Your October 2020 Pick of the Month is ‘Here Come the Crows’ by Amy Rafferty

An overwhelming response to our October Pick of the Month vote sees Amy Rafferty’s ‘Here Come the Crows’ as the ultimate winner.  This beautiful, moving ‘ethereal and yet beautifully observed’ poem both spoke to the times we are living in and was timeless, captured a West Glasgow moment but explored the universality of sleeplessness.

Amy is a writer, photographer and musician based in Glasgow. Her writing has been published in Magma, Envoi, the Interpreter’s House and From Glasgow to Saturn.


Here Come the Crows

I drew a sudden dark line under it all.
and with the fulsome flourish of a full stop dot.
Knowing that this was not what I wanted:
the rows of chimney pots, red-rouged and boring
in the dreich, mossed and encroaching in sombre lines.
The antennae and the satellite dish,
mournful and grey faced,
desperate to spill the beans of bad news and scandal.

I ignored it all, and ploughed on regardless,
watching the neighbours’ windows for inspiration,
waiting for the curtains to rise or the blinds to roll,
a patchwork of frosted tiles diminishing as sun rises behind buildings,
the shadow of the cloistered tower sliding slowly down the roof.

And with these words you now have the tools to orient yourself within the poem,
to settle down with a cup of tea,
and wait for the tropes to arrive, uninvited and well worn;
here come the magpies,
here come the crows,
that speak of dead fathers and family heroes
The seagulls, who glide and circle through the ghost smoke,
heralding rain,
the offspring of the offspring of the offspring
of those before them, who bore witness to my childhood days
and my insomnia, staring into the endless grey window of mornings.



Other voters’ comments included:

Absolutely magical. Gave me goosebumps 

I vote for this as it has beautiful imagery of my own neighbourhood as I read I can almost hear The Blue Nike play in the background 💙 

I love the way the scene is set for the inspiration to arrive. It seems to glide in effortlessly. 

The unusual metre, imagery and narrative work together to build a hugely evocative poem 

c’est très bien. j’aime l’imagination.

Because it made me cry and reminded me of my late gran. Because it is beautiful. 

As an insomniac, Amy’s poem resonates with me for so many reasons…I got lost in the language and reminisced on many of my own sleepless nights, both past and more current. 

There is a dark unsettling beauty in her words. A cinematic view of an innocuous moment in time. 

It was very moving with beautiful touches of humour…unusual clever use of language too 

I find this piece profound yet familiar. 

Wee Amy’s poem is beautiful and full of emotion mixed with gentle humour..poignant and wonderful use of dialect. Deserves full recognition. 

I love its urban melancholy, its deft meter and birds-eye mournfulness of environment, the astute reminder of life’s reincarnated repetitiveness. 

A beautiful, sad, dystopian poem for today, with just a nod of wry humour and self-knowledge. 

I love the Valkyrie drama and double meaning of the ‘Here come the crows section’. The ‘ghost smoke’ is a wonderfully evocative phrase, and I am lead into a rich mental landscape. 

I got goosebumps, my body never lies.

A powerful poem, filled full of imagery which enables us to connect, relate and query what is unfolding within strongly structured line breaks and a captivating pace. 

It invokes a feeling and imagery that few pieces of prose have managed in my adult life. Left me feeling haunted, elated and, oddly curious. 

liked the rhythm as I read it, and the use of colours/shades to set the moods.

Use of language incorporating Scottish words. Drew a picture of the West End of Glasgow skyline, conveyed the emotion and mood powerfully. 

Depicts life viewed from a tenement window in these times. Initial anxiety soothed by a cuppa…and breathe. 

Breaks the fourth wall, and brings us into the poem in a very fresh way 

There was a lot to entice the reader across a few of these poems but ‘Here Comes the Crows’ had a jangling sense of the timeless and dehumanising quality of sleeplessness, which gave the poem real character. 

It speaks of the moment. We’re all locked down, looking out of the window, searching for inspiration in dark days, and remembering. 

Perfectly ‘Dreich’. 

Not an easy choice as they’re all good, but I like to ‘hear’ poems in a live setting and so each one got recited, first in my head and then out loud. This one I can hear out loud. That’s it. 

I love the specific physicality of the poet’s view through her windows, the mood that establishes, juxtaposed with the ghostly birds, bearing witness. And how the generations of birds suggest a timeline going eternally into the past and the future. 

This is a very clever poem, with its post-modern consciousness of being a poem. But it’s also very atmospheric, with its evocative descriptions of urban landscape. Most of all, it’s touching. We’ve all had those melancholy moments and it sums them up brilliantly. 

There’s a real power in the images here, along with a sense of meta-poetic examination (the bird tropes! we’ve all written them). Whether or not it ‘speaks to’ our present moment of lockdown intentionally or not, it resonates… 



Read More

The final pick of the Month for 2019 is ‘No more ordinary mornings’ by Mick Corrigan

For December’s  Pick of the Month, the future and the state of our planet knocked everything else into touch – even the fine slant of our 12 Days of Christmas shortlisted poems – and Mick Corrigan‘s ‘No more ordinary mornings’ emerged as the final IS&T Pick for 2019 and, fittingly, for the decade. This ‘brilliant’ poem resonated because many voters felt it was true. Or would be.

Mick‘s debut, Deep Fried Unicorn, was released in to the wild in 2015. His poems have been nominated for The Pushcart Prize (USA) and The Forward Poetry Prize (UK). He is currently completing his second collection Life Coaching for Gargoyles which, when finished, will be launched like a clown from a cannon.  He spends his time as though he has an endless supply of it, between Ireland and the island of Crete. He plans to do wild and reckless things with his hair before it’s too late.


No more ordinary mornings

There are no more ordinary mornings
when Greenland comes pouring through your letterbox
and the chickens have stopped giving milk,
when you don’t have to go to the sea anymore
as the sea is now coming to you.

There are no more ordinary mornings
when anger clouds like ink in water
and the cure seems worse than the disease
to those who should know better but don’t.

There are no more ordinary mornings
when the rain dark clay of March
refuses the spade and turns its face away,
when the dusty bed where a fertile river ran
is home now to nothing but the rushing diarrhoea
of blogging, vlogging and reality tv.

There are no more ordinary mornings
when the last days of summer
are the last days of summer ever,
when undertakers mutter about
how that was a very popular glacier,
how it’s bound to be a very big funeral
how a very large casket will be needed
for all the thoughts and prayers.


Voters comments included:

It may seem odd, the idea of poetry making something real, but that’s what happens here, making climate change real because it’s mundane.

It resonates so well with the times we live in

This is a ‘wake-up’ poem, its sincerity written in simple language. I love the ideas and the scary notion of  ‘No more ordinary mornings’.

Mick’s use of imagery and clever wordplay sways my vote.

Mick Corrigan has been a wordsmith and voice for some time now roun’ & roun’ the block on both sides of the pond. Foresight in technicolor and 2020 hindsight fitting of this starboard listing ship of fools, friends, and countrymen.

Touched a nerve

Because, there are no more ordinary mornings.

Bleedin’ fabulous

Enjoyed immensely!

Read More

And the IS&T Pick of the Month for November 2019 is Elisabeth Sennitt Clough’s ‘Ague’

It was oh so close with only a few votes between the top group of poems but Elisabeth Sennitt Clough’s ‘Ague’ emerged from the fog to be the IS&T Pick of the Month for November 2019. This intense, ‘evocative and darkly mysterious’ poem brought out all sorts of emotions in our voters, reducing some to tears and others to wonder.

Elisabeth is an alumna of the Arvon/Jerwood Mentorship scheme 2016 and Toast Poets 2017. She was also a Ledbury Emerging Poet 2017. Her debut pamphlet, Glass, was a winner in the Paper Swans inaugural pamphlet competition in 2016. It went on to win Best Pamphlet at the Saboteur Awards 2017. Sightings, was published by Pindrop Press (2016.) and won the Michael Schmidt Prize for Best Portfolio. A poem from that collection was highly commended in the Forward Prize and published in the Forward Book of Poetry 2018. Her second full collection At or Below Sea Level is a PBS Recommendation. Elisabeth is editor of the Fenland Poetry Journal.



When it comes, it will scratch away the surface
of Fen, release the secrets of our soil.

It will sing its lullaby over a girl’s bones
at the bottom of a village well.

Its tongue will rouse small forms
to hatch in the eyes of a dying mare.

It will dry its claws along her dorsal stripe.
For my father, it will lay bare the hemlock.



Voters’ comments included:

[This gets my vote] because of the way the poet captures the poignancy of the moments and places shared. Because the talk of forgetting happens and there is too much to forget and there is a wonderful reality in all the things that are not forgotten that makes the reader pause and remember their own.

It is thought provoking and evocative. It says a lot in a succinct way.

Wonderful, powerful and subtle all at once.

I think she is a amazing writer with such depth and clarity

Such a talented poet and I enjoy her work immensely.

This poem conveys an intense sensuality and malaise which is embodied in the landscape. A feeling of movement contrasts with its tight form.

Beautiful imagery

This poet is one of my favourites!

I love the darkness of the poem, and the secrets of the Fen

Elisabeth captures the aura of the Fen so vividly


Read More

‘A conversation with my daughter about my brother’s suicide’ by Helen Calcutt is the IS&T October 2019 Pick of the Month


It is fitting that Helen Calcutt‘s ‘A conversation with my daughter about my brother’s suicide’ is the Ink Sweat & Tears Pick of the Month for October 2019. The theme of National Poetry Day in October was Truth and what can be more truthful, more honest than explaining to a child about the suicide of someone close? And then to write something so painful and so raw that also offers hope? As one voter put it: ‘Broke my heart. Then restarted it.’

Helen is the author of two books of poetry, Sudden rainfall (Perdika, 2014) a PBS Choice, and Unable Mother published by V.Press in September 2018. Her writing is published internationally, including award-winning essays and reviews for The Wales Arts Review, The Brooklyn Review, The London Review, Poetry Scotland and Boundless. She is creator and editor of Eighty-Four a poetry anthology on the subject of male suicide. Website:


A conversation with my daughter about my brother’s suicide

She is awake.

The moon is bright and the clouds have parted.
The trees are painted trees, living a still life.

She tells me my brother is in the moon.
I’ve bathed her, given her milk
and as I fold the sheets from her knees

to her lap, she asks me how he died.
‘He was very sad’ I say
and she seems to understand.

She rubs the milk away from her lips with her hands
as if the moon had kissed her
and then asks why.

I try to explain.
‘Sadness can make you very tired.
It can make you want to sleep.

It can make you want to close your eyes on everything.’

Her hands are like two leaves
resting on the bedcovers. She asks me if I miss him
and when I say I do

her eyes go big and round
and she asks me again, how he died
if the sadness of missing him

will make me die.

I hold her then, I accept
the weight of her. I can feel her widening like the stillness of a tree –

my child, coming into a still life…

Then we talk about the moon being
the shape of an egg, upside down.
We watch branches touch on drifting clouds
and agree – we want to see everything.

We stay up half the night finding patterns on the walls.
Different kinds of windows.





Other voters’ comments included:

Given the devastating statistics of male suicide this is one of those poems that pushes through the poetry landscape as a signpost to show people where suicide takes those left behind. It is so personal and brave that it takes the breath away but comforts, disturbs and educates like poetry should. It is a timeless poem like Frieda Hughes poem also about her brother Nicholas’ suicide. Beautiful

A painfully, beautiful and brave poem. I’m voting not for the subject matter alone, but for the quality of the poem, which is up to the task.

An honest, brave poem that tackles a very difficult subject

Unbelievably sad and hopeful in equal measure.

A beautiful piece. The pain, honesty and love found in this poem is captivating.

Heartfelt words. Moments shared between mother & daughter. As a parent how can you explain death, particularly suicide, to a child?! This poem addresses that precious shared time as death affects us all – beautifully yet so clearly written.

tough subject handled beautifully. ..such delicacy…and the charming innocence of her child…the deceptive simplicity and wonderful leafy images. An open window of a poem despite the sorrow of loss etc

Such a sad tale told beautifully

A poignant and sensitive piece evoking the aching resonance of grief yet offering a glimpse of a stronger future. Beautiful!

Deeply moving to read. So perfectly crafted, that the craft is practically invisible – which is quite something to do when the subject matter is so painful to the poet. Not a trace of self indulgence – which unfortunately can affect so many poems of this deeply personal nature. Really up there as a genuinely great poem – one that will last.

If ‘truth’ were a poem, this is it.

It’s uncompromising, quiet power, its raw, intimate poignancy. She speaks of a motherhood I feel know, though I’ve never experienced what she has. The poem leads me to believe I have.

It’s a brave, beautiful, painful, but ultimately hopeful poem,and speaks with a clear, true voice.

Suicide being very close and personal to a lot of people hearts is still very unspoken about. This poem perfectly uses imagery to evoke the emotions surrounding this. It also depicts family, and the effect on small children, how do you explain suicide to young ones? This poem is fragile, yet strong. Sad, yet hopeful. But most importantly, truthful. When you read the poem it feels like it’s coming straight from the heart of truth and for me that is amazingly vulnerable.

The dynamic between mother and daughter over a painful subject is skillfully handled, the tension built and overcome together.

The tenderness and bravery of this poem is inspirational, it leaves an impression long after it has been read.




Read More

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.

Read More

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.


Read More

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


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

Read More