Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Snakeskin is moving

April 12, 2016

For several years Snakeskin has nestled fairly happily on the web servers of Virgin media. The webspace came with a package of telephone, broadband and cable television, and has suited me fairly well.

Recently, though, Virgin sent a message saying that they will no longer offer webspace. Didn’t make them enough money, I suppose. They offered to transfer me to a ridiculously pricey package with another firm, but I have found a better deal, and got us a new domain name. The Snakeskin files can now be found at www.snakeskinpoetry.co.uk .

You can still type in the old http://www.snakeskin.org.uk and you will be redirected to the new site without problems. If you have links or bookmarks pointing to http://www.simmers1.webspace.virginmedia.com however, these will become outdated soon – so please update them.

The new site is working pretty well, but one or two things need adjusting. And I definitely need to sort out the archive page, plus one or two others that have fallen into disrepair.

Please do let me know if you have any problems with the new site.

March Snakeskin

March 1, 2016

The March issue is on its way.

As well as the usual array of poems, this contains the first of our new (and probably irregular) series of e-chapbooks. Reading for Rush Hour is a downloadable .pdf file of poems by Thomas Land.

Thomas is a regular contributor to Snakeskin, of course, and we are proud to have published many of his translations from the Hungarian, mostly of poets whose lives were affected by the Holocaust. This chapbook is a selection of his original poems, and gives an engaging picture of his poetic character and concerns.

We have a couple of other possible chapbooks lines up, but suggestions for future publications will be welcomed by the editor.

‘An homage’?

February 4, 2016

Snakeskin has writers and readers from all over the world. We only print poems in English, but English, of course, is a variable language. It has its dialects, its slangs and its local peculiarities, And is all the richer for it. Sometimes this variety throws up interesting issues.

I’ve received, for example, a couple of questioning notes about a phrase in Daniel M. Shapiro’s poem in the February issue. Daniel writes:

We whispered, unplugged,
an homage to Wicked Lester days.

‘Surely that should be “a homage”? ‘  my correspondents suggest.

That’s what I thought, too. Or maybe, I wondered, Daniel meant the French word, ‘hommage’, with the emphasis on the second syllable. It’s a term used by film critics when one director steals an idea from another. And, being unaspirated, it takes ‘an’.

I checked with Daniel and guest-editor Jessy Randall. Both are from Philadelphia, and say that ‘an homage’ (with the stress on ‘hom’) is standard pronunciation in those parts. Other Americans don’t recognise the phenomenon, but that seems to be how they say it in Philadelphia.

Despite Daniel’s generously offering to allow the change, I decided to keep the ‘an’. This is how he hears the poem spoken, after all, and that matters.

I very rarely suggest changes to the language of poems submitted to Snakeskin. I correct spellings and tidy punctuation where necessary, but don’t go further than that. If the poem doesn’t work for me as submitted, I generally just say ‘No thanks.’ The main exceptions come (and there are no more than two or three instances a year) when I can see a good shorter poem struggling to escape from a longer one. Sometimes, for example, I might say that I would print the poem except for the last verse which added nothing to an otherwise interesting piece. Or once, I said that I would be interested in printing a poem if the poet removed all the adjectives that were clogging up the lines. But such occasions are rare.

I’m English, and yes, my ear is attuned to the English way of speaking. In twenty years of Snakeskin, though, I’ve got used to other dialects and accents. Sometimes I’m offered a poem that rhymes perfectly if you say it in an Australian accent, but not in a British one. No worries. I can cope with that, and expect my readers to.

Daniel’s ‘an homage’, though, reminds me that the language is more various than I’d supposed. If that’s his way of speaking, then that’s how the poem should read.

Except.

Do readers, coming across that phrase, and thinking it odd, get their attention directed away from the poem to a detail that has little relation to what the poem is saying? If it’s distracting, should it be standardised? What do you think?

 

 

Friends

January 31, 2016

Snakeskin has many friends, but one of the best is Jessy Randall, who once a year takes over editorial responsibilities and gives your usual editor a holiday.

This month Jessy has collated an issue on the theme of Friends. It is now online, and well worth taking a look at.

While you’re investigating the magazine, take a look at the Plans page, and see what we have in store for April…

New year, new Snakeskin

December 30, 2015

January Snakeskin is online a little early, because I’ll be away from home tomorrow, celebrating the new year as only Oxford knows how.

I’m very pleased with the January issue. And plotting what will happen next in the Snakeskin saga.

February, of course, is the month when Jessy Randall takes over as guest editor. She has already sent me her selection of poems on the theme of friendship, so if you’ve missed that boat, you’ve missed it.

March will be an all-purpose issue. Just send me plenty of poems, any subject, any style. April, though, may be rather different…

 

Allen Ginsberg’s Christmas Howl

December 22, 2015

Ommm.

I have seen the best teeth of my generation broken upon the crust of a neighbour’s mince pie.

I have seen men struggling through aisles laden with tinsel, buying chocolates uglier than sphincters and enduring carols.

I have seen ecstatic visions of Noddy Holder and of King Wenceslas naked upon a reindeer.

For it is Christmas.

Therefore I rejoice.

I rejoice in the truths that will emerge in shallow Yuletide arguments.

I rejoice in television specials, for mindlessness opens gates into nirvana.

I rejoice in gifts of underwear.

I rejoice in the mother cooking resentfully, and in the drunken aunt.

And in the farting vegan who refuses turkey.

In these I rejoice.

Ommm.

A pair of Limericks

June 14, 2015

Today’s poetical post is a pairing called Two Perverse Limericks.
The limerick is a splendid form – compact and zinging. I like it even more when another constraint is added to its rules, so these are two formal experiments. Square limericks have been around for a while, but I think apocopated ones are my own invention.

Two Perverse Limericks
1.
This one is a Square Limerick. The rule is that the words on the left hand side of the poem repeat the words of the first line, while the last line repeats the words going down the left-hand side. This is as near as I’ve got to a successful one:

A person from old Bangalore –
Person? No! Frankly call him a bore! –
From noon to night sings
Old B-sides by Wings
Bangalore bore sings Wings evermore.

2.
This one is an apocopated limerick. Apocopation cuts off the last syllable of the word you’re rhyming with, and you rhyme with what’s left. Confused? The poem should make it clear. As I say, this kind of limerick is my own invention. I doubt it’ll catch on.

The poet cried: “Look! Bluebells glistening!
And are those fairy footsteps? Do listen!”
But his eight-year-old daughter
Replied with a snort:
“Wossat? Dad, are you taking the piss?”

Poem 2

June 11, 2015

Here’s poem number two. It’s from a collection I wrote for my grand-daughter, Alice, and is based on a postcard bought at the British Library, which shows a sleeping hippopotamus.

hippo

Poem for Alice

Oh happy is the hippo who is fast asleep.
His snoring is enormous but his dreams are deep.

He dreams he’s young and handsome and he’s living in a palace
And he loves a perfect princess who’s as beautiful as Alice.

In his dream he’s light and lively; he can dance and he can leap.
So don’t disturb a hippo who is happily asleep.

My Facebooked poems (Number One)

June 10, 2015

There’s a big Facebook thing at the moment where poets are tagging each other to post a poem a day for five days. I got tagged and joined in rather reluctantly, but it’s been a good experience. Most of my Facebook friends are ex-colleagues and friends from where I used to live, and not folks from the poetry world, and they’ve been nice about the poems.

Mind you, I’m not very good at using Facebook. I go there mostly to play Lexulous.

Anyway, since I’ve had nice feedback from sharing poems there, and since there is not a great deal of overlap between readers of the blog and my facebook acquaintances, I thought I’d put the same poems here as well, just a couple of days later. They’re mostly old poems, by the way.

Here’s number one, designed to set a party mood: Read the rest of this entry »

Footnotes

October 3, 2013

Snakeskin 201 is now online, and a very good issue it is, too, if I may say so. Snakeskin is lucky in its contributors these days.

Some of the poems raise a question that often bothers me as an editor – the matter of footnotes and explanations.

Often poems compress their language and their argument so that they are not immediately clear without explanation. Sometimes I’ve rejected poems submitted because I didn’t understand them at all (and sometimes I’ve asked the poet for an explanation, and haven’t understood the explanation.

I’m not very happy about supplying footnotes to poems, though I have done occasionally, but I think they tend to be distracting. Often I try to make an illustration do the work of a footnote – as with Ken Head’s poem about Heptonstall in the current issue. A photo of Plath’s grave tells the reader what the poem is about, without, I hope, making those who would anyway have got the reference feel condescended to. Snakeskin is sent quite a few poems about or referring to artworks or buildings.  Whenever I can I include a picture of the artwork, to make the poem clear to readers who don’t know it.

Seth Braver’s poem Circulation raises more of a problem. Seth explained to me:

A few words on the formal constraints of “Circulation”: besides the rhyme scheme and Fibonacci-based syllable count (1,1,2,3,5,8), five words are common to all stanzas: heart, beat, heel, toe, and muffled.

Should I have appended this as a note to the poem?  I finally decided that if I had done, people would read the poem as an exercise, and not as a poem.  Anyway, those who pondered the poem would have noticed these patterns at work (though not all would have recognised the Fibonacci sequence). Now I’m having second thoughts, but maybe this blog post will suffice.

Annie Fisher’s For You who did not go to Waterrow is different. It is a poem based on a personal experience, and unless you realise why she is talking to people who did not go on a walk, and why she is riffing off Dylan Thomas, the poem would be puzzling. So in this case I thought a headnote was needed. In any case, it gave me a chance to link to Helena Nelson’s Happenstance blog post about her Arvon weekend.

My general principle, though, is not to have anything on the page that will distract from the poem itself. That’s why I don’t include poet bios. I realised that when I looked at ezines, I often looked at the bios before I looked at the poems. occasionally the bio prejudiced me against the poem. Sometimes it was more interesting than the poem. In either case, it was a distraction. I try to follow the motto: Let the poem be the star.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 132 other followers