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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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.

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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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‘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.

 

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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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‘Off-Peak Single’ by Oz Hardwick is our first Pick of the Month for 2019

This, for me, is the perfect prose poem’ was the comment of one of our voters and we don’t think it too far from the truth as we declare Oz Hardwick’s ‘Off-Peak Single’ as our Pick of the Month for January 2019. Voters loved the contrast between the mundane and the ‘fantastical’, the poem’s many layers and the excellence of it’s rhythm, tone and pace.

Oz is a York-based poet, photographer, occasional musician, and reluctant academic. His latest publication is a prose poetry chapbook, Learning to Have Lost (Canberra: IPSI, 2018). His ambition is to play bass in a Belgian space-rock band. www.ozhardwick.co.uk

 

Off-Peak Single

The turnstile jammed, trapping me half way through, casting me in the role of inconvenience for the queue that gathered in Fibonacci curves, bristling with smartphones and resentment. I scanned and inserted my ticket at every possible angle, then the same angles again but in a different order, but the gate didn’t move and the crowd swelled, became unruly, pleading and threatening. On the other side, the hall had emptied, fallen to silence as the lights went out. My ticket wore thin, and when I lifted it to my eye I could see through it to the desperate, angry, Biblical mass who looked to me for the release of all their earthly cares, or at least for loaves and fishes. By the time the ticket had fallen to fine powder, the turnstile was thick with moss, with small shrubs chancing their tentative lives in this emerging world. Bees waggled their stories of new terrain, and a yellow songbird scored its eloquent truth. My hands throb with the primal power of mulch and loam, my fingers unfolding in the prestidigitation of new life. I regret to inform you of the cancellation of all services. Let there be light.

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Voters’ comments included:

Oz’s beautiful use of language and imagery are simply stunning, resulting in a richly detailed vision of hell and heaven. Wonderful!

Felt and seen so clearly, the surging mumble of the rabble in the room with me.

Just because it struck a chord with me. Somewhere inside.

This is an amazing piece of work. Simple at first glance, until one uncovers its rich tapestry. An excellent read.

Great poem, unusual writing and arresting tone.

Tongue in cheek subtly erudite, heart not quite on sleeve

Empathy!

I like the idea of a ‘real’ world beneath the superimposition of civilisation.

Great imagery; surrealist yet full of meaning.

I really felt it. It matched my mood.

I love the way he uses prose so poetically. Plus the situation, such humour, being stuck in the turnstile – which becomes surreal.

It speaks about the little things that should be so simple.

We’ve all had problems with mindless ticket machines, some of which are human. It resonates. If only I could have a reserved seat next to the window of life, all would be well!

Instills humour, awkwardness and tension of biblical proportions into something so simple which we’ve all experienced Sublime

It is so evocative – it took me away, made me see and feel and lose track of time.

The poem is playful, but I also like Oz’s notion that an ordinary act can trigger the rolling of the years. It has satisfying echoes for me of Thoreau’s story in Walden of the woodcarver of Kuru: .. “He had made a new system in making a staff, a world with full and fair proportions; in which, though the old cities and dynasties had passed away, fairer and more glorious ones had taken their places. And now he saw by the heap of shavings still fresh at his feet, that, for him and his work, the former lapse of time had been an illusion, and that no more time had elapsed than is required for a single scintillation from the brain of Brahma to fall on and inflame the tinder of a mortal brain. The material was pure, and his art was pure; how could the result be other than wonderful?”

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