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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Aishwarya Raghu is our Pick of the Month Poet for August 2019

You might think it strange that ‘A Poem about Frost’ should be the Pick of the Month for the height of summer but Aishwarya Raghu’s ‘profound’ ‘melancholy’ and ‘beautiful’ poem took voters beyond nature and winter and there was something about its peaceful isolation that appealed.

Aishwarya is a 26-year-old content writer from Bangalore, India. Her work has previously appeared in magazines such as the Louisville Review, Glass Mountain Magazine, aaduna, and Vayavya.


A Poem about Frost

Swan resting
on an empty lake: white
but for the lake. Blue
but for the swan.
Winter will set in
from the
corner of the lake.
Eagle swan.
I can no longer
tell bird from bird.
When winter sets in,
the swan will be trapped
left foot down.
Things will change. Moss
under snow. Earth
under moss. A scuba diver
would be trapped underwater
if the lake were the sea.
Lonely diver
with the left foot
of the swan for company.
The swan will fly. Bird
will turn into bird.


Voters comments included:

This poem took me into another, almost dreamy, imaginary land where the loneliness gave me a kind of weird satisfaction.

Reading this makes me feel something each time. I can’t quite tell what, and that’s why I like it.

the simplicity of words.

[ A description of ] nature and its beauty in a delightful and enthusiastic way. No words to express the joy of reading the poem.

The imagery; period!

Earthy and meaningful

Loved the poem structure; abrupt yet halting. The contradictions in the poem are reminiscent of the work of Robert Frost. Which then makes the reader wonder if the poem is about frost or just Frost’ian!

I love how the poem somehow makes me believe there’s hope and then suddenly makes me feel a sense of loss. It makes me feel like I am the scuba diver and I’m out there forever trapped in an infinity.

It’s about nature! Very descriptive in less words.

The poem causes chills with frost

I love the way this poem is structured and the imagery it builds. I almost feel like I’m there.

Reading the poem almost makes me feel like the swan. It gives me some strange feeling I can’t describe.

The poem is a word-picture: stark and simple but beautiful, with a child’s logic, e.g. the left foot of the swan being the one to freeze into the ice. There is an air of myth and mystery, and whimsy.


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July’s Pick of the Month is ‘He grows’ by Maxine Rose Munro

Voters loved the spareness – ‘concise and succinct’ – and ‘the absolute enormity of restlessness conveyed’ through the poem’s structure as well as its language. So for these reasons, and more, the excellent ‘He grows’ by Maxine Rose Munro is the IS&T Pick of the Month for July 2019. Huge congratulations to her!

Maxine is a Scottish poet who writes in both English and her native Shetlandic Scots. She is widely published in the UK, in print and online, including Ink Sweat & Tears, and her work has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Find her here www.maxinerosemunro.com


He grows 

I gave birth to Restless, and oh how
he prowls this house, testing, testing
the strength of my walls. Pushing
at limits to find weaknesses he
stores for future use, careful
with his words. He knows
soon will come his
time, not mine.

I gave birth to Restless
and, oh! how he grows and grows.


Other voters’ comments included:

A simple encapsulation of what every parent goes through as they realise what they’ve brought into the world.

I like the abstract/personification ‘Restless’ moves through the poem. I also enjoy how the word lends itself to more than one significance in the context of the poem.

She captures a feeling of anxiety associated with restlessness in so few words. Spare. I like spare!

Her alliteration captures attention

An interesting way of exploring this topic.

How clever to turn the poet’s own restlessness into a third-person (male) entity to complain about, whilst acknowledging that she created the condition herself. And I love the poem’s concision.

I knew exactly what the writer was saying.

I love this poem, lots of lovely tension, it verges on eery for me. A snapshot in a big story.

For me, it captures the vitality and curiosity of a spirit that can’t be constrained.

The structure and language of the poem really gives strength to the feeling of restlessness.

It intrigues me. One of these hauntingly beautiful poems that leaves me wondering if I see the same as the poet in its words, or are we divided by a common language. Wonderful.

Her poetry is so fixed in the real emotions of everyday life.

The poignancy and relatability of it

A poem about the other self. I liked the layout, fretful lines getting shorter and then growing uneasily.

Her poems take me into my dream world

an instant connection from the first line

instant and vivid

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Tom Bennett’s ‘Travelling Light’ is the Pick of the Month for June 2019!

It was the superb imagery, the hypnotic rhythm, the sense of mystery and the way Tom Bennett painted ‘an incredible picture of an ordinary scene’ that caught the imaginations of voters and saw ‘Travelling Light’ as the IS&T Pick of the Month for June 2019. This was a poem you could go back to again and again.

Tom (23) studied English at Durham University for his undergraduate, before doing an MPhil in American Literature at Cambridge. He is currently teaching English in Spain and will start a PhD on Women and Maximalism in American literature this October.

Tom has asked that his £10 ‘prize’ be donated to Mermaids.


Travelling Light

A balloon scuds through the train
an ‘L’ it is or is it a ‘7’? Evasive
though its wake is empty of pursuit
and the door gives way courteously.

In the second carriage a class
of children who gorge hard on toffee,
their waddle the product of a tight-laced boot
their flannel shorts a competition of kites.

In the third two entangled amours
soak themselves in saccharine red wines,
and remark upon the odd anatomy of the other’s ear:
the softness where the cartilage should be.

A sharp halt rocks these realities,
leaving bags topsy-turvy and a glass in smithereens,
awakening a wizened conductor
clutching the one string of a balloon shaped ‘0’.


Voters’ comments included:

Evocative, thought provoking, an air of mystery about it.

I love the imagery and techniques that Tom evokes and uses fluently throughout, and these are scenes that I could identify with.

Tom manages to make this piece feel effortless despite its complexity. I really enjoyed reading.

Tom has the ability to make the reader relate to the content of his poems…. brilliance

Beautiful and clear imagery yet laconic language

A rich sensory journey!

A lovely narrative poem that leaves you a little lost, empty.

I thought it was clever, I liked the way sounds were played with.

I feel nostalgic for someone’s else’s past

Beautiful rhythm that rocks to the beat each carriage. More than a journey…

Evocative, thought provoking, an air of mystery about it.

I love the imagery and techniques that Tom evokes and uses fluently throughout, and these are scenes that I could identify with.

Tom Bennett’s ‘Travelling Light’ is disarmingly guileless. Though the poem’s title offers a vision of levity, its lines gather an increasing emotional weight. Its emotional depth is gained as a result of a careful sequencing of images rather than rhetorical embellishment: a contemplation over ‘an “L” it is or is it a “7”’, the ‘class | of children’, the ‘two entangled amours’. These passing moments come to exist for their own sake. And ‘Travelling Light’ captures the irreducible fragility of such moments: a fragility born more from an acute valuation of their particularity than their immediate transience. From the dangling ‘Evasive’ of the first stanza, eluded even by its own subject, to the arresting ‘sharp halt’ of the final lines, the poem extends a suspension of syntax. Accordingly, the challenge which ‘rocks these realities’ (a phrase steeped in modernist resonances) is a presence constantly felt, formally and conceptually; but this connection serves in fact to magnify the previous perceptions with their intrinsic value, not as isolated events in a passing journey but as a meaningful collective of human experience.

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‘Because’ from Clementine E. Burnley is our Pick of the Month for May 2019.

When sifting through all the comments on our shortlist for May’s Pick of the Month, in amongst the ‘beautifuls’, ‘powerfuls’, ‘movings’ and ‘evocatives’, one comment in particular stood out. In response to Clementine E. Burnley’s poem which looks at the injustice and indignity associated with deportation, someone had written ‘relevant to me’. And at that point, ‘Because’ became more than just a poem. It is therefore fitting in this chaotic time, when it feels like the wolves are at the door, that it is our Pick of the Month for May 2019.

Clementine is a mother, writer, and community worker. In 2018 she was published in the the Emma Press Second Place Rosette: Poems about Britain, loss lit magazine, and die Neue Rundschau. You can find her on twitter @decolonialheart.

Clementine has asked that her £10 ‘prize’ be donated to the Hackney Migrant Centre.




we have few means,
of dealing
with the night,
a door crashes open.
with a woman standing barefoot at the airport,
in pajamas and handcuffs
with isolated instances. Rogue police officers
have never been isolated,
or dealt with
in any systematic way.


Voters comments included:

A beautiful poem about deportation, an image we try to unsee but that needs to be shared again and again

It’s so graphic BECAUSE the few sentences remind me of so many shoeless differently clad women behind closed doors.

Good visual through writing . Punchy .

Love the topic, the expression of the author

Poignant imagery through few words

Democracy did neva stands for DEMON-stration the CRAZYness.

because of the airports ; )

Beautiful and timely

Because it moved me to tears.

It says, showing mostly, a lot in so few lines.


It’s poetic, tells an important story and doesn’t shy away from the brutal reality of the West.

Injustice on so many levels

Stark imagery, laid bare and stripped. Tells a whole story in few words. Beautiful!

…Her books, poets, short stories although fiction, takes the reader into a world of hidden reality where events and practices are not much talked about or recounted for the future generations to know about…

It deals with a very PERTINENT and CURRENT issue.

Brings an image of immigration in simple way

The theme is relatable worldwide.

Inspiring, original and soul searching writing!

Because it tells a powerful story in such a small space of justice and of looking beyond what we see to the truth.

Clementine’s Because will get my vote anytime. Because, this piece resonates with me. It reminds me. I don’t get that lately! I really hope it wins.

It’s simple and beautiful with a message that’s particularly relevant at this time.

Very well written and topical

It’s simply beautiful.

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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.


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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