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. One was easy to sort out. A poet told me that the name under which she had submitted her verses was not the one that she wished to appear in the magazine. A couple of minutes’ work made the adjustment, but I can’t work out why she hadn’t made things clear in the first place.
The second one was trickier. A poet emailed after Snakeskin had gone online, to say that his poem had already been accepted elsewhere, in a paper magazine, and therefore he would like to withdraw it. Now all editors know that simultaneous submissions are a fact of poetical life, and we here at Snakeskin are too old to be shocked by them. But since an issue is, as I’ve said, a matter of mixture and balance, to un-publish an item (which is what this poet asked for) is an awkward proposition. In the end, the issue was settled amicably, and the poem stayed in, but I would like to avoid such situations.
If a poem you have sent to Snakeskin is accepted elsewhere before the end of the month – please let us know straight away. If we don’t hear to the contrary, we assume that all submissions are available for use. Realistically, this is the only way that we can proceed.
After the issue has gone online, I mail all the unsuccessful applicants, letting them know that thir poems have not been chosen. Usually, the note is short, and I refrain from giving comments or advice. (Though a long while back one poet asked specifically for feedback, and I – tactfully, I thought – told him what was wrong with his poem. He replied that I had ruined his life, and that he hated me. Oh dear.)
Sometimes, if a poet has sent half a dozen good poems, and I have only used a couple in one month’s issue, I will mail to ask if I can use some of the others next month. Otherwise, if you have sent a poem during one month, and it does not appear in the next general (non-theme) issue, you can assume that we will not be using it later.
About the only exceptions to this have occurred when a mail has got lost in our far-from-infallible filing-system, and is rediscovered, full of lovely verse a few months later. Then I send apologies and check that the poems are still available for use.
So that’s the system here. I hope explaining it helps poets to know what to expect from Snakeskin, and what not to expect.
And now I must get on with my least favourite editorial task, writing this month’s rejection letters.