Archive for the 'Poetry' Category

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


February Snakeskin will be a theme issue, whose subject is


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

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.


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:


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:


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


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.

A Horror for Hallowe’en

October 31, 2016

The Ghosts of BHS

Thank God this night of Halloween the doors are firmly locked
so trick-and-treaters access to the spirit world is blocked.
For there, within the Centre, from the eastern entrance railing
you can hear the ghostly unemployed of BHS awailing.
Awailing in great choruses and gnashing bloody teeth
“Oh Philip Green, this Halloween, come here to Bexleyheath!”.

From whirling knives above their heads and from their imprecation,
it seems their wish for Philip Green involves evisceration
For there within the darkened mall you hear the spirits railing
against his asset-stripping and his ‘great’ prowess – retailing!
Come hither good Sir Philip we’ve a very special wreath
signed by all your jobless fans: “Good riddance! Bexleyheath.”
Geoff Lander

February Snakeskin: Maths!

October 23, 2016

Once again Jessy Randall will guest-edit the February 2017 issue of Snakeskin. (You can find out more about Jessy at: )

This year the theme will be NUMBERS / MATHEMATICS. As always, the theme is open to interpretation.

Send up to five poems to No attachments, please, except in the case of visual poems (please send jpegs). Simultaneous submissions are fine. The deadline is December 1. Expect a response by December 15.


Jessy Randall
(Photo by Wendy Lovell)