Vote for your Pick of the Month for May 2019

Sometimes you just need to make a stand and in many ways that is what we are seeing from our shortlisted poets for May’s Pick of the Month. Tristan Moss’s hero in ‘Origins’ is all about [holding] the origin of all things/above her wish to have them…’ Clementine E. Burnley‘s ‘Because’ demands that we take notice of  ‘… a woman standing barefoot at the airport,/in pajamas and handcuffs’ and so much more.

‘Cerebellum (a secular prayer to the vacuum)’ by Matt Nicholson, is lighter in tone but no less importunate – ‘teach me to be emancipated,/to be satisfied…’ Avril Joy‘s ‘Aztec Love Song for Uprooted Flowers’ is dedicated to women in prison ‘buds unopened, roses full-blown/discarded, trampled on…’ while Harriet Jae, in her ‘Bid for Freedom’ seeks to ‘outleap these bounds in outlaw song.’ Perhaps only Mhairi Owens in her dark and haunting ‘Hippocampus’ bows to the inevitable: ‘But that’s something that lives where light doesn’t./It appears in the deceptive netting/of its own flesh…’ Or does she?

Whatever your choice – and all can be found below or by clicking on ‘Vote for your May 2019 Pick of the Month′ in the Categories list to your right on the screen – these works will not leave you.

Voting has now closed. The winner will be announced on Thursday 27th June at 4pm BST.

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 All shortlisted poetry Picks, provided they remain unpublished and meet other eligibility criteria, will be considered as IS&T submissions for the annual Forward Prize for Best Single Poem.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





At Corryvreckan, there’s an arm
that reaches from a dark sea pit
towards the strait’s surface.
There it catches tides and throws them back,
forcing surf that swallows itself
in perpetual circles,
spewing waves that break
where they swell, like forebodings.
Maybe they are, I don’t know.

Perhaps it’s the Cailleach
washing her giant plaid in public.
There’s a case to be made
for getting mythological about these things,
for supposing this is the kind of place
that might have spawned the nuckelavee.
Maybe it is, I don’t know.

But that’s something that lives where light doesn’t.
It appears in the deceptive netting
of its own flesh, its skin
being entirely flayed, a dark kelp-fankle
of sinews and black blood in warted veins.
Its lower body’s a warped horse
with razor-finned legs
and hooves that could crush counties. It’s said

it feeds on dreadful rationalities.
Maybe it does. I don’t know.



Mhairi Owens is a community worker, poetry tutor and online Scots Editor of The Scores. Her poems have appeared or are pending in various anthologies and journals, including the Glasgow Review of Books and The Rialto.


Note: Cailleach | giant creator hag; nuckelavee | Orcadian sea-horse monster.

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Matt Nicholson




Cerebellum (a secular prayer to the vacuum)

Teach me to draw,
to poach eggs,
to bring a streak-free shine
to every mirror in the house.

Teach me to swim,
bare, beneath the rush-hour bridge,
to dive down to the cloying river bed
where all the discarded pistols lie.

And, if there is time,
on any given Sunday,
teach me to be emancipated,
to be satisfied,
like Einstein in a garden shed.



Matt Nicholson is a writer and performer from the East Riding of Yorkshire and his first two poetry collections were published by Kings England Press. He is currently writing a third collection for publication in 2020 by Yaffle Press.

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Avril Joy




Aztec Love Song for Uprooted Flowers

I carry them to your house on my back,
uprooted flowers.
I am bent double with the weight of them,
of women torn from the soil, their roots mud
stem and sepal crushed
I carry them. I carry their scent, the scent of ash
and blood in my blood.
Bent double with the weight of their fragility,
buds unopened, roses full-blown
discarded, trampled on
I carry them.

Their flower faces sit: geranium,
harebell, meadow-sweet,
in my classroom in this prison,
foliage fluttering in the breeze
from the barely open window
I carry the leaf of them,

bent double with the weight
of what we do to them,
how we punish and incarcerate
condemn to iron fallen blossom, uprooted
flowers I carry them
on my back, to your house.

Avril Joy is currently writing a sequence of poems about her time working in a women’s prison. One of these ‘prison’ poems, Skomm, won the 2019 York Mix poetry competition. Find out more at

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Tristan Moss





She would not have the mini bag
of Haribo, even though she loves them,
because they had been handed out
in her classroom for the birthday
of a boy she did not like.
She’s going to hold grudges
which eventually will hurt her,

or hold the origin of all things
above her wish to have them:
the type of person we will need
if the world is to be saved.



Tristan Moss lives in York with his partner and two young children. He has recently had poems published in The Poetry Shed, Antiphon, Ink Sweat & Tears, Snakeskin, Amaryllis, Lighten Up Online, Open Mouse, Picaroon Poetry and Algebra of Owls.

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Harriet Jae




Bid for Freedom

If I could gain the freedom of my mind,
my God! I’d map its streets out like a town
and then explore those alleyways that wind
that never could be charted or pinned down.
I’d race full tilt to scale its highest towers
then leaping off I’d strut about in state,
I’d whirl around its carousels for hours
then lie down in its grass, stare up to space.
But my mind’s strange ground, I don’t possess the key.
I’m neither honoured guest, nor citizen.
My cramped thoughts never did yet wander free;
this citadel’s their prison. Pity them.
And listen – then I’ll not stay penned in long,
for I’ll outleap these bounds in outlaw song.



In 2016, Harriet Jae emigrated to Ghent, Belgium, where she is studying Dutch and recovering from a long illness. Previously she worked with refugees and as editor of a national refugee agency’s magazine. Published in The Ofi Press; long-listed for the Plough Prize in 2017.



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Clementine E. Burnley





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.



Clementine E. Burnley is a mother, writer, and community worker. In 2018 she was published in Emma Press Anthology of Britain, loss lit  magazine, and die Neue Rundschau. You can find her on twitter @decolonialheart

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