Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

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
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.

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.


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 »


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.

Snakeskin Book Fair

September 2, 2013

November’s Snakeskin will be a book fair.

Here’s how it works. Poets who have produced a book or pamphlet during the past twelve months are invited to send us a sample poem, plus a short piece (120 words maximum) about the book. (Obviously Snakeskin’s usual rules about previous publication don’t apply in this case.)

We’ll display the results in the November zine, and with luck you’ll find some new readers.

Snakeskin goes to Huddersfield

May 16, 2012

Snakeskin editorial HQ is moving to Yorkshire at the end of this week. Which should make no difference to the operation of either webzine or blog – but could mean that email communication will be disrupted for a few days.

Snakeskin 185

March 1, 2012

The new Snakeskin is online, and there’s plenty of it.
In fact, there’s a whole cornucopia of very varied verse.
This issue is a double one, because the editor will be moving house at the end of March, and may be without Internet access for a few days.
The next Snakeskin will therefore go online at the start of May. All contributions are welcome.

An essay worth reading

January 25, 2012

There’s a very good essay by Paul Lake in the Winter Anthology. It is about ‘The Shape of Poetry’ at

Bruce Bentzman and the scruffy men

March 23, 2011

Bruce continues heading West:

Scruffy men roam the streets of Santa Fe. You see them walking into town, or leaving, on the highways. They appear lean and tough, toting perhaps all their worldly belongings (are there any other kinds of belongings?) in oversized, stained duffle bags or backpacks. Bearded and dark-eyed, their hair long and shiny, I think of them as mountain men walking into town to restock. I was expecting them to be leading mules, although I saw no mules. Santa Fe tolerated them.

The scruffy men occupied the the street corners and I never saw them molested by the authorities, and I’ve been told they don’t molest the public, not even to panhandle. Santa Fe is so decent. Read the rest of this entry »

Helena Nelson on Poetry Competitions

March 7, 2011

Anyone who goes in for poetry competitions (especially those that make you pay a hefty fee for participating) will find Helena Nelson’s latest Happenstance blog post well worth reading.


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