Archive for the 'Poetry' Category

So many! So short! So good

November 1, 2019

The editorial inbox for November Snakeskin has been the fullest in the magazine’s history. There was a cornucopia of short verse to choose from.

This made the task of editing the hardest it’s ever been. From the hundreds of poems submitted, there were a very large number with merit, a solid phalanx of the worthy. How to choose?

I had started with the idea that I would present an issue with just twenty poems. That idea went by the board. A lot more squeezed in, and there are still poems that I regret not using.

Were the poems I chose ‘the best’? That’s always a bit subjective. They were the ones that struck a chord with me. Many because of what they were saying, some because of their use of words or their use of form. Some because they were funny.

Many thanks to everyone who sent us poems. I’ll try to write a note to all who offered poems, but it’s going to take a while.

Meanwhile – enjoy the issue.

(By the way, the next two Snakeskins will be standard issues. Any length, any subject, any style. Send your poems to the usual address.)

Wrappers

October 21, 2019

There has recently been something of a craze, on Instagram and elsewhere, for wrapper rhymes – that is, short poem written on the wrappers of sweets and other food.

It began , apparently, with the discovery that Ted Hughes, a fan of Tunnock’s Caramel Wafers, had taken to writing short pieces in praise of them on the wrappers.

To have swallowed a crocodile
Would make anybody smile

But to swallow a Caramel Wafer
is safer

Someone who has taken to the craze with gusto is Helena Nelson. I’ve just received Branded, a nicely published pamphlet, containing over thirty of the pieces she has written on wrappers. She must have spent a fortune on confectionery, it strikes me – but then, I reflect, money spent on chocolate is rarely money wasted.

Read the rest of this entry »

October 2019

October 13, 2019

I scan the faces on the train.
Did she vote Leave? Was he Remain?
But each one’s in a private world,
And gives no hint what thoughts are curled
And dreaming darkly in their brains.
British people packed in trains
Will by instinct always take
Some pains to make their masks opaque.
That grumpy-looking man for sure
Seems a Leaver caricature,
Whilst she there with the hardback book
Has maybe a Remainer look.
Or maybe doesn’t – I can not
Do more than guess who voted what.
Nor can I know what made them choose,
And how far they’re impelled by views
Perhaps known to themselves alone
And incoherent as my own.

Read the rest of this entry »

Short poems for November

October 10, 2019

November Snakeskin will be a Short Poems special issue. Any subject, any style – but nothing over nine lines.

Send your minuscule efforts to editor@snakeskin.org.uk

‘Environs’ deadline

August 20, 2019

A reminder that the deadline for the ‘Environs’ issue of Snakeskin is August 23rd.

Tristan tells me that he already has a good number of very good contributions, but last-minute arrivals will be welcomed.

Send your poems to tristanmoss@hotmail.co.uk

Potcake chapbooks

November 18, 2018

Snakeskin poets seem to be spreading their wings everywhere these days, and the latest enterprise to feature several of them is the new series of Potcake Chapbooks, published by Samson Low.

These are neat little pocket-sized pamphlets, sixteen pages packed with poems, mostly witty, all featuring the snap and buzz of rhyme.

The first pamphlet, Tourists and Cannibals, is about travel; the second, Rogues and Roses is full of poems about love and sex. More titles are on the way.

Edited by Robin Helweg-Larsen, whose work will be familiar to Snakeskin readers, these modestly priced (£2.60) pamphlets are just the right size for slipping in with a Christmas card to spread seasonal good cheer.


Bookshops and Libraries

October 2, 2018

The November issue of Snakeskin will be one of our theme numbers. The subject is

BOOKSHOPS AND
LIBRARIES

Both of these sometimes look like endangered species these days, but we don’t just want elegies. Tell us about your favourite library, or the bookshop whose owner glared at you. Or the library where you learned the facts of life, or the bookshop where you learned the secret of love. Or whatever. Deadline 27th October.

Aunt Margaret’s Pudding

April 17, 2018

249auntmarg

Dot was Alison Brackenbury’s grandmother; she was ‘small as a wren and with the same fierce energy’. Before her marriage (to a shepherd descended from a long line of shepherds) she worked as a cook; later, her talent for cakes and puddings nurtured her family.
Alison Brackenbury’s new book, Aunt Margaret’s Pudding, is a joy. It interweaves poems remembering Dot and other members of her family with the recipes her grandmother wrote in a battered black notebook. The poems linger lovingly on small recollections. Many celebrate  the part that food played in the lives of this family, never rich, always well cared for. Life in rural Lincolnshire meant hard work:

She knitted, hemmed. She lit, at dawn,
slow coppers, pounded dolly pegs
into the snarling sheets, tramped down
three miles to school, the youngest kept
in jolting pram to save his legs.
She scoured the sink. Sometimes she slept.

Through the book we get a sense of Alison Brackenbury rediscovering her family. She tells us her own memories and family stories, and even more than this she lets us get close to Dot by sharing her recipes for cakes and puddings.
These are simple but delicious. Dot mostly just wrote a list of ingredients – she knew the method, so did not need to remind herself of that. Alison Brackenbury helps out today’s cook-reader by providing her own expanded, slightly modernised versions, with clear instructions.
And very good they are, too. On the day I got the book I had a go at Quaker Oat Scones. The recipe made six scones, and Marion and I demolished the plateful in minutes. Yesterday I made Raspberry Buns.
I am something of a fan of the Bake-Off on TV, and have discovered that the programme can be made even more enjoyable if you eat cake while watching it. The same is true of Alison Brackenbury’s poems; they are even better when accompanied by a Raspberry Bun.
The book is published by Happenstance, to their usual high standard.

Update:

Yesterday the family came for lunch, and I baked Aunt Margaret’s Pudding. Delicious!

Aunt Margaret's Pudding

WORK

April 11, 2018

A reminder – May Snakeskin will be a special issue on the subject of Work.
Please send us poems (in a style of your choice) about jobs (your own or someone else’s.
We’d like to hear about hard work and soft jobs, about rewarding labour, about easy skives and about work of mind-numbing tedium.
We hope to include as many different types of work as we can, so please send your version to editor@snakeskin.org.uk within the next couple of weeks.

T.S. Eliot’s advice

February 18, 2018

In 1935 a woman sent the poems of a fifteen-year-old to T.S. Eliot for comment. He replied that they seemed ‘what one would expect from a precocious child of fifteen’. As to the young poet’s future, he replied:

Anything is possible. The poems have no serious intrinsic merit, but are able enough to make the girl’s future development seem interesting. I am glad that there are still young people who at that age are writing in regular metres. I think that she should be encouraged to practice in difficult set forms such as the sonnet and the sestina, to read good poetry, but very little contemporary poetry, and to keep away from competitions and prizes.

This is sensible. I think that in future,  whenever anyone applies to Snakeskin for advice (and people sometimes do), I shall refer them to these sentences of Eliot’s.