Vote for your October 2019 Pick of the Month


National Poetry Day was all about Truth in October and poems, featured on that day and the week that followed, from Rachel Burns (‘Truth’), Linda Rose Parkes (‘A True Version) and Sharon Phillips (‘Something’s wrong’) have all deservedly made their way onto the IS&T #PickoftheMonth shortlist for that month.

But there is a truth in most literary works and we can add these from Helen Calcutt (‘A conversation with my daughter about my brother’s suicide), Miles Salter (‘Profuse’) and Jacob Silkstone (‘Night Train‘) without being said to stray too far from this essential theme.

All six of the shortlist have been chosen by Helen or Kate or received the most attention on social media. They can be found below or by clicking on ‘Vote for your October 2019 Pick of the Month′ in the Categories list to your right on the screen.

Voting is now closed.

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 All shortlisted poetry Picks, provided they remain unpublished and meet other eligibility criteria, will be considered as IS&T submissions for the annual Forward Prize for Best Single Poem.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



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Miles Salter





I have nothing to say about what happened. It’s been dealtwith. I’ve issued my apologies. Things didn’t turn out like I wanted: it was an accident, of course it was; the fish was being handled well. Esme gave me the money for the herring, she said to buy it for Bart. But, looking back, I should have been more fastidious, especially given the number of bags. More breathing, less speed. I must start meditating, perhaps that would induce better results? The shopping should have been less hurried. My mother was about to arrive. The house wasn’t clean. The duvet needed attention. I said I found the whole thing distressing. The herring landed in the paint, whereupon the kitten got involved. I was distracted. My neighbour was complaining about the mewing. It’s surprising how much noise a kitten can come up with. I know how upset Esme is. She’s made that very clear. I saw the email. I hope it wasn’t circulated. The kitten was a pedigree. Abyssinian. Spectacular ears. I should have put the lid on the paint. I’d been decorating that morning. Bit late for mother. Atomic tangerine. Perhaps the kitten found it alluring. Do cats respond to colour? They do watch television from time to time, I’ve been informed. Yes, he got paint on his whiskers. Thin rods with orange on. Clearly, if I’d been more careful, that would not have happened, you simply cannot let a pedigree cat near good quality paint. The herring fell in the pot, but I didn’t realise this until later. Esme has been, up until now, a good boss. She was very kind when I was off work, after Mother’s last visit, and even baked a cake, which was a little dry, but I appreciated the gesture. The kitten ate the herring, and the paint, then put paint marks on the floor, before choking, and vomiting, and one thing led to another. His body. The little pink mouth. Some sharp and tiny teeth. It was all most unfortunate. Esme was due to arrive three hours later. I know she’s off work now. I contributed to the flowers. I’ve seen the emails. I’ve issued my apologies. I’m making enquiries about that sort of cat. There’s somebody in Oxfordshire, apparently. The annual review is on Wednesday. Last year it went well. I haven’t spoken to Mother lately. I am beside myself. I did get rid of the smell. Yes, Bartholomew was a corker. The hall looks lovely. I’m so very sorry.




Miles Salter resides in York, and his creative output since 2003 has included music, poetry, event management and journalism. He likes Marmite, Philip Larkin and early Bruce Springsteen albums. He has lots of ambitions, usually involving microphones.  Website:

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Helen Calcutt




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.



Helen Calcutt 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:


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Jacob Silkstone




Night Train

It seems so long ago, now, that I took the night train across the border
aware only of the fury to flee anywhere,
the numb indifference towards the destination.
Does it matter to you where I started from?
Since then, every journey has seemed somehow
an extension of the first,
only my face in the window grows a little older,
the list of possible stops a little shorter,
a life spent always in motion, never sure
if I wanted to reach that one still point.
And in the blank black space beyond the window
nothing has really changed:
the rain still pastes its strange constellations
across the window’s map of the night sky.



Jacob Silkstone has worked as an Assistant Managing Editor for Asymptote and a Managing Editor for The Missing Slate (Pakistan) and has taught at international schools in Bangladesh and Norway. He is currently based in Bergen.

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Sharon Phillips




Something’s wrong

This is how it will start:
from the other side of a room
you’ll hear your mum talk, loud
but so fast you won’t be able

to follow and she will see
you’re looking so she’ll come
over and pull you aside.

Listen to me, she will say,
I’ve got something to tell you,
and you will think of cancer—
breast, perhaps, or womb—

but her eyes will be wide open,
and her teeth will shine with spit
and she’ll pant a little laugh

before she tells you that she is
the Holy Ghost and you will
stare at the flakes of mascara
beneath her lashes before you

turn your back. Years later
you will feel her strong fingers
clutching at your bicep.



Sharon Phillips started learning to write poems a few years ago, after she retired from her career in education. Her poems have been published online and in print, and have been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize (2017), the Indigo Firsts pamphlet competition (2018) and the WoLF Poetry Competition (2019). Sharon won the Borderlines Poetry Competition in 2017 and was among the winners of the Poetry Society Members’ Competition in November 2018. She lives in Otley, West Yorkshire.

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Linda Rose Parkes




A True Version

honest to god
i can’t bear
to look at myself
in the mirror

i stalk her she’s my new poem in her fitted coat and high heels on the number 10 bus         put bars on the lines

last night
i told him
Megan’s seeing
a married guy

in the morning she’ll wake to cadence and pauses    rhythms of wingbeat flocking the page

that’s good
he says
if it
her happy

she’ll soon forget her passionless marriage when i leave her here for others to find

then i say so you
don’t mind
if i start fucking

let’s hope they bring food    let’s trust they bring fresh hope   that she isn’t alone in this fortress i’ve built her

that’s how low
we’ve sunk

i hear calling in my sleep     she wants to go home    she wants her own grievance    

i can’t
to see
these days

she wants the truth of her own shadow 

Linda Rose Parkes lives in the Channel Islands and has published four collections, the latest, This Close, was launched last winter. She continues to run poetry workshops and is also a painter.

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Rachel Burns




The defendant’s elderly mother tells you
she can’t hear very well.

You listen to the graphic descriptions
of the child images her son viewed on his computer

like a punch in the stomach.
You have children, you are a mother.

His mother’s face twists as if she is sucking
on a lemon. She clutches her handbag

straining to hear the barrister
as he discusses each count

and the custodial guidelines.
You listen to the judge’s

summing up, thinking about
how you will avoid the truth

how you will skirt over the facts
if she asks. For you know

his mother probably hears more than she lets on
selective hearing makes the truth

that much easier to swallow.



Rachel Burns has poetry published in Crannog, Poetry Salzburg Review, Algebra of Owls and is anthologized in Poems for Grenfell Tower, Poems for the NHS and #MeToo. She has a poetry pamphlet forthcoming with Vane Women Press.

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