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 All shortlisted poetry Picks, provided they remain unpublished and meet other eligibility criteria, will be considered as IS&T submissions for the annual Forward Prize for Best Single Poem.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

Read More

Stephen Lightbown






I watch another sci-film.
Deep space travel is a thing.
The wheelchairs still look like
they were bought in 1982.


We are all the same.
The greatest lie ever sold.
It is funny how different being different
can be.


It is estimated 132,000,000 people
world-wide need a wheelchair,
but over 1,000,000 lack funds
to buy one.

So much is inaccessible. I am thankful
I have access
to the one thing I need.


Stand up and be counted. Stand up
for your rights. Stand with me. So many
bystanders. Double standards. Outstanding
dear boy. Standoff. Standout. Standby.

I cannot stand. I do not understand.


Wheelchair user is not an addiction.
A drug I can live without.
It is all I know.



Stephen Lightbown is a Bristol based, Blackburn born poet. He writes extensively but not exclusively about life as a wheelchair user. In 2019 his first poetry collection, Only Air, was published by Burning Eye Books and his website is

Read More

Gemma Harland





You have stolen my ears and filled my mouth with ash.
My hands and feet are your servants running errands
through shifting labyrinths, according to your whim.

On every cell of my body your name is stamped.
You have buried my feelings in an unmarked grave
beneath the tower. Even the dead don’t go there.



Gemma Harland is a writer and artist who lives with her wonderful, crazy family in West Yorkshire. Her poems have appeared in several publications and she is currently working on a pamphlet, to be called Scorpions in the Sugar.

Read More

Alex Josephy





Take thistledown, hold it in the bowl
of your palms. Feel it tingle
like Spumante.

No, it can’t mend your heart,
but it will float you to the surface
of your skin.

A cure for that dull ache
under the ribs, that beats each time
you long for your child

across the ocean? Find a river
or a canal. Worn stone steps are best,
down to the towpath.

Let your eyes ride a kingfisher’s
quick shot of blue, borrow
a moorhen’s buoyancy;

how easily they dive, come up
somewhere unexpected, sleeved
in a twist of air.



Alex Josephy‘s collection White Roads was published by Paekakariki Press (2018). Other Blackbirds (2016) is a Cinnamon Press pamphlet. Her poems appear in magazines and anthologies in England and Italy; find out more at

Read More

Emma Baines


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.



Emma Baines 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


Read More

Michéle Beck





I can remember raw eggs sat sweating in cups
dried scabs splitting into islands,
as we banged together our knees under the table
He was the older one but I the fiercer
Holes kicked through cheap chipboard, the door’s
tantrum-keepsakes. Spooning egg-spawn into
our guarded mouths, our stepdad’s shadow
watching that we taste every bite.
That same shadow which forced mum’s head down
the toilet, the shadow whose sister (“Auntie”
Jane with the red perm) made us eat vomit
from the wall and, whose younger brother
made me do something secret that time he babysat.
Families come in all shapes and sizes, they grow up.
My adult body burns, bearing two scars, barely visible.



Michéle Beck grew up and lives in Doncaster. She works as a Project Coordinator for Right up Our Street and is a creative writing facilitator.

Read More

Matthew Friday




3 Swans Arrive in Prague

They arrive clothed in April keenness, three
Valkyries, a cloudy V made for smaller birds.
They fly across the face of the National Theatre:
golden spikes, a winged charioteer and reeling

horses, frozen in jealous bronze. Bobbing heavy
on the possibility they’re too big to be airborne.
The three Snow White travelers line up
over the Vltava river, but exhausted currents

tug them, a drunken line, between sights
of the Castle, the Old Town, centuries of migration,
unchanging instinct. They lower and pass over
Charles Bridge, ignoring lucky statues, bands,

artists, beggars, hawkers, two dogs arguing.
Wings folding down, an impossibly controlled
curve that looks like crash landing in trees.
Instead a perfect landing on the river, home.



Matthew Friday is a writer, professional storyteller and primary school teacher. By all means check out the results at:

Read More