Mary Ford Neal is the IS&T Pick of the Month poet for May 2020

One of our voters when asked ‘Tell us why this gets your vote’ after selecting Mary Ford Neal’s poem simply replied ‘Jane’ and that really sums up this poem of the same name being chosen as May 2020’s Pick of the Month.

We all know Janes; we might be a little in awe of them but we love them as well. And they are the kind of people that we need in the health and social crises that we are currently going through.

Mary lives in the West of Scotland and is an academic based at the University of Strathclyde. Main themes in her poetry include the physicality of emotion, sacredness (in all its forms), and the intersubjectivity of human life. She has asked that her £30 prize be donated to the Beatson Cancer Charity.

 

Jane

Jane shapes the town to herself. Of the spire, the pond,
the iron bridge and the bandstand,
she is undoubted queen.

She cooks and eats, she feeds and clothes the world,
folding bodies and souls into comfortable communion.
She is a ladle, stirring.

She brings back treasures from sun-hardened places,
gives them up to the damp fingers of grass-stained children.
She is a shell haircomb.

She plays cards, quickly. She smells of cocoa powder or of lilac
and vaporises priests with a raised eyebrow.
She is a raised eyebrow.

She hardly writes at all, but when she does
the lines she makes go through to the pages underneath.

She fixes herself to the spot; she pitches tents for the lost. Are you lost?
She is a compass, pointing.

And then she moves away.

She moves away in all her beauty, in all her how-dare-yous.
She moves away in all her certainty, her life its own eloquence.
She moves away in all the crimson of our still-warm love for her.

 

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Voters comments included:

There is a real blend of ethereal mystery but real power and physicality mixed in this – especially the first image of the ladle. That is one I think I will come back to and by voting it and leaving this comment, it will help fix the source in my mind

The vivid imagery and rhythm brings the character so strongly to life. I was moved to tears the first time I read it.

It is a moving and thought provoking poem

Lovely poem with great imagery.

The personification of place draws out aspects of self in a surprising way!

Astute yet approachable

Strong imagery, relatable, best of the bunch

Love the characterisation. Drawn into the narrative.

Stunning…

It was usefully described as “formidable” – I agree! 

‘Jane’ reminds me of the women in my family.

I really enjoyed the imagery used. Jane is a relatable figure. Also the poem has a strong underlying spirituality.

We all know a Jane ! Strong yet fragile, always strong.

Line by line, Jane becomes more alive in the reading. I found the poem so readable and the character relatable. It was, for me, a very moving poem

Powerfully moving and well-written. Simply beautiful.

“She is a raised eyebrow” deserves a vote in itself. Paints a great image of something so personal to Mary yet that seems so familiar.

A sublime, evocative and awe-inspiring piece.

Strongly evocative, familiar and accessible, emotional yet grounded and concrete.

I thought the poem created a clear, beautiful image of ‘Jane’ and that the final lines were very poignant.

great images, strong woman, the eyebrow!

Often repetition in poetry does not work, but here the attached imagery makes the pattern unique. She is a ladle, stirring. This set the tone. Wonderful poem.

I liked the rhythm, the pattern and the story this tells.

 

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Time Once More to Vote for the IS&T Pick of the Month. What Will it be for May?

The uncertainty, confusion and yearning that we are feeling because of the Covid-19 pandemic, has been joined by anger, frustration and devastation experienced in response to the killing of George Floyd at the end of May. And the poems on our May #PickoftheMonth shortlist represent this tumult of feelings.

Are you caught up in the fear of L Kiew‘s ‘Today everything is on fire & it’s dangerous’ or overwhelmed by what lurks in Tom Dwight‘s ‘Daylight and Dust’? Can you feel ‘what is missing’ with Jane Pearn – so poignant – or does Dan Dorman‘s delicate ‘Black Feathers’ resonate. Is it Mary Ford Neal‘s formidable ‘Jane’ that you want to stand up with or do you wrap up in the love that pervades ‘The Romance Languages’ by Isabelle Thompson.

All six of the shortlist have been chosen by Helen or Kate or received the most attention on social media. They can be found below or by clicking on ‘Vote for Your May 2020 Pick of the Month′ in the Categories list to your right on the screen.

Voting has now closed. May’s ‘Pick’ will be announced on Tuesday 16th June at 4pm.

For the lockdown period, our normal Pick ‘prize’ of £10 towards the UK charity of your choice or a National Book Token will rise to £30*. Charities and booksellers, both, have been hit hard by the shutdown and we wanted to make a (admittedly very small) gesture of support.

 

*Book tokens can only be used within the UK and will be divided between £20 for the winning writer and a £10 token for the person of their choice.

 

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Congratulations to Beth Booth whose poem ‘To the Occupier’ is the Pick of the Month for April 2020

There are a myriad of reasons as to why voters chose ‘To the Occupier’ by Beth Booth as the IS&T Pick of the Month for April 2020 which is a tribute to the many layers in this fine poem. Some found it haunting, melancholy, rich with emotion, some identified with the otherness about it or felt it ‘[evoked] a feeling very pertinent to the current situation’ and a few found it spoke to their own experiences of renting and moving, the impermanence of it all. Where voters agreed was on how beautiful the poem is!

Beth lives in Liverpool via Cumbria and is an MFA student at the Manchester Writing School. She won the Miriam Allott poetry prize in 2016, and has poems published or forthcoming in The Moth, Lighthouse, and Orbis.

 

To the Occupier

I have been leaving ghosts in every house
for six years, which makes six houses –
seven if you count my temporary tenancy
in your affection. Nine houses if you count
the ones I lived in where I had no right to do so.
Arguably eleven houses. Arguably twelve
(they have taken a toll on my ability to count.)
It’s the arguing that’s the problem, though,
isn’t it – if houses are arguable then
how are they homes, how are they anything
other than a cunning place to haunt?
Shrugging off my ghosts like a lizard
done with its skin and its skilful wholeness.
I am ghostliest of all, the spook that
bites the hand that feeds, the ghoul
that has taken up residency somewhere
between the years, waiting for you to move
out, waiting for you to move on, waiting
for the next move to be a checkmate.
I am always checking, lately. Checking
out of this hotel of tendons. Leaving
ghosts on the patio to tenderly haunt you
when I am too far gone to do it myself.

 

 

Other voters’ comments included:-

This poem makes me want to read it aloud. The way the words connect with each other through shared vowel sounds. The sussuration of some and the round openness of others. The entire poem feels like a room I want to sit in and examine the details of every corner. Which fits it very well, I suppose. Delicate and fleeting at times, but full-bodied at others – just like the speaker’s experiences.

Beth Booth’s poem is powerful, vulnerable, and surprising in its language. It has something to say and does so in a voice that is exciting and new. Would be a deserved winner in a great list! 

I feel like I personally understand and relate, and it is beautifully written. 

I love how the author manages to capture both numbing isolation and intense emotions in one poem, incredibly moving 

Beautiful and haunting 

Moody! 

The phrasing really grabs your attention. 

It employs a very striking extended metaphor and clever transformation of images in the last two lines (“move out/move on/move to be a checkmate/checking/check out”) which stuck in my mind in a way I didn’t experience with the other poems. I can very much empathise as someone who has also spent six years in six different houses and felt the same ghostlike feeling when moving in or out. 

I think this poem is beautiful. It speaks to me of feeling unsettled, both in the body and in the world. It gives me shivers when I read it. 

So vivid and really resonates 

On so many levels, this poem speaks of haunting. Of the separation of the person into fractals of themselves, their relationships, their timelines, their viewpoints. It is therefore universal and yet intimate, a glimpse into the otherness of self. I love this poem, even though (especially because) it haunts me. 

It’s the strangest 

This beautiful poem stayed in my mind long after I read it. The poet captured the feelings wonderfully well. 

I love the use of vocabulary and mood 

Speaks to my experience of leaving parts of myself in the spaces where I was traumatised or healed 

It flows so beautifully and gives me chills 

wonderfully captures the pathos of the tragic situation 

For me it was this one or The Farmer’s Prayer – both touched me on an emotional rather than intellectual level, the way a poem can, sometimes. For me, To the Occupier was more personally relatable, though. 

I really liked the melancholy reflections it inspired on life’s passage, its events and memories, and what we leave behind…

As a renter, I like the way it subtly criticises how people are forced to move from place to place. 

This transitory existence moving from house to house when you rent is a common experience for many young people, and this captures something of this perfectly.

 

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Vote for your April 2020 Pick of the Month

When the pandemic movie is your own reality.

It is not surprising that most of the poems on our shortlist for April 2020’s Pick of the Month hover on the edge of dystopia. Is it Sam Wilson-Fletcher‘s ‘Blue’ that colours your world or what is lost in Anna Kisby‘s ‘Faceless extinctions’ or Zannah Kearns‘ ‘The Farmer’s Prayer’? Does the seductive unease of ‘Skunk’ by Z.D. Dicks draw you in or can you relate to Beth Booth‘s ‘To the Occupier’ or ‘Tenant’ by Nisha Bhakoo where home is not a place of safety?

All six of the shortlist have been chosen by Helen or Kate or received the most attention on social media. They can be found below or by clicking on ‘Vote for your April 2020 Pick of the Month′ in the Categories list to your right on the screen.

Voting is now closed. April’s Pick will be posted on Monday 18th May at 4pm (so as not to get lost in the Saboteur Awards’ outcomes or the Authors’ Club LitFestOnline and Best First Novel Prize over the weekend!)

For the lockdown period, our normal Pick ‘prize’ of £10 towards the UK charity of your choice or a National Book Token will rise to £30*. Charities and booksellers, both, have been hit hard by the shutdown and we wanted to make a (admittedly very small) gesture of support.

 

*Book tokens can only be used within the UK and will be divided between £20 for the winning writer and a £10 token for the person of their choice.

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The Votes are in and the Pick of the Month for March 2020 is ‘A Factory of Feelings’ by Sanjeev Sethi

It is perhaps no surprise during this seismic period that our March 2020 Pick of the Month should focus on that technology which holds us all together even when it drives us apart. Voters found Sanjeev Sethi’s ‘A Factory of Feelings’ moving, relevant and resonant!

Sanjeev is published in more than 25 countries with over 1200 poems. Wrappings in Bespoke is Joint-Winner of the Full Fat Collection Competition-Deux (Hedgehog Poetry Press UK). It’s his fourth book. It will be issued in 2020. He lives in Mumbai, India.

 

A Factory of Feelings

Your biog is your own, wash it with as many adjectives.
Entitlement and empathy are opposites. Dissimulation
is elementary to past lovers, like dissemble to ex bosses.
Facebook and Twitter are placeboes for amour proper.
Drapes of familiarity hang when socials happen. If you
are a turophile there is space for another helping in a
hero sandwich. Tonight my sky is crowded: sulfur and
saltpeter from crackers have eroded its nostril and mine.
With you gone umpteen poems are astray.

 

 

More voters’ comments included:

The poem talks about the current scenario of social media and its impact on culture. A sharp poem. 

I am a fan of Sanjeev Sethi’s work. He never disappoints me as a reader. 

Sethi’s play with language leaves me longing for more. 

The way he uses brevity in poetry is unlike any other poet I know! The novelty of thought, and the sheer relevance of imagery require recognition too. Also, find me a poet with a vocabulary that even comes close to his. I’ll wait. 😉  

I kept thinking of it, long after I had read it. 

An outstanding poem. 

Awesome work! 

It has all the elements off fine writing. 

Sharp usage of language and the metaphors cleverly give it a kick.

Not one superfluous word. 

This poem adds to the human experience. This quote tells of how poetry goes beyond words to make people feel something, whether it be strength, unity or another, indescribable feeling. 

Stunning work! 

First-class writing. 

It’s contemporary commentary on our Facebook of things. 

deep, incisive and engaging poem and really stands out for its word play and nuanced expression. 

 

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Vote Vote Vote for your March 2020 Pick of the Month.

Despite the uncertainty of everything, our Ink Sweat & Tears’ Pick of the Month still goes on and we have a fine shortlist of poets that it will be difficult to chose from. Will it be Kitty Coles’ ‘The moon is a cannibal:’ that eats you from within or ‘The Opposite of Pygmalion’ by Gillie Robic that tickles the hairs on the back of your neck? Can you catch a ray of hope from Moyra Donaldson‘s ‘A Sudden Shaft of Light’ or enjoy being ‘In the shower with Gerard Manley Hopkins’ (and Jo Bratten)? Does the edge in Sanjeev Sethi‘s ‘A Factory of Feelings’ appeal or would you prefer to take comfort from Patrick Deeley‘s ‘Homing Pigeon’?

All six of the shortlist have been chosen by Helen or Kate or received the most attention on social media. They can be found below or by clicking on ‘Vote for Your March 2020 Pick of the Month′ in the Categories list to your right on the screen.

Voting has now closed. March’s Pick will be announced on Tuesday 14th April.

For the lockdown period, our normal Pick ‘prize’ of £10 towards the UK charity of your choice or a National Book Token will rise to £30*. Charities and booksellers, both, have been hit hard by the shutdown and we wanted to make a (admittedly very small) gesture of support.

 

*Book tokens can only be used within the UK and will be divided between £20 for the winning writer and a £10 token for the person of their choice.

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