Archive for the 'Editing' Category

The Music Issue – and Thoughts on Frames of Reference

May 1, 2023

Many thanks to Jessy Randall and Dan Shapiro for guest-editing our May Music issue.

Jessy has been guest-editing issues for a long while now. Hunt through the Snakeskin archive and you’ll find some – the Alphabetical Issue, for example, or the Monsters one.

I like occasionally turning over the zine to someone else, because I am aware that as an editor I have prejudices and preferences – and there is a danger of being predictable, getting in a rut.

Jessy has an aesthetic that is different from mine, and she finds different sources of poetry.

This is particularly true of the Music issue. I have never taken much interest in pop music later than Harry Roy and his Orchestra, so many of Jessy’s choices were puzzling to me. In fact, there is one group of very short pieces, by Nate Logan, that I find quite impenetrable, though I suppose they mean a good deal to fans of pop. I’ll take Jessy’s word for it, anyway.

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‘Thoughts of a Robot’

March 31, 2023

You may have noticed that one poem in this month’s Snakeskin has an unusual author. The sonnet ‘Thoughts of a Robot’ was composed by the Artificial Intelligence chatbot, GTP-3.

This nifty program works by accesssing a vast store of written material, to come up with text that satisfies a user’s demands. It will be a godsend to cheats and lazy students. I set it a typical GCSE English Literature essay question to write, and it came up with a response that was at least a grade B.

It is particularly good at composing texts in genres that are traditionally composed of clichés. Management speak, or wellness advice, or pornography, or church sermons. I see the complete automation of these genres as inevitable over the next couple of decades.

But what about poetry, that most human of literary genres?

I did a few test runs. Ask the program to ‘Write a poem’ on a certain subject, and it will almost certainly come up with couplets in iambic tetrameter. Sometimes these are neat, and at other times clunky as clunky. It does better when asked to write in a different metre, to produce a sonnet or villanelle, for example. Like many poets, it writes better when given a challenge.

Given a cliché subject it comes up with pure Hallmark Cards rhyming; I asked for a poem about mothers:

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The archives are back

March 12, 2023

Last June Snakeskin suffered a catastrophe (A tedious one – our internet provider went bust, and we had to relocate our files.) Emergency efforts got the zine up and running again on a new server, and with a much more reliable company. we hope.

But we only went as far as putting up the basic files and most recent issues. The archive of past numbers were not so easy to automatically replace.

And your editor does have a tendency to idleness…

So a thank you to those who have kept nagging me, asking where the back issues are. Finally, last week, I took a day at it, and got almost everything back in place, more or less. There are still a couple of issues proving recalcitrant, but I’m working on them.

And the job I have been putting off proved an unmitigated pleasure, as I reminded myself of the sheer riches of Snakeskin‘s back catalogue. Twenty-seven years of verse, from I can’t begin to compute how many poets. There were treasures here that I had quite forgotten. There were even poems of my own that had completely slipped my memory (and not bad ones either, though I say it myself.)

Anyway, this is an invitation to visit and dip into the archive. I think you’ll enjoy it.

In case you haven’t noticed…

June 2, 2022

Snakeskin is back in business, with the June issue now online, and bulging with poems…

Back again

April 23, 2022

Crisis over – mostly.

Snakeskin has a new webspace provider afte the death of Extendnet. The current issue is back online, plus a very skeletal selection of other files.

Over the next week or so we shall be reassembling the whole archive of twenty-six years of poetry. But as I said earlier, there will be no May issue.

This sort of thing has happened before during our long history. It’s deeply annoying, but is part of the digital life. We’re sort of used to it.

Our correspondent Bruce Bentzman is among those annoyed that there will be no May issue. He has an essay lined up for us, and it is a topical one. So we’ve decided that, instead of keeping it till June, we shall publish it as a post in this blog towards the end of the month. Look out for it.

What’s happened to Snakeskin?

April 18, 2022

Snakeskin is offline at the moment.

There is a problem with our Internet provider that we hope will be resolved soon.

Snakeskin will be back in business as soon as possible.

The Internet firm providing us with webspace (Extendnet) seems to have perished. Phone dead, not answering emails, a bulk of negative comment online.

Snakeskin is temporarily homeless. We shall return, but there will be no May issue. If you’ve sent poems, and told they will be considered for May, they will now be considered for the June snakeskin – which will definitely occur.

Meanwhile the editor will be engaged in finding a new home, uploading twenty-five years of back content and getting everything shipshape to welcome everyone again.

Time Snakeskin

March 1, 2022

Our Time issue went online this morning.

It was a popular subject, and our postbag of submissions was the biggest ever. Many thanks to all who sent their work. We could have filled two issues with good stuff.

What surprised and delighted me was the range of approaches to the subject. Snakeskin poets are good. In fact I think that now, in our twenty-seventh year, they are better than ever.

No more theme issues for a while. But do keep the poems rolling in to the usual address…

Nightingales: an addendum

January 12, 2022

Mr Bentzman has asked me to add an addendum to his essay this week:

According to my brother-in-law, Malcolm, far wiser than me in British ornithology, as poetic as it might have been to identify the singing birds in my essay as nightingales, these are, unfortunately, on the decline. The birds I heard were almost certainly robins. Indeed, it is very likely that Vera Lynn was actually singing about a robin in Berkeley Square. Robins are drawn to areas where there are street lights.

I have happily made the addition, and am quite happy to acept that the birds Mr B heard were not nightingales. There are not many of them about these days.

Hovever, I must contradict him to insist that Vera Lynn, and even more so Judy Campbell, who first introduced the song, in the revue New Faces, knew exactly what they were singing about. The whole point of Eric Maschwitz’s lyric is that the song of a nightingale in an urban setting is something so rare as to be miraculous – as miraculous as love, in fact. Maschwitz wrote a nightingale and he meant a nightingale.

January Snakeskin

January 2, 2022

Just a day late, after all.

January Snakeskin is now online. A very full and varied issue.

We’re especially glad to include three poems by Alison Brackenbury, as a preview of her new book Thorpeness, which will be published by Carcanet in February.

January Snakeskin contains a first announcement of the special theme issue planned for March. Fuller details will follow on this blog soon.

‘Breathe’: May Snakeskin is online

May 3, 2021

Many thanks to Rosie Miles for her work in putting together the May issue.

Twenty-six poems about breathing are now online at the usual address. You’ll also find Rosie’s thoughts on editing, which may give you an insight into the sort of choices that editors have to make. She explains why it’s useful to send editors not just one poem at a time, but three or four. As she says:

Often it’s helpful to send more than one.  As an Editor I want to get a feel for your writing, your style.  That’s not impossible from one poem alone, but that one poem has really got to stand out and do a lot of work to make the shortlist. 

Where I disagre is where she says that it is helpful to send a bio, a note explaining who you are, where you’re from and what you’ve published. Notes like this helped Rosie get an idea of the poets, but for me they get in the way. I’m interested in the poems and only the poems. Where you live, or what age or colour or gender you are don’t really interest me. Nor does a list of your previous publications in magazines, however prestigious. Only the poems ought to count.

Rosie doesn’t quite agree, but that’s the point of having occasional guest-editors. They shake things up a bit, and offer a different perspective. And this month Rosie has done an excellent job.