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Vote for your October 2019 Pick of the Month

National Poetry Day was all about Truth in October and poems, featured on that day and the week that followed, from Rachel Burns (‘Truth’), Linda Rose Parkes (‘A True Version) and Sharon Phillips (‘Something’s wrong’) have all deservedly made their way onto the IS&T #PickoftheMonth shortlist for that month.

But there is a truth in most literary works and we can add these from Helen Calcutt (‘A conversation with my daughter about my brother’s suicide), Miles Salter (‘Profuse’) and Jacob Silkstone (‘Night Train‘) without being said to stray too far from this essential theme.

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 October 2019 Pick of the Month′ in the Categories list to your right on the screen.

Please VOTE HERE. Voting will close at 9pm on Friday 22nd November.

The winner each month will be sent a £10 book giftcard or, if preferred, a donation of the same amount will be made to a chosen charity. In the event of the winner being from outside the UK mainland, we will make every effort to provide a reasonable alternative. All shortlisted poetry Picks, provided they remain unpublished and meet other eligibility criteria, will be considered as IS&T submissions for the annual Forward Prize for Best Single Poem. (‘Frequency Violet’ by Kate Edwards was a Pick of the Month for November 2017 and was Highly Commended by the 2018 judges.)



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2017 Pamphlet Commission Competition Co-Winner: Jo Young on Remembrance Sunday




from Firing Pins

Lost Things: Afghanistan (i-vii)

(iii)           Insomnia

The heartbeat of the thrice-nightly Chinook
a lullaby                not you tonight

lulla-lulla              not yours tonight,
nevertheless, and notwithstanding.

Prince and Princess fled over molten
dunes flung down by a frantic Sandman,

the rotor blades a genie’s cough
through talcum air. A pulse,

the tempo of a mum’s palm
rubbing a child’s grazed knee.

The elsewhere-stitching and transfusing
crafting an eiderdown

from canvas, spreading hair around
her softened face in a satin sea.

Sleep dances and tightens, hard and horse-like,
a deep, thumping, velvet surrender.



Jo Young is one of the co-winners of the 2017 Ink Sweat & Tears/Café Writers Pamphlet Commission Competition and the pamphlet Firing Pins is the result of that competition.

Jo is from York. She has served in the British Army and now the Army Reserve for over twenty years. She has two young sons and this is her first pamphlet.

Jo was featured in the panel discussion ‘Confinement: Exploring Feminist Perspectives’ at Poetry in Aldeburgh yesterday evening and will be launching  Firing Pins at Cafe Writers in Norwich on Monday 11th November.

You can buy Firing Pins here.

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2017 Pamphlet Commission Competition Co-Winner: Gail McConnell




From Fothermather

An Apple Seed

apple       cup        &      shell
I say these things to you         I read them
from the            book    book     book       this is     a

book     you roll yourself to where
the sound must be                  to sound to word to thing
to me the mouth that sounds out sssssssshhhhhhhh

ell       you watch my lips to see the shell
come out        come out shell the shell
comes out & curls itself around the air

again the thing       itself is waves
of sound           for sound it is a swimming
moving to & fro      vibrating shell

the peel & rind      creaturely home      upon a time
spacetime is soft-bodied
Einstein said   the mollusk    we are in    a constant

flux    the quantum world stretching twisting curving
your small body to my own your hands
against my lips your fingers on my tongue

what is that sound what currency
is this what vessel for existing

when you were still in shell      we counted you
in days       two cells on day one      four the second day
six the third          when you were placed

inside      another room         to make
your way an apple seed   a blueberry     an ear
of corn   a coconut   the day of shelling

came & went   till two weeks    on you flexed
we were two Sauls     something like scales
something like shells     were falling

from our eyes              as out you came
you come out with a cry just like the aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh
of apple


Gail McConnell is one of the co-winners of the 2017 Ink Sweat & Tears/Café Writers Pamphlet Commission Competition and the pamphlet Fothermather is the result of that competition. She is a poet, literary critic and Senior Lecturer in English at Queen’s University Belfast and the author of Northern Irish Poetry and Theology (Palgrave, 2014) and articles on Irish and British poetry. Gail’s first poetry pamphlet is Fourteen (Green Bottle Press, 2018) and she is working on a book featuring ‘Type Face’, a long poem published in Blackbox Manifold concerning her experience of reading a Historical Enquiries Team Report about her father’s killing. Gail’s poems have appeared in Poetry Review, PN Review, Virginia Quarterly Review and Stand, and she is the recipient of two Arts Council Northern Ireland awards. A programme based on Fothermather will be produced by Conor Garrett and broadcast on Radio 4 in 2020.

Gail is featured in the panel discussion ‘Confinement: Exploring Feminist Perspectives’ at Poetry in Aldeburgh this evening and will be launching  Fothermather at Cafe Writers in Norwich on Monday 11th November.

You can buy Fothermather here.

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Helen Kay is the September 2019 Pick of the Month Poet with ‘NIMBY and the Supermoon 2018′

It was an extremely close run thing but ‘NIMBY and the Supermoon 2018′ by Helen Kay edged over the finish line to be our Pick of the Month for September 2019. This topical and emotive poem naturally gelled with voters’ concerns over the environment, which thoughts are at the forefront of most peoples’ minds at the moment (or should be if they are not). And as one voter put it: ‘She has such a refreshingly novel way of describing everyday things and making us experience them anew.’

Helen’s poems crop up in magazines. She was recently placed second in the Leeds Peace Prize, Wakefield Sanctuary and Welshpool competitions and commended in the Shelter and Festival of Firsts Competitions.

She has asked that her £10 ‘prize’ be donated to Shelter.


NIMBY and the Supermoon 2018

The window by her pillow has the best job in the house:
it sneaks in day to kiss her awake to      a tail-thumping heart.

Curtains slice a piece of sky, twig-flecked, let her taste
the creamy dawn            shame it’s a #supermoontease.

She breaks open sleep-stuck, blackout linings. Her heart howls.
New houses, with scaffold ribs                      fatten on the fields.

Her hatred self-harms as the ‘stunning’ Wildflower estate
chews up trees and newts                    smirks at her terrace.

She is Sleeping Beauty. No sweet lips, just golden JCBs drilling
her mad. She goads the moon to flee       prays for a spindle prick.



Other voters’ comments included:

Helen’s poem uses challenging language and form to bring attack to her argument. Her theme is relevant and relatable and the poem moved me.

Originality of language – ‘chews up trees and newts smirks at her terrace.’

It’s a cracking poem.

Imageful, rooted in reality

Her imagery is visually stunning.

Just a thought provoking piece of poetry.

This compressed so many thoughts and feelings into a short poem. ‘Nimby’ invites us to make a simple judgement but the poem exposes something much more complex.

Beautiful balance; quietly menacing language. Loved it!

This poem really resonated with me with its deft handling of an emotive subject – one that’s close to my heart.

I think this poem puts over its message in an economical but magical way.

Witty and relevant.

I just like the description it gives you, as you read it and takes on the journey with the pillow.

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