Archive for the 'Poetry' Category

Aunt Margaret’s Pudding

April 17, 2018

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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

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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.

February Snakeskin needs Portrait poems

January 12, 2018

portrait

February Snakeskin will be a theme issue, whose subject is

Portraits.

In other words, we’d like poems describing a person (or pair of people, or I suppose a group portrait could work nicely, too.) The descriptions could be factual-physical, or metaphorical, or spiritual, or whatever you think works best.

I think we’ll restrict it to humans, rather than having pet portraits. (Though a pet, obviously, could be a crucial part of a human portrait.)

Some poets may have photos or drawings of the subject to go with the poems. If so, let us know, but don’t send the picture in the first instance. We’ll ask for them if we reckon your poem suits our purposes.

Send your poems to editor@snakeskin.org.uk.

Animals from Amazon

January 10, 2018

This is just a note to say that Animals Love Reading! can now be purchased from Amazon.

Click here for further details.

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Proof positive that Animals Like Reading

December 6, 2017

My little poetry booklet Animals Like Reading! is selling like hotcakes.

The most interesting response so far has been this picture from poet Jayne Osborn, which shows her pet corn snake Leo casting an expert eye over an official letter. leo reads

There are so many literate animals that I haven’t yet versified. Clearly there’s scope for a second volume.

Full details of the booklet can be found here: http://www.snakeskinpoetry.co.uk/animalslike.html

 

Animals Like Reading!

November 30, 2017

December Snakeskin (online tomorrow) will  not only contain the usual complement of varied and accomplished poems, but will also tell you all about a new print publication – ready just in time to be the ideal gift for the intelligent child’s Christmas stocking:

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Animals Like Reading! is a slim booklet containing ten poems by George Simmers, each one illustrated by Bruce Bentzman.

Full details will be found in December Snakeskin, as will an essay by Mr Bentzman which considers his non-career as an artist.

Animals Like Reading! can be purchased here. The cost is £3.50 + postage.

Update December 1st:

December Snakeskin should have gone online first thing this morning, but my internet providers  have gone strange, so that I can’t upload at the moment. When they finally respond to my pleas for help the magazine will be going online.

Later Update:

The site is now up and running properly. The December issue is properly online.

Annie Fisher’s ‘Infinite in All Perfections’

December 12, 2016

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The cover of Annie Fisher’s new Happenstance chapbook shows someone jumping for joy, and that’s more or less how you feel after reading it.
Many of the poems are anecdotes – the story of the girl who ran the sack race, but misunderstood the instructions and put the sack over her head:

Has she forgotten that hot afternoon?
The scratch and smell of a hessian sack,
speckled sunlight through rough rope weave,
surging voices, burning breath, the unseen crowd,
and a skinny brown-limbed girl
(must be a woman now)
all alone and leaping in the dark.

Read the rest of this entry »

New Statesman competitions

December 6, 2016

It’s a sad week for those who enjoy light verse and parody. The New Statesman has announced that it will no longer be setting Weekend Competitions. For over eighty years these comps have set a high standard for versifiers, wits and parodists, but now, apparently, there is not enough space in the magazine for a feature like this.

I doubt if I would be writing poetry today if it wasn’t for the New Statesman. As a young man I wrote rather intense verse; I knew what it meant, but most other readers would have found it puzzling. Certainly none of the editors I sent it to were interested. For a while I gave up writing poems.

I had always enjoyed the New Statesman competitions, though, and entered one that asked for one-liner jokes. One of mine was printed and I won a pound for it. I carried on, first with prose parodies, and then with verse  – which needed to be clear, funny and properly scanned. The first verse winner I had was this, from 1982; the setter asked for lyrical praise of some feature of the modern countryside: Read the rest of this entry »

November Snakeskin

November 1, 2016

November Snakeskin is now online.

As the editor I know I’m biased, but I reckon it’s a very good and very varied issue.

Last month in the Politics issue I asked for seriousness rather than satire. This month, to balance that, we’ve got a thoroughly scurrilous and ribald set of poems by Brian Allgar, tracing the career and crimes of a fairly vile politician.
Among the bustle of other excellent poets, please take a look at the work of Annie Fisher, whose pamphlet Infinite in All Perfections is published today by Happenstance.
I’m also very glad to have a new (translated) contribution by K.M. Payne, who was a key presence in the early days of Snakeskin. He did a Rimbaud and gave up poetry for quite a few years, but now seems to be drifting back, which is excellent news. He is, of course, my  co-author of the huge and absurd poetical hypertext project The Maze of Mirrors.
My own contribution this month is a bad-tempered snarl at those who campaign for academic safe places, where they will hear no opinions that contradict their own. Snakeskin believes that universities, like poems, should be intellectually unsafe spaces, where the assumption should be that assumptions are there to be challenged.