Archive for February, 2011

March Snakeskin

February 28, 2011

We’re online, and it’s something of a bumper number.

Partly, this is because February was Jessy’s special Food number, so the poems on other subjects have been piling up in my inbox for over two months.

Judging how large a number of Snakeskin should be is always tricky. If it’s too small, we’ve maybe denied a promising poet the chance of an audience. If it’s too big, the best work may get lost among the rest  – or not even seen at all if readers don’t persevere with checking out all the poems.

I think March Snakeskin is quality all through – so I’d beg readers to try out all the poets on offer. In particular, I’d say don’t miss Jane Røken, a poet new to Snakeskin, and with a most distinctive voice.


February 28, 2011

March Snakeskin is nearly ready. It’s been a big job this month, with a very long shortlist to whittle down to the select few. Or not so few, actually – this will be one of the bigger issues, with plenty of familiar names, and also some first-rate newcomers.

Two things please me especially:

First, the return of K.M.Payne. Ken produced some spectacular work in Snakeskin‘s early years, before taking a long break from poetry. It’s very good to have him back.

I have fond fond memories of my collaborations with Ken, back in the late nineties when the world was young.Our crowning achievement was the mad and monstrous Maze of Mirrors, an attempt to use hypertexts to make an internet poem do things that would be impossible on the printed page.

Snakeskin hasn’t featured many poetic hypertexts lately, which brings me to the second particular reason for being pleased with this issue. Bryan Murphy, another contributor of long standing, sent me a hypertext version of a short poem that appeared in an early Snakeskin. It’s been a pleasure getting the code to work (I hadn’t realised how very rusty I was when it came to writing JavaScript functions) and the finished article will be there in the March issue.

Bryan’s is quite a simple hypertext. If any readers fancy trying to produce something similar, let me know. I can look after the coding (I hope.) I shall definitely be having a go at it myself, so you can look forward to some sort of Simmers hypertext appearing within the next month or two.


February 24, 2011

Mistakes happen, and sometimes you don’t hear about them for years. Today I received an email from poet James B. Nicola expressing his surprise that his poem Pane had been published in Snakeskin way back in 2008. He had not heard anything about it from us, he said. This left me surprised in my turn. All poets are notified when their work is about to appear. What could have happened?
I took a look at the page with Pane on it, and discovered a simple but hugely regrettable error. The email address that the page linked to was that of another poet, who must have received not only my advice of publication, but also any praise or abuse that readers might have been tempted to send the author.
There would have been more praise than abuse, I’m sure, since it’s a good poem. I’ve reprinted it below. Please read it, and send some feedback to James B Nicola at
Read the rest of this entry »


February 19, 2011

Helena Nelson has just sent me a couple of interesting-looking pamphlets to review for Sphinx.
She also enclosed a set of reviewing guidelines, indicating some of the cliches and awkwardnesses to be avoided by reviewers – ‘edgy’, ‘promising’, ‘epiphanies’, vague comparisons with other poets, specialist technical terms like parataxis, and so on. With these strictures in mind, I have sent her the following review:

‛Epiphanies’ is by Linda Beige
(Her début, eagerly awaited).
This new voice, full of edgy rage,
Is spiritual, yet understated.

Her parataxes (bold yet free)
Make her a Geoffrey Hill with bells on.
She promises one day to be
A brainier Helena Nelson.

Both Larkinesque and Eliotic,
Yet subtly sui generis
With  her command of street-demotic,
Miss Beige is one to watch. Don’t miss!


You can read Helena’s complete list of reviewers’ clichés here:

Also – see Tim Love on the language of reviews, at:


February 11, 2011

When Birnam Forest came to Dunsinane,
Macbeth did not, as I remember,
Go on telly to explain:
“I think I’ll hang on till September.”

(Which, a few hours after posting, is no longer topical, I’m glad to say.)

Freedom is a Myth

February 2, 2011

Hassan Abdulrazzak, a regular contributor to Snakeskin, sends this reaction to the current protests in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere:

Freedom is a Myth

Dedicated to the brave protestors across the Middle East.

If freedom had a smell
It wouldn’t be lavender, roses or jasmine
If it spoke, it wouldn’t twitter.
If it socialised, it wouldn’t facebook.

If it existed, it would be out on the streets,
Slick with sweat, taking the blows and standing,
Chanting and demanding,
Mocking with effigies made out of cardboard,
Spreading highly infectious viral jokes
And falling in love with itself.

If it existed, it would be old before it’s born
For it had lived,
Curtailed, silent, in a thousand hearts.
Someone would have taken it with them to the grave.
Someone would have whispered it in an ear.
Someone would have betrayed it to the government.

The tyrant assures himself:
There’s nothing to fear
For freedom is a myth
In the east and in the west;
All is safe, all is well.
Except one thought keeps nibbling
At his sleep:
All myths must spring from somewhere.

You can contact Hassan at