And April 2019’s Pick of the Month is ‘Vital Signs’ by Emma Baines

Sometimes when there an abundance of excellent poetry to chose from, the IS&T Pick of the Month is the one that has the most power to move voters and so it is with ‘Vital Signs’ by Emma Baines. When you read comments such as ‘the most beautiful, heart rending poem ever’ and ‘it is an uplifting poem, simple, direct and moving’ – and these are just two of the many you will see below – you really do see the effect of this amazing work.

Emma has been writing for many years and published poetry in magazines and journals including The Lampeter Review, Roundyhouse, Cambria and POEM. In 2011, she edited and contributed to The Month had 32 Days, published by Parthian and has read at festivals and events including the Laugharne Weekend. She also travelled to Ireland on the Coracle literary exchange. Emma has has translated work (from Welsh to English) for Menna Elfyn and her own writing has recently been included in installation by glass artist Linda Norris. This year, she has co-founded a writers group in Pembrokeshire and is currently facilitating poetry workshops to create films based on the Women of West Wales for Llangwm Literary Festival.

Emma has asked that her £10 ‘prize’ be donated to the breast cancer awareness charity CoppaFeel!

 

Vital Signs

We laughed,
in spite of the darkness,
at the circles around your eyes.

and you rolled them
over hand-knitted hats
in the chemo ward,
to cover things we tried to hide.

when I shaved your head
and the last of your hair
fell in your lap, you beamed.

as I showered you,
fresh from surgery,
and you carried your drain
in a floral bag; we joked.

when you unzipped a new breast;
pocketed a new you,
we poked fun at all things false.

but when you smiled from the scanner
a truth was told:
how your bones glow
is beyond the measure of science.

now life is given
its last chance to impress you,
from the bottom of us;
we laugh.

 

 

Voters’ comments included:

This poem gets my vote because of its tenderness, the light it shines on love and intimacy. It tells the dark light as Kei Miller would say.

A poem with great feeling, understanding, compassion and warmth.

The light touch of the language contrasted to the subject. It reads as a poem for me.

A very insightful, accessible poem. It has an optimism and strength associated with the sufferers of this sad condition.

It’s such a moving poem — one that everyone can recognise but as it draws to a close it reaches a new realm of love beyond the detritus and heartbreak of lives

Shows complete empathy of a very difficult situation.

Its a beautiful poem, written from the heart, and made me feel that I was there…

The exquisite sensibility and sensitivity of the writing.

Not only through her writing she’s beautiful inside and out. She written for years, but just needs to be noticed for what she’s amazing at doing! She deserves this.

Such an endearing poem representing a journey had by so many. Inspiring and heartfelt

Beautifully written as an expression of a truly difficult time emotionally.

Because this is a sensationally beautiful poem about a difficult and emotive subject.

A wonderful poem born out of sadness but with a strong message of hope and love.

It’s touching and sensitive but also has warmth, humour and humanity in it. Loved it.

This poem is just so beautiful and well measured between the mundane and the profound. I will not forget it.

Emma’s poem is tender and strong at the same time. She uses words beautifully to express intimacy and love in what can be one of the most dehumanising and stressful of situations.

A sharp and compassionate poem, and, what is more, a good one.

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Vote. Vote. Vote. Choose your IS&T Pick of the Month for April 2019!

Often when we make up our IS&T shortlists for Pick of the Month, there is a connection between the works either unintentionally because of the zeitgeist of the moment or, on rare occasions, intentionally when we feel that spirit and run with it. This time, we can say that the only connection between the six poems on our shortlist is that they are all very very good indeed.

So take a few minutes to go through all of them before you make your choice. Does the beautiful use of words and imagery in Matthew Friday’s ‘3 Swans Arrive in Prague’ delight? Or is it the strength and wit of Stephen Lightbown’s ‘Wheel’? Are you truly moved by the ‘Vital Signs’ of Emma Baines or so floored by Michéle Beck’s ‘Siblings’ that you cannot think of anything else? Could it be that you are overwhelmed by Gemma Harland’s ‘Possession’ or think that Alex Josephy has said it all in ‘Therapy’?

The poems are featured below (or click on ‘Vote for your April 2019 Pick of the Month′ in the Categories list to your right on the screen).

Voting has now closed. April’s ‘Pick’ will be announced on Friday 17th May at 4pm.

The winner each month will be sent a n£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. It features in The Forward Book of Poetry 2019.)

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Your Pick of the Month for March is this fine Word & Image offering from Helen Pletts and Romit Berger!

 

Helen Pletts has been working collaboratively with Romit Berger since 2012 and that these wonderful Word & Image pieces have been published exclusively by IS&T makes it fitting that, having been shortlisted before, they are voted as Pick of the Month the second time round – for the exquisite ‘The plane tree entertains the circus of doves’.

Voters used the words ‘beautiful’ and ‘evocative’ again and again. They praised the connection between the text and the visual, the ‘striking language and strong imagery’.

Helen and Romit have asked that their £10 ‘prize’ be donated to The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.

Helen (www.helenpletts.com ) has two collections, Bottle bank and For the chiding dove, published by YWO/Legend Press (supported by The Arts Council) and available on Amazon. Bottle bank was longlisted for The Bridport Poetry Prize 2006 (under Helen’s maiden name, Bannister). She is also published in Aesthetica, Orbis and The Fenland Reed. Helen’s poetry was longlisted for The Rialto Nature and Place Competition 2018 and shortlisted for the Bridport Poetry Prize in 2018.

Romit: ‘I am a graphic designer and artist, living in Prague for the past 
ten years. In 2008 I joined a writing group – English is not my native
 language but I graduated from an international school, so it is a part 
of my life ever since. I feel that the dual process of finding words to
 describe mind images and illustrating written words, opens a new 
exciting dimension of creativity for me.’

 

 

 

The plane tree entertains the circus of doves

Stripped of spindly epicormic shoots, the now-knuckle-tree jabs her skeletal arms over the snapped stale breaths of pale, orange shavings powdering the tree surgeon’s yellow truck. Her psoriatic plane-bones arthrite in the grey sky. Knotted; hunched naked like the great distorted central pole of a marquee. Feather me, she says. Don’t leave me open-necked up-holding this soft circus. Perched in the flaking gnarl the little skull-caps are grey with it too. They dot her fleshlessness with incredulous brows. Tremble at the amplified sirens of daysound. Blink bright as part of the canopy of constellations later on in the dark.

*********

Voters’ comments included:

The text is so atmospheric and full of subtle feelings… and the artwork is evocative and beautiful.

The symmetry between the words and the sketch is perfect

ORIGINALITY ! There is a delight in pure diction here, a tenderness of imagery, and a subtly moving visual response to the prose poem by Romit Berger.

It’s the combination of the words and the image: each feeds the other, and you have to look back and forth between the two to savour the whole.

Great visual description

I love the imagery it evokes, the drawing that goes along with it. It feels very raw and present

The vivid description and sorrow of the tree

It makes me think of all the trees that are cut often/ cut back so much these days to make room for more houses/offices.

I find the visualisation particularly moving. Giving soul to our living world.

It’s amazing!

Great combination of fine writing and graphic.

The imagery was vivid yet vague, gave a chilling warmth and familiarity. beautiful and eerie.

Beautiful collaboration with poetry full of fantastic imagery

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Make Your Voice Heard: Vote for your IS&T Pick of the Month for March!

Okay, we know you probably cannot get the idea of Votes and Voting out of your head at the moment, particularly if you are based in the UK. But while this IS&T Vote does not involve some particularly convoluted agreement that will profoundly change your life, ticking your Pick of the Month favourite for March might make a poet’s day. So choose from the visual feasts that are Helen Pletts and Romit Berger’s ‘The plane tree entertains the circus of doves’ or Thomas Irvine’s ‘[Beard of Bees]’. Or go for the unnerving imagery of ‘Night Crawler’ by Anna Saunders, the heady atmosphere of Natalie Shaw’s ‘Night punting to standstill’ or the emotion of ‘A long-distance voice’ (Chin Li). Maybe it will be Geoffrey Heptonstall’s striking ‘The Mistress of Cawdor’ from Shakespeare Variations that captures your attention?

Take the time to go through the six fine poems below (or click on ‘Vote for your March 2019 Pick of the Month′ in the Categories list to your right on the screen).

Voting has now closed. The winner will be announced at 4pm on Saturday 13th April.

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. It features in The Forward Book of Poetry 2019.)

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‘The card given out at his funeral’ by Claire Cox is our Pick of the Month for February 2019

 

You looked, you read, you voted and the ‘beautiful and disquieting poem’ that is Claire Cox’s ‘The card given out at his funeral’ is the IS&T Pick of the Month for February.

Born in Hong Kong, Claire now lives and works in Oxfordshire. She is Associate Editor for ignitionpress, and is currently a part-time practice-based PhD student at Royal Holloway, University of London studying poetry and disaster.

She has asked that her £10 ‘prize’ be donated to the Royal Brompton & Harefield Hospitals Charity.

 

The card given out at his funeral

has no obituary. No order of service.
Just his name, curlicued and slant,
year of birth, hyphen, year of death.

Above that, an old print plate of his
reproduced landscape-wise, its surface
sectioned into eighths, each eighth quizzing

depth of cut, luminescence, blackness,
how acid bites, how resin resists.
‘Fig. A’ points to pale ripples:

a thumbprint in negative,
dabbed there momentarily –
his brief experiment in flesh.

 

*********

 

Other voters’ comments included:

Hit me in the heart – understated, interesting use of language … her poem stayed with me the most… e.g. how we are all but ‘a short experiment in flesh’.

Beautiful, restrained and powerful

I like its economy and unexpectedness.

I love this poem’s allusiveness, its brevity, its poignance.

Oh the sadness.

A surprising, and beautifully detailed memorial to the printmaker.

Such a gentle reverie and homily of a lost much loved one. Gentle, spiritual, thoughtful and with grace

The simplicity of the form and language allows the grief to speak forth without rhetoric.

simply written yet finely crafted

A brief but recognisable representation of a life.

Beautifully written and resonant.

An extraordinary poem- superbly crafted

I liked the baldness of the opening stanza and the concreteness of details.

It tells a story, but in a stark way. Heartfelt

 

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For International Women’s Day: Helen Ivory

 

 

 

Anger in Ladies &c

. . .makes a beauteous face deformed and contemptible. . .
and separates Roses and Lilies, by quite removing one or the other
out of the Ladies cheeks . . . (The Ladies’ Dictionary John Dunton 1684)

 

The ladies are ripping roses and lilies to rags.
They are broadcasting them like bruised confetti,
trampling them into the carpet
so the parlour reeks of death,
or the mask of death – death spangled up –
death sullying the carpet.

The ladies are rendering themselves contemptible,
they are pollen-stained and beastly,
they are pawing the floorboards.

Now they will lecture you
on how to wear your hair, Mr Dunton –
how to cover your shame.
They are sharpening their bread knives.

 

 

 

 

Helen Ivory is a poet and visual artist and edits IS&T. Her fifth Bloodaxe collection is The Anatomical Venus (May 2019). She is a tutor for the UEA/NCW creative writing programme. A chapbook Maps of the Abandoned City was published by SurVision Press in January. http://www.survisionmagazine.com/books.htm

Note: This poem is taken from The Anatomical Venus, which is available to pre-order here: https://www.bloodaxebooks.com/ecs/product/the-anatomical-venus-1210

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Poems from Louisa Adjoa Parker, Oz Hardwick and Jessica Mookherjee are the IS&T Entries for the 2019 Forward Prize for Best Single Poem.

Revisit the poems below or go to http://www.inksweatandtears.co.uk/pages/?cat=102.

Good luck to all!

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