Archive for the 'Poetry' Category

‘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:

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Poets’ Corner

March 5, 2023

A friend of mine was waxing angry about the heavy fee charged by Westminster Abbey to non-worshippers who just wanted to look at monuments like Chaucer’s tomb in Poets’ Corner. Realising he had a point, but not quite sharing the full extent of his indignation, I wrote this:

I went to bed, aggrieved about the shabby
And money-grubbing policies of the Abbey.
My hope had been to mourn at Chaucer’s tomb,
But that’s reserved, it seems, for folks to whom
Some twenty-seven pounds is but a trifle.
I swore, and walked, and never got an eyeful
Of that sad monument. So I went home
And drank my cocoa, and took down the tome
Of Chaucer’s works, and pottered off to bed,
And opened up the book, and happily read,
Until the text slipped strangely into dreams
All tangled up in sweet Chaucerian themes.
For Kinghts and Squires displayed chivalric arts,
And wives took baths, and millers laughed at farts,
And someone unctuously tried to sell me pardons
For my outburst at the Abbey. My spirit hardens
And I cried out: ‘Were Chaucer here around,
I’d tell him what I think! Twenty seven pound!’

Read the rest of this entry »

Music for Maytime

March 2, 2023

A reminder that May Snakeskin will be a special issue devoted to the theme of music. It will be guest-edited by Jessy Randall and Daniel M. Shapiro. They explain:

We want poems about pop music, R&B, punk, classical, ska, reggae, glitch hop, trance, the violin lessons your grandma paid for, the time you auditioned for Pippin, the air guitar contest your friend convinced you to enter, choir practice at church, family singalongs, watching Solid Gold on TV… (Note: one of the two of us wanted to limit the theme to stage musicals, so keep that in mind – seriously, send poems about stage musicals. Please!)
Send up to five poems to and Put your poems in the body of the email, please – no attachments (unless it’s a visual poem or something that needs special formatting). Simultaneous submissions are fine. The deadline is March 15, and you can expect a response by early April.

Meanwhile, poems are also requested (any subject, any style, but nothing too tedious, please) for April Snakeskin – to be sent to the usual address.

Tristan Moss’s ‘The Cold War’

August 21, 2022

Here’s a short poem of Tristan Moss’s that I like very much:

The Sea

After my father died,
I’d hear a phrase
or notice a walk
And think of him.

It was like
hearing a gull
in a landlocked place.

This condenses a lot of the qualities of Tristan’s best poetry into a small space. It is about what he has noticed; it has a striking comparison, and it has a last line that makes you think: ‘Yes, that’s exactly right – and I’d never have thought of that.

It is also, like many of the poems in his new pamphlet A Cold War, about his parents, and sometimes painful memories. Many of the twenty-odd poems in this pamphlet gives us a glimpse of their lives, their conflicts, and what they meant to the poet. The reader can jigsaw these into a bigger picture.

The pamphlet is published by Lapwing, and can be bought from their site (Click here.)

An interview with Tristan can be found here.

His poems have often appeared in Snakeskin, of course, including this one, which is also in the pamphlet, and is a nexample of how so many of his poems go beyond the clever to speak of something tender and true.:

One of my Mother’s Last Meals

I threw away the loose
browning leaves and eased
apart the fresh interlocking
ones from the lettuce’s heart,
rinsed them under the tap
and dressed with oil and white
wine vinegar. And was surprised
but happy that while we talked
about when she was young
and I was a boy, she finished
them all.

In case you haven’t noticed…

June 2, 2022

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

Old Man in a Pub

April 5, 2022

On Monday morning I set myself the task of verse reportage. I visited The Cherry Tree, the Wetherspoons pub in central Huddersfield,  determined to write about whatever I saw there.

What I saw was an old man drinking alone, with his back to a large screen that silently delivered Sky News.

An old man sits, his beer in front of him,
Alone in Wetherspoons; his face is grim,
I search it for some clue what’s brought him here,
To sit sad and self-medicate on beer.
His eyes are pale and now and then he fingers
His glass, then slowly sips, and slowly lingers
That pint so it will last an hour or so.
He sometimes strokes his cheek but mostly, though,
He’s very still, just staring straight ahead.

Behind him, on a silent screen, the dead
Of Bucha are displayed, and captions tell
Of stark atrocious actions going well
Beyond war’s normal horrors: rape, and looting,
And soldiers quite undisciplined, and shooting
Of hostages and random children, and
The brutal desecration of a land.

The old man’s eyes stare straight ahead, the screen
Is right behind him, its hard truths unseen.
Perhaps he sits there so he does not see.
And yet, that there could be such cruelty
Would not, I sense, have come as much surprise
To that old man with disappointed eyes.

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…

about TIME

February 9, 2022

A reminder that March Snakeskin will be a special issue on the subject of TIME.

Poems are invited that deal with any aspect of the subject – human ageing, space time, time’s arrow,time and memory, time and the generations, the sensation of time passing… And so on.

We’re especially looking for work with an individual slant this month. Send your poems to the usual address.

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.