December 2019’s Pick of the Month: Vote for Your Favourite Poem Now!

Our shortlist for December 2019’s #PickoftheMonth, the last of the decade, reflects the unease that has pervaded the year. Some poems have come from our #12DaysOf… Christmas feature but these are not scenes of comfort and joy. Santa’s ‘girls’ are striking back in ‘His Daughters’ by Joanne Key, Pippa Little looks to the past and the ‘Sparklen Bottle’ of her grandmother’s ‘winterdark house’ and we are falling into an unknown, dystopian future in John Greening‘s ‘At Christmas’? Mick Corrigan hints at a similar fate in ‘No more ordinary mornings’ and Matt Merritt‘s ‘Peninkulma’ also suggests an unknown threat. Perhaps the wry humour of Anita Goveas with ‘Titles of my autobiography I have discarded’ shows how to cope.

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 December 2019 Pick of the Month′ in the Categories list to your right on the screen.

Voting has now closed. December’s ‘Pick’ will be announced on Sunday 19th January.

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 All shortlisted poetry Picks, provided they remain unpublished and meet other eligibility criteria, will be considered as IS&T submissions for the annual Forward Prize for Best Single Poem.

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John Greening




At Christmas

All Easyjet flights
are cancelled – only
difficult journeys now.
Three in party hats
come dragging their presents
over a snowy car park.
A few attendants shepherd
them into a building:
the call to desert places.
Looking up for a moving
light or at Sky
News. Stasis over
the business empires.
A child has made an angel
by the automatic barrier
and a mother feeds her baby.
This breathtaking, breath-
making fall.



John Greening is a Cholmondeley, Bridport & TLS Prize winner, he’s published over fifteen collections, including in 2019 The Silence (Carcanet) and Europa’s Flight (New Walk). He is currently editing Iain Crichton Smith

Down times

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Pippa Little




Sparklen Bottle

Grandma’s sparklen
in the winterdark house where I grew up
loved me the best:
I pushed my nose up close
to see fireflies leap and sputter,
glow-worms climb
and fall in tiny squeezes,
flayed hearts of angels –
I know she whispered
so those wandering would come
curious, too close,
then with a swift oblique
twist she’d have them
in. I like to think
it wasn’t wishing
only but in the black mantle
of that house her sparklen
throbs still with hostage stars
and deep-sea phosphors,
tinsel glitterings of those
she couldn’t kill.

(‘sparklen’ Middle English: also ‘sparken’, to spark)

Pippa Little runs reflective writing workshops for students and is working on her third collection.

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Joanne Key




His Daughters

It wasn’t the life you’d imagine.
Most nights he’d be out,
on the sherry early doors.
Closing time, he’d come back and start.
Exploding over nothing,
he’d throw his tea at the wall,
smash the place up,
scatter elves like skittles.
He slept where he fell
and pissed himself.

We kept our heads down
and got on with the jobs.
There was nothing merry
about any of us.
Not dainty. Not delicate.
We were big girls,
built for the donkey work,
lugging boxes and sacks of toys
from the workshop by day,
nights in the loading bay.
More of a father to strangers,
he’d turn on us and say:
Who’d want you lot any way?
Ugly buggers.

Wild hair flying, clumsy,
we weren’t born for shining
or finery, couldn’t be trusted
with delicate mechanisms
or finishing touches,
but we knew hard labour
and every one of us could lift
a toddler’s weight in trains.
At the end of the day
there’s only so much you can take.

I’ll never forget his face that last time
he staggered in, Jack Frost in tow,
covered in snow, an abominable man,
brandishing a hammer.
I’ll give you bloody Christmas…
By then we’d all come of age –
girls that could turn
skipping ropes into snakes
with a flick of a wrist, each tail
a fist shaking a baby’s rattle.
A rage so great it woke an army
of sleeping dolls. Angel-faced,
they climbed down from the shelves –
all the beautiful daughters
he’d ever wished for,
marching towards him in their clumpy shoes.



Joanne Key won 2nd prize in the 2014 National Poetry Competition, and first prize in the 2018 Hippocrates Open Prize. She was the winner of the 2018 Mslexia Short Story Competition.

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Anita Goveas




Titles of my autobiography I have discarded

-Everything I know I learned from my mother
-Life changed the second time my sister went into hospital
-Shame is a social construct
-My first day at nursery, the teacher blushed when I described an aubergine
-While my parents argued, my sister made up potions to cure them and I wrote stories about lizards
-The things I learnt from my parents about a long-distance marriage
-My first memory is my sister coughing while she sang
-These are the stories handed down in my family
-When my sister couldn’t go to University, I became a doctor
-Summers in Mumbai, winters in Essex
-The first time I made daal, I burnt the spices
-I found out I was allergic to fruitcake at my wedding
-My nana taught me to make egg curry through Skype
-There are no pictures of my father in my parents’ house
-In Mumbai, there’s no concept of personal space
–Some stories don’t travel well between continents
-On my sister’s first day at primary school, the teacher laughed when she described an aubergine
-How do you find what you’re looking for if you don’t know what it is?
-You can’t buy saffron in Saffron Walden
-Mother said my first word was medicine
-My mother was an unreliable narrator





Anita Goveas is British-Asian, based in London, and fueled by strong coffee and paneer jalfrezi. She’s on the editorial team at Flashback Fiction, an editor at Mythic Picnic’s Twitter zine, and tweets erratically @coffeeandpaneer Links to her stories can be found at

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Matt Merritt





The precise distance at which
a dog’s bark dissolves
into nothing.

Much further, you might think,
in the snow-soft forests
of Scandinavia

than some dormitory suburb,
or a small town whose sleep
is still measured

by the hourly chime
of a steeple bell. But no.
Some nights, I’m startled awake

by the hack and grumble
of one or other hound
I thought I’d left behind.

Not close at hand,
but somewhere out, beyond,
and impossible to throw off the scent.



Matt Merritt is the author of three poetry collections and two natural history books, including The Elephant Tests  and A Sky Full Of Birds. He lives in Warwickshire.

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Mick Corrigan




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.



Mick Corrigan‘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.

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