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 All shortlisted poetry Picks, provided they remain unpublished and meet other eligibility criteria, will be considered as IS&T submissions for the annual Forward Prize for Best Single Poem.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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Natalie Shaw




Night punting to standstill

We could see nothing
Except the fizz
Of our cigarettes

We did not know
Where the edge of the water
Met the boat, or bank

Our eyes were shut
Or not, we couldn’t
Tell, and anyway

We didn’t care
We had no coins
We were going

Nowhere; we trailed
Our fingers through
The plashy Cam

We pushed ourselves
Through the night
And it was heaven



Natalie Shaw lives and works in London. She has a kind husband and children of varying sizes. Her poetry has been published widely in journals and anthologies and she is currently editing a book of poems inspired by artist Natalie Sirett’s Medusa & Her Sisters series of drawings.

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Anna Saunders




Night Crawler

What a smashed glass heavens
for her glossy body to break out into.

Her corrugate, limb slithers
her head emerges from black like Orpheus,
leaving her tail – like Persephone, below.

You call her yeth worm, lob
night crawler, the intestines of the earth
a slithering nullities,

you say that her love is just a slippery coupling
of two coiled crescents, slick against each other
oily links on a chain.

Don’t you know she turns the earth for you,
lets in air, angels?

The stars are too bright,
the earth is warm.

Down she goes to eat the dark
hand maiden of hades, swallowing stones
like hard, grey truth.




Anna Saunders is the author of Communion, (Wild Conversations Press), Struck, (Pindrop Press) Kissing the She Bear, (Wild Conversations Press), Burne Jones and the Fox ( Indigo Dreams) and Ghosting for Beginners ( Indigo Dreams, Spring 2018). Anna has had poems published in journals and anthologies, which include Ambit, The North, New Walk Magazine, Amaryllis, Iota, Caduceus, Envoi, The Wenlock Anthology, Eyeflash, and The Museum of Light. Anna is the CEO and founder of Cheltenham Poetry Festival.

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For World Poetry Day: Geoffrey Heptonstall




from Shakespeare Variations

The Mistress of Cawdor

Her determined hand feels the stones.
Their strength is in the coldness,
or so she has learned from life.
She has sought the life of stones
with walls to defend her ambition.
From the castle keep the view is long,
as wide as the world itself,
or so it may seem at sunrise.

Early she wakes to seize the time.
Someone will die today
within sight of the crown.
Even now the echo is a scream,
clearly heard, like the wind
that stirs the trees to move closer.




Geoffrey Heptonstall is a poetry reviewer for The London Magazine, and writes regular commentaries on politics and culture for Open Democracy. Recent creative work includes work with several fringe theatre companies, as well as a regular stock of poetry, fiction and essays.

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Word & Image by Helen Pletts and Romit Berger





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.




Words by Helen Pletts ( ) whose two collections, Bottle bank and For the chiding dove, are 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). Also published in Aesthetica, Orbis, The Fenland Reed. Working collaboratively on Word and Image (published exclusively by with Romit Berger, illustrator, since 2012. Helen’s poetry was longlisted for The Rialto Nature and Place Competition 2018 and shortlisted for the Bridport Poetry Prize in 2018.

Image by Romit Berger who says  “I am a graphic designer. I met my very dear friend, Helen Pletts, in Prague, several years ago. Helen’s inspiration has led my graphic design career into that magical realm which combines illustration and poetry, and our creative wings continue to connect our souls through time and distance.”




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Thomas Irvine




[Beard of Bees]

somewhere beneath       my jaw hides a queen sleeping her tender           buzz     hums     keep me awake I          buzz     pull out her children inspect their bodies          plump and still wings    gossamer thin I             buzz                 pluck them out too split forewing           from membrane my fingers chitin-sticky with     buzz     blood and honey I find shirts covered in buzz     dead bodies in my textbook

bowls of           buzz     soup my girl’s face as she looks up at me           sometimes just simple on my finger’s edge to     buzz    be inspired into flight sometimes replaced by thinner skins             white glossed or red                  buzz                 coated              buzz     others leave a    pale grave a        fleshy reminder a bald trench an open    buzz    gutter I will continue to massacre          buzz                 until I reach      the sleeping queen        wake    buzz     her       buzz                 up debuzzthrone           buzz her            buzzbuzz           pull her           buzz     out       and        buzzbanish       momentarily

quieting that                  forever-






Thomas Irvine is currently a student of the UEA Creative Writing Poetry MA but lives in Hertfordshire where he co-runs a spoken-word evening, ‘Shout or Whisper’. His poetry has previously been featured in The New Luciad and Miles To Go, and his twitter handle is @thomaseirvine1

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Chin Li




A long-distance voice     

That was the last time he called me
by my name. His voice low, rather hoarse.
Here and there, he paused; his speech
slow, affecting a sadness I wasn’t to know.
Long-distance call. Not unexpected. The usual.
When will you come and visit? (I’d no plan to go.)
Where you are ― is it not cold?

The voice, hesitant, disembodied, but I could
see his wrinkled face before my eyes.
I was all ears, straining over thousands of miles
of under-ocean fibre-optic lines, as if he was just
sitting across from me, chatting awhile. A voice
so familiar; a voice that told me what to cook and
how to cook it; a voice that talked about cousins
I didn’t know, whose name my mind couldn’t hold;
a voice of being old.

The next time I saw him, he didn’t see me.
His eyes moved, but his mind couldn’t;
his body was there, but he wasn’t;
he still made noises, but no voice.
I sat beside his bed, holding his hand, trying
to keep him in my mind, trying to bargain with time.

The last time he called me by my name, his voice was
low and slow ― nothing much said, nothing significant.
That was the last time he called me, long-distance.



Chin Li, brought up in Hong Kong but now living in Scotland, has published work in Confluence, Glasgow Review of Books, Gnommero, Gutter, Ink Sweat & Tears, Litro and MAP, and has turned some writings into audio/performance pieces.

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