Archive for the 'Publications' Category

Short

March 14, 2021

I’ve recently been sent two volumes of short poetry. Both enjoyable, but very unlike.

Max Gutmann’s Rewriting History collects a large number of vigorous short pieces written in two forms associated with the comically biographical – the clerihew and the double dactyl. If you don’t know what a clerihew is, Max explains:

A clerihew
Makes you aware o’ who
Humphrey Davy was. Or Sir Christopher Wren. Or anyone else you might be hazy about.
Usually in a way Davy or Wren wouldn’t be too crazy about.

He illustrates the Double Dactyl (sometimes known as a Higgledy-Piggledy) thus:

Jokery Folkery
Higgledy Piggledies
Called Double Dactyls by scholars, I think –

Offer biography
Pseudo-historical
(Meaning the data
Are likely to stink).

If you like Max’s explanations, you’ll like his collection (for details contact him at: info.maxgutmann@gmail.com ).

Mark Rutter’s poems belong to a different short poem tradition. That of minimal modernism, with nods to the concrete poetry of that remarkable creator Ian Hamilton Finlay. He offers Finlay an epitaph:

LAY
FIN

Some of his poems are shorter than that, and sometimes I don’t get the point. The word ‘mouseleaks’ by itself on a page perhaps means more to him than it does to me. Sometimes there is clever wordplay:

when philosophers fight
sophisticuffs

or

the anti-christ
turns wine into water

Sometimes they are not jokey. I liked this one:

an open space
of gorse and heather

A pink orchid
with spotted leaves
Once seen
reveals another.

You can get Mark’s collection from Amazon for £5

.

Two new collections

January 28, 2021

I’ve recently received two very enjoyable collections by Snakeskin poets.
David Callin is from the Isle of Man, and Always, as its title suggest, a pamphlet full of appreciation of what will endure – though many poems, looking back, communicate vividly a sense of what has not endured, even on his home island, where change comes more slowly than on the mainland. ‘Lost Pubs of Douglas’ for example, is a hymn of nostalgia for boozers past. ‘First Lessons in Wendish’ regrets languages that have disappeared.
David Callin likes old films. There is an affectionate tribute to the great Douglas Fairbanks, and he shares my delight in the great train movies of the 1930s:
I would like to go
On an old-fashioned sleeper,
caught up in some
intrigue of caper,

dodging the
unkind intentions
of chaps with guns
and cops with truncheons.

Perhaps the poems of his that I like best though, are those with a taste of the uncanny. Click here to read ‘Witches’, which appeared in Snakeskin a couple of years back.
Always is published by Dreich Chapbooks, price £5.

Ragpicking Ezekiel’s Bones by Pamela Sumners is a much heftier volume – 190 pages of idiosyncratic and original poems.
It is a book that takes you to unexpected places. Click here for a sample, the remarkable series of poems: The Patient in Room 327 has Too Much and Too Little Time on her Hands .That sequence was her first appearance in Snakeskin. Her poems are for people who want to be challenged. The ones I found most remarkable were those about her mother’s incarceration in an institution, such as ‘Bryce’, and ‘My Mother’s Guest Room.’ Some of these poems can be painful to read. Pamela Sumners does not avoid tough subjects. She deserves to be read.
Ragpicking Ezekiel’s Bones is published by Uncollected Press at $15

Launched!

January 15, 2021

Yes, Old and Bookish is now well and truly launched.

A big crowd gathered yesterday evening to join in the celebration (which also acted as Snakeskin’s twenty-fifth birthday party). The editor was especially glad to meet Snakeskin contributors whose work he had enjoyed for years, but whose faces had until now been unknown to him.

The editor also thoroughly enjoyed reading his poems. His inner ham actor hasn’t had enough outings lately, and this was fun.

The congregation’s comments were very positive, and there was considerable support for future events, where other Snakeskin poets will read their work.

Something else that was mooted was a Snakeskin anthology, showcasing the best of our twenty-five years. It’ll be hard work putting this together, but with luck it will hit the bookstores before next Christmas.

Keep an eye on this blog for further details of these two projects.

For more information on Old and Bookish, please click here.

Twenty-Five Years

December 1, 2020

Happy Birthday to Snakeskin.

The first issue of the webzine hit the baby Internet back in 1995. We’ve come a long way since then.

The special anniversary issue is now online, including poems by Snakeskin regulars, and by newcomers.

It also contains details of the editor’s new poetry collection, Old and Bookish. Fuller details of that will be coming to this blog very soon.

The Cryptids are Coming!

October 19, 2020

It’ll be here soon – November Snakeskin, full of the strangest creatures you can imagine.

Guest-edited by Jessy Randall, this will be quite unlike any other issue of the webzine. Make sure you check it out on November 1st. Expect the unexpected.

Double Dactyls

October 1, 2020

October Snakeskin is full of good things, but its most noticeable feature is a Festival of Double Dactyls, featuring the work of several excellent versifiers. For those of you who don’t know the Double-Dee, this Wikipedia page gives a good summary. But if you go to October Snakeskin and plunge in, you’ll get the idea pretty quickly.

The Double-Dactyl really must be the jolliest of light-verse forms (I much prefer it to the limerick). Here’s one I wrote a very long time ago:

Chungalow Bungalow
Hans Christian Anderson
Wrote of sweet mermaids who
Grace the sea-bed.

When people asked him for
Gynaecological
Details he stammered and
Went very red.

If you’ve any double-dactyls of your own, why not add them to the comments section of this post?

Meanwhile, today (October 1st) is National Poetry Day, an annual occasion which I celebrated in verse a while back. You can read the poem here.

‘The Deal’ by Annie Fisher

May 26, 2020

Four years ago this blog enthusiastically reviewed Infinite in All Perfections by Snakeskin poet Annie Fisher. The Deal, her follow-up pamphlet, also published by Happenstance, is even better.

Typically, Annie’s are poems that contain lives; sometimes content that might fill a whole novel is compressed into a few lines. The father-daughter relationship in ‘Perhaps’, for example, or the childhood of ‘In Hiding’.

Annie Fisher is drawn to writing about people whose lives are unsatisfactory, like the anorexic girl of ‘Ghost’:

She watches
as her shadow on the ground
grows more obese
with every passing hour.

Or the man whose whole life is a catalogue of disappointments:

Let-downs ambushed him throughout his life –
the taste of fresh-perked coffee; aubergines;
live albums; picnics; Camembert; his wife.

Several poems are about childhood: some, I, think, about her own childhood, and her relationship with her father. ‘His Face in my Mirror’ was in Snakeskin a few years ago:

The little lazy eye he gave to me
Winks back unmistakably.
Try all you like, it seems to say
You can’t escape your DNA.

For me, the sign of a good poetry book is that when reviewing it I want to keep on quoting and quoting. That’s the case with The Deal. The language is so clear, and yet so rich, and a few lines can suggest a world of implications.

But I’ll stop now, and just tell you to do yourself a favour and buy a copy. The title poem is especially beautiful.

You can order The Deal at: https://www.happenstancepress.com/index.php/shop/product/47801-the-deal-%E2%88%92-annie-fisher

The Old Man Reads a Review of Recent Poetry Books

May 25, 2020

This Guardian critic does not give much cred
To poets who are male and white and dead.

Which leaves me feeling very slightly wan,
Since I am white and male, and getting on.

The Young British Poets

April 1, 2020

In April Snakeskin, Sharon Phillips has rather a good poem (‘Looking Good’) which references a seventies book, The Young British Poets, edited by Jeremy Robson.

Here is a scan of the book’s cover. I wonder how many of the poets readers can recognise. I think I score half a dozen definites, plus a couple of possibles.

No prizes – but how many can you identify?

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.

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