wild and protective hedgerows, thickly set).
Yesterday’s common songbird’s now so rare,
Experts predict that he might disappear;
And only a heart of stone, I think, would dare
Request him to proclaim a blithe new year.

A Banquet of Verse

January 11, 2011


At the moment I am setting up the poems for the next Snakeskin, the special FOOD issue. I’m well in advance of the normal monthly routine that I explained a week or so ago, because guest editor Jessy Randall has been hyper-efficient, and has sent me the whole package of poems, neatly selected and impeccably proof-read, a month early.
So all I have to do is set them up in web format, which is a very pleasant task indeed – because the poems are mouth-wateringly enjoyable. Many of the poets have set themselves the task of conveying in words the gastronomic  pleasures, of eating and of cooking.  I have been introduced to  flavours I did not know before – such as limpa bread – and to one or two dishes that I’m not sure I want to try – turducken, anyone?
Because I’ve more time than usual, and because it suits the theme, I’m adding more illustrations than I normally do. In most issues of Snakeskin, maybe two poems have a picture attached. Sometimes I add a picture just for fun, but often it is because a picture can be better than a footnote when it comes to explaining the context of a poem, or a reference in it. This time, though, the whole issue is a banquet, and I’m hoping that illustrations will add to the feeling of excess.
The FOOD issue will come online on February 1st.

Poetry? Sinister!

January 9, 2011

Those of us who read and write poetry sometimes seem very odd to the usual run of the citizenry, you know. We are not quite normal.
This has been made very clear in Britain over the past few weeks. In Bristol a dreadful series of events has unfolded;  a young woman went missing one evening before Christmas, and some days later her dead body was found by a roadside, showing signs of strangulation.
She was young, attractive, white and middle-class, so the case has drawn for more attention than the more usual run of murders – the gang-related killings of young men on slum estates, for example.
But the moment when the media really went apeshit was when her landlord was temporarily arrested. Christopher Jefferies was a retired English teacher in his sixties (like myself, actually) with a reputation as a a solid and decent citizen (stalwart of the local neighbourhood watch, campaigner for the preservation of old buildings, and enthusiast for the King James Bible and the Cranmer prayer book).
Once arrested, however, he became the target for all sorts of press innuendo. He lived by himself – sinister! He loved the work of Christina Rossetti, a poet obsessed by death – sinister! He had an odd hairstyle – sinister!  Racking their brains, some former students recalled that as a teacher he on one occasion lost his temper – sinister! And he taught them ‘The Ballad of Reading Jail’, a poem about a murderer – sinister! An ex-tenant who did not like him remembered that he did not want her to put up net curtains – and that, of course, is sinister evidence that he must have been a Peeping Tom!

The police freed him a couple of days later, and are now looking in other directions, rather desperately – appealing on Facebook and so on, as though anyone with anything to tell them would not already have been aware of a case that is the talk of the whole country. Read the rest of this entry »

No mini-bios?

January 7, 2011

Snakeskin is different from most online poetry magazines in number of ways. One of them is that other zines often print mini-biographies of the poets they publish:

Jenni Nosgood was born in Bromsgrove, England, before moving to the U.S. in the seventies, where she worked for many years as a waitress, pole dancer and legal secretary before taking up her current post as Assistant Professor in the Creative Writing Department of Tuscaloosa University. Her poems, prose-fragments and language-crushing experiments have appeared in The Shredsville Chronicle, Poemskunk and Fried Moose Droppings. She is married with four daughters, and is an active member of the Church of Latter-Day Saints.

That sort of thing.
The reason we don’t provide this kind of bio is simple. Before beginning Snakeskin I surfed the net (how small it was, how amateur, in those far-off days of 1995) looking for poetry sites. I found quite a few, and many were lively. All, as I remember, published little paragraphs of biography. And the trouble was that I found myself far more interested in the bios than in the poems. Partly, I suppose, this was because much of the verse on offer was the rather thin freestyle variety that did not interest me greatly. The proud little paragraphs, detailing publishing success in print periodicals already yellowing with age, offered a shortlist of the author’s more respectable achievements while omitting both the ecstasies and the disasters that are the real stuff of poets’ lives. I read them and tried to fill in the gaps, making up my own stories about the poets. The poems, I’m afraid, were soon forgotten in my enthusiasm for reading mini-bios. Read the rest of this entry »


January 6, 2011

A lot of inexperienced trainee poets send examples of their work to Snakeskin. We are always pleased to receive it, but they may be interested in this list of things likely to annoy an editor.

1. Sending fifty poems in a batch.
The editor will use two or three at most. If he starts wading through a huge batch and finds them not very interesting, he may never reach the good one you put at the end. On the other hand, he may choose the three best, and ignore the rest. Whereas, if you had sent half a dozen, he might have chosen two or three from that selection, and would have been open-minded about the six more that you sent the next month.

2.Pointless fancy formatting.
About once a week we receive batch of poems that are centre-justified. Why? This makes them hard to read, and really does not impress. One can’t help suspecting that the author is not very aware of how poems are usually printed…
Fancy formatting can have a positive role, and if it somehow relates to the poet’s subject or style (I’m thinking of George Herbert’s The Altar) then that’s fine: Read the rest of this entry »

How Snakeskin Works

January 3, 2011

There have been a couple of confusions lately, so let me explain the system by which an issue of Snakeskin is put together (except in guest-editor months, which work a little differently).
Over the month, poems arrive in the Snakeskin inbox. I generally give them a quick read-through, and note the most promising. I try to acknowledge all submissions at this point.

In the last week of the month, I go through the poems again, reading them carefully and sometimes consulting other opinions. If an email has twenty-odd poems, however, and the first five are dismal, I do not guarantee that the rest will be read.

Gradually an issue comes together. Generally I like it to be a mixture – formal mixed with free, light-hearted mixed with serious. One nice thing about an ezine is that it can be any size you like. Some months there are only eight poems that I want to publish, occasionally there are up to thirty. The issue has normally come together a day or two before the end of the month, but adjustments can still be made. This month, two good submissions came in right at the month-end, and took the place of another poem that I had been less than convinced about.

Since the issue is still a work-in progress up to the day of publication, I do not inform poets that they have been selected until the last minute. Generally this works well, but recently there have been a couple of problems. Read the rest of this entry »