|Five years of
Snakeskin could very easily never have happened.
Back in 1995, when the World-Wide Web was an
odd new toy for the technos, in those now-legendary
days before the adverts proliferated, my Internet
provider announced that each customer had been
awarded a whole 100k of webspace to do just what he
or she liked with. I was just about to produce a
typical "This is my back garden; this is my
dog" sort of personal homepage when bubbling up
from my unconscious mind came an ambition long
repressed and almost forgotten - to run a literary
magazine. This had never been more than an idle
daydream. I live a fair way from conventional centres
of literary activity, and have neither the desire nor
steadfastness to deal with the grotty practicalities
of print publishing - the subscription lists, the
postage charges, the piles of yellowing unsold back
numbers in the spare room.
But here, I realised, was the chance to try
paper-free publishing. What had I to lose? And since
you can get more poems than essays into 100k, poetry
was the obvious topic.
I thought it might be fun for a few
months. I didn't think it would survive this long.
The webspace allocation has changed, but the zine has
kept going. I'm rather proud of our record. Not many
webzines have kept up regular publication for this
long, hitting the modems on the first of each month
year in, year out (There have been three occasions
when we didn't get online till the second or third, I
think, and this month the deadline is feeling pretty
The early issues were not very like the current
Snakeskin. The first was a few simply presented poems
from offline sources. We had a few readers - I know,
because some of them wrote in complaining about the
amateurish, often unreadable, HTML. The third issue
was one I liked. Devoted mainly to attacks on the
over-rated Irish poet Seamus Heaney. Not only did it
feature Wayne Carvosso's Dig at Digging, a piece that still attracts appreciative
feedback from Heaney non-fans five years after its
first publication, but also a line-by-line analysis
of a Heaney poem, demonstrating its incompetence.
We seem to have stopped that sort of knocking. Have
we mellowed? Maybe. I started with fixed ideas about
poetry, but the good thing about editing is that most
months one gets at least one submission that slightly
expands one's idea of poetry - a good poem, but not
the sort one thought one liked.
I've tried hard to be as inclusive as possible
(except for utter pretension, imitation rock lyrics,
or pastiches of Charles Bukowski, of course). I have
my own preferences and habits as a writer, but I've
tried hard not to be the kind of editor who only
prints clones of his own poetry.
My ideal issue would contain something of almost
everything; a piece in traditional metre, something
experimental; something passionately serious,
something light; something rhymed, something kinetic;
You get the picture.
In this anniversary issue, it's good to welcome back
three of the earliest contributors to Snakeskin -
Richard Fein from New York and Alan Papprill from New
Zealand, Linda Crespi from Middlesex. And to feature
new work by our two most faithful and consistent
contributors, John Cornwall and L. Fullington.
These, and so many others, are people that Snakeskin
has been very proud to publish. My own greatest
satisfaction has come from working in partnership,
especially with K.M.Payne on The Maze of Mirrors. (By the way, have you looked at Ken's Manifesto for the
Internet Poem lately? Now
there's an ideal to live up to.
One thing has disappointed me. More than 90% of the
poems we receive are the sort that would fit neatly
onto a page of the average little magazine. Why? The
Internet doesn't need rules about 40-line maximums.
It can cope with an epic as easily as a haiku. It can
also suggest its own forms. My own writing energy
recently has been devoted to producing work that
couldn't be printed on paper. Are there really so few
poets excited by this possibility? Send us your
hypertexts, your poetry generators, your DHTML
shape-shifting poems. We want them.
The future? Goodness knows. The furthest we've
thought ahead is February's special theme issue, on
Fathers and Fatherhood, guest-edited by Jessy
After that, we go where the poetry takes us. Here's
to the next five years.