And your Pick of the Month for June 2020 is ‘Tell me’ by Finola Scott


Hope springs eternal… and goes, in part, towards Finola Scott’s ‘Tell me’ emerging as Ink Sweat & Tears’ Pick of the Month for June 2020. ‘Stunning’, ‘beautiful’ and ‘wonderful’ were only a few of the adjectives it engendered and voters also praised the poem’s craft, intelligence, language, concision and subtlety.

Finola‘s poems are published by New Writing Scotland, Lighthouse, Fenland Reed and Gutter among others. In lock-down she feels landlocked and sighs for shores. Makar of the Federation of Writers, her pamphlet, Much Left Unsaid is published by Red Squirrel Press.

Finola has asked that her £30 ‘prize’ be donated to Action Aid.


Tell me

again in this ragged midnight
that intimacy will endure
waters aren’t rising and tomorrow
the fritillary butterfly will graze my garden

tell me that passion is not merely nocturnal
but a tsunami of connection    no stormy tea-cup but
the measured procession of those ants
round that tree following the one true scent

tell me that risk is worth it
the woods are indeed dark and
there are promises




Other voters’ comments included:

Tell me that risk is worth it .. that there are promises. Such a poem of hope in dark days.

I am very fond of poems that riff on established work to good effect and this succinct, concise, precise poem makes brilliant use of Frost’s poem.

The language of love translated to descriptions of weather – avoids cliché. The possibility of it surviving in spite of all the dangers, perfect.

It feels both intensely personal and at the same time universal.

Simply stunning!

For the beautiful imagery and emotions conveyed in her poem, Finola gets my vote…

It spoke to me, I could taste every word.

Finola is a wonderful poet. I feel, as a woman who has brought up children alone and only just getting back to creative self discovery, it is deeply inspirational and joyous to watch a talented poet who is a wee bit older (nae offence) find their brave lyrical feet.

I love the message of hope and continuance

The poem just hits you between the eyes I felt it took my breath away I felt every word written

‘ragged midnight’ – BEAUTIFUL

Finola’s poem is wonderful. It draws the reader into its mystery with well crafted lines that show true talent and intuition. The imagery is so rich and the pace and rhythm of the poem is perfectly balanced and fine tuned.

Memorable and accomplished.

A stunning poem, so concise in its language yet wonderfully expansive in its reading.

It’s intimacy and concision speaks directly to the experiences we share.

I love the images created. The repetition of ‘tell me’ indicating the need to hear that indeed life will get better and we should take risks.

In these dark times we need a bit of hope. Beautifully crafted and sensual use of imagery

It’s a beautiful poem, surprising in its imagery whilst being utterly and recognisably true.

Finola’s work is always beautifully constructed and tells stories that we all need to hear.

my reason = ‘tell me that risk is worth it’

the subtlety of purpose in its language

It’s a beautiful poem that captures what living in lockdown in Scotland feels like right now

A reflection of a glimmer of hope in a time of dark uncertainty

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Mary Ford Neal is the IS&T Pick of the Month poet for May 2020

One of our voters when asked ‘Tell us why this gets your vote’ after selecting Mary Ford Neal’s poem simply replied ‘Jane’ and that really sums up this poem of the same name being chosen as May 2020’s Pick of the Month.

We all know Janes; we might be a little in awe of them but we love them as well. And they are the kind of people that we need in the health and social crises that we are currently going through.

Mary lives in the West of Scotland and is an academic based at the University of Strathclyde. Main themes in her poetry include the physicality of emotion, sacredness (in all its forms), and the intersubjectivity of human life. She has asked that her £30 prize be donated to the Beatson Cancer Charity.



Jane shapes the town to herself. Of the spire, the pond,
the iron bridge and the bandstand,
she is undoubted queen.

She cooks and eats, she feeds and clothes the world,
folding bodies and souls into comfortable communion.
She is a ladle, stirring.

She brings back treasures from sun-hardened places,
gives them up to the damp fingers of grass-stained children.
She is a shell haircomb.

She plays cards, quickly. She smells of cocoa powder or of lilac
and vaporises priests with a raised eyebrow.
She is a raised eyebrow.

She hardly writes at all, but when she does
the lines she makes go through to the pages underneath.

She fixes herself to the spot; she pitches tents for the lost. Are you lost?
She is a compass, pointing.

And then she moves away.

She moves away in all her beauty, in all her how-dare-yous.
She moves away in all her certainty, her life its own eloquence.
She moves away in all the crimson of our still-warm love for her.



Voters comments included:

There is a real blend of ethereal mystery but real power and physicality mixed in this – especially the first image of the ladle. That is one I think I will come back to and by voting it and leaving this comment, it will help fix the source in my mind

The vivid imagery and rhythm brings the character so strongly to life. I was moved to tears the first time I read it.

It is a moving and thought provoking poem

Lovely poem with great imagery.

The personification of place draws out aspects of self in a surprising way!

Astute yet approachable

Strong imagery, relatable, best of the bunch

Love the characterisation. Drawn into the narrative.


It was usefully described as “formidable” – I agree! 

‘Jane’ reminds me of the women in my family.

I really enjoyed the imagery used. Jane is a relatable figure. Also the poem has a strong underlying spirituality.

We all know a Jane ! Strong yet fragile, always strong.

Line by line, Jane becomes more alive in the reading. I found the poem so readable and the character relatable. It was, for me, a very moving poem

Powerfully moving and well-written. Simply beautiful.

“She is a raised eyebrow” deserves a vote in itself. Paints a great image of something so personal to Mary yet that seems so familiar.

A sublime, evocative and awe-inspiring piece.

Strongly evocative, familiar and accessible, emotional yet grounded and concrete.

I thought the poem created a clear, beautiful image of ‘Jane’ and that the final lines were very poignant.

great images, strong woman, the eyebrow!

Often repetition in poetry does not work, but here the attached imagery makes the pattern unique. She is a ladle, stirring. This set the tone. Wonderful poem.

I liked the rhythm, the pattern and the story this tells.


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Congratulations to Beth Booth whose poem ‘To the Occupier’ is the Pick of the Month for April 2020

There are a myriad of reasons as to why voters chose ‘To the Occupier’ by Beth Booth as the IS&T Pick of the Month for April 2020 which is a tribute to the many layers in this fine poem. Some found it haunting, melancholy, rich with emotion, some identified with the otherness about it or felt it ‘[evoked] a feeling very pertinent to the current situation’ and a few found it spoke to their own experiences of renting and moving, the impermanence of it all. Where voters agreed was on how beautiful the poem is!

Beth lives in Liverpool via Cumbria and is an MFA student at the Manchester Writing School. She won the Miriam Allott poetry prize in 2016, and has poems published or forthcoming in The Moth, Lighthouse, and Orbis.


To the Occupier

I have been leaving ghosts in every house
for six years, which makes six houses –
seven if you count my temporary tenancy
in your affection. Nine houses if you count
the ones I lived in where I had no right to do so.
Arguably eleven houses. Arguably twelve
(they have taken a toll on my ability to count.)
It’s the arguing that’s the problem, though,
isn’t it – if houses are arguable then
how are they homes, how are they anything
other than a cunning place to haunt?
Shrugging off my ghosts like a lizard
done with its skin and its skilful wholeness.
I am ghostliest of all, the spook that
bites the hand that feeds, the ghoul
that has taken up residency somewhere
between the years, waiting for you to move
out, waiting for you to move on, waiting
for the next move to be a checkmate.
I am always checking, lately. Checking
out of this hotel of tendons. Leaving
ghosts on the patio to tenderly haunt you
when I am too far gone to do it myself.



Other voters’ comments included:-

This poem makes me want to read it aloud. The way the words connect with each other through shared vowel sounds. The sussuration of some and the round openness of others. The entire poem feels like a room I want to sit in and examine the details of every corner. Which fits it very well, I suppose. Delicate and fleeting at times, but full-bodied at others – just like the speaker’s experiences.

Beth Booth’s poem is powerful, vulnerable, and surprising in its language. It has something to say and does so in a voice that is exciting and new. Would be a deserved winner in a great list! 

I feel like I personally understand and relate, and it is beautifully written. 

I love how the author manages to capture both numbing isolation and intense emotions in one poem, incredibly moving 

Beautiful and haunting 


The phrasing really grabs your attention. 

It employs a very striking extended metaphor and clever transformation of images in the last two lines (“move out/move on/move to be a checkmate/checking/check out”) which stuck in my mind in a way I didn’t experience with the other poems. I can very much empathise as someone who has also spent six years in six different houses and felt the same ghostlike feeling when moving in or out. 

I think this poem is beautiful. It speaks to me of feeling unsettled, both in the body and in the world. It gives me shivers when I read it. 

So vivid and really resonates 

On so many levels, this poem speaks of haunting. Of the separation of the person into fractals of themselves, their relationships, their timelines, their viewpoints. It is therefore universal and yet intimate, a glimpse into the otherness of self. I love this poem, even though (especially because) it haunts me. 

It’s the strangest 

This beautiful poem stayed in my mind long after I read it. The poet captured the feelings wonderfully well. 

I love the use of vocabulary and mood 

Speaks to my experience of leaving parts of myself in the spaces where I was traumatised or healed 

It flows so beautifully and gives me chills 

wonderfully captures the pathos of the tragic situation 

For me it was this one or The Farmer’s Prayer – both touched me on an emotional rather than intellectual level, the way a poem can, sometimes. For me, To the Occupier was more personally relatable, though. 

I really liked the melancholy reflections it inspired on life’s passage, its events and memories, and what we leave behind…

As a renter, I like the way it subtly criticises how people are forced to move from place to place. 

This transitory existence moving from house to house when you rent is a common experience for many young people, and this captures something of this perfectly.


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The Votes are in and the Pick of the Month for March 2020 is ‘A Factory of Feelings’ by Sanjeev Sethi

It is perhaps no surprise during this seismic period that our March 2020 Pick of the Month should focus on that technology which holds us all together even when it drives us apart. Voters found Sanjeev Sethi’s ‘A Factory of Feelings’ moving, relevant and resonant!

Sanjeev is published in more than 25 countries with over 1200 poems. Wrappings in Bespoke is Joint-Winner of the Full Fat Collection Competition-Deux (Hedgehog Poetry Press UK). It’s his fourth book. It will be issued in 2020. He lives in Mumbai, India.


A Factory of Feelings

Your biog is your own, wash it with as many adjectives.
Entitlement and empathy are opposites. Dissimulation
is elementary to past lovers, like dissemble to ex bosses.
Facebook and Twitter are placeboes for amour proper.
Drapes of familiarity hang when socials happen. If you
are a turophile there is space for another helping in a
hero sandwich. Tonight my sky is crowded: sulfur and
saltpeter from crackers have eroded its nostril and mine.
With you gone umpteen poems are astray.



More voters’ comments included:

The poem talks about the current scenario of social media and its impact on culture. A sharp poem. 

I am a fan of Sanjeev Sethi’s work. He never disappoints me as a reader. 

Sethi’s play with language leaves me longing for more. 

The way he uses brevity in poetry is unlike any other poet I know! The novelty of thought, and the sheer relevance of imagery require recognition too. Also, find me a poet with a vocabulary that even comes close to his. I’ll wait. 😉  

I kept thinking of it, long after I had read it. 

An outstanding poem. 

Awesome work! 

It has all the elements off fine writing. 

Sharp usage of language and the metaphors cleverly give it a kick.

Not one superfluous word. 

This poem adds to the human experience. This quote tells of how poetry goes beyond words to make people feel something, whether it be strength, unity or another, indescribable feeling. 

Stunning work! 

First-class writing. 

It’s contemporary commentary on our Facebook of things. 

deep, incisive and engaging poem and really stands out for its word play and nuanced expression. 


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Hannah Hodgson’s poem ‘Death Rattle’ is the Pick of the Month for February 2020

We live in uncertain times, and that voters chose ‘Death Rattle’ by Hannah Hodgson as the Ink Sweat & Tears Pick of the Month for February 2020 not only indicates their overwhelming admiration of the poem and the poet but is also an acknowledgement of the fragility of us all.  ‘Death Rattle’ is ‘moving and powerful, stark and black’ yet also ‘effortlessly beautiful and effective.’

Hannah is a 22 year old poet living with a life limiting illness and disability. She writes about these themes as well as hospice, feminism and other topics. Her first pamphlet Dear Body was published in 2018.


Death Rattle

Back in the day, everyone loved a good hanging –
curiosity gathered in the town square, red-nosed,
waiting for the theatre of mortality to end.

Today I attract the equivalent crowd –
have to untangle my vocal cords
from intrusive questioning.

Hospice is an experience with the brink,
as near the cliff edge you can go without falling.
Natural death isn’t quick.

It begins with a storm brewing in the chest –
thunder of increasing intensity,
crackles of lightning in the airway.

It ends with a moment of clarity,
final words like a rainbow
slowly disintegrating.



Other voters’ comments included:

It is simple, a little sad but also calm in the face of death.

It just connects with me in a way that the others don’t

Such a tricky subject matter, but this poem also manages to be beautiful. The “untangling vocal chords” is such a powerful image and the whole poem gets across the idea of intrusion and desperation. I was left speechless the first time I read it.

Such a massively powerful poem that nails its subject matter with great force

I love the line about crackles of lighting in the airway.

Very moving poem and I love Hannah’s economy of expression.

Powerful, spare and thought-provoking

Insight, honesty, economy, essence.

So powerful – and that ending…

I like this poem’s clarity and its lack of sentimentality

Hannah Hodgson’s poem is powerful and emotive without straying into the realms of cliche. The final image of the disintegrating rainbow is one that will stay with me.

Extremely well written

It’s a stunningly honest and clear sighted poem

I love the overlap between sound, physicality and natural phenomena in ‘Death Rattle’, particularly the lines: It begins with a storm brewing in the chest – thunder of increasing intensity, crackles of lightning in the airway

Very moving and yet not sentimental poem, well done to her.

Words that evoke Hannah’s reality.


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Your First Pick of the Month for 2020 is ‘Realisation about a friend’ by Alexandra Corrin-Tachibana

When we launched January’s Pick of the Month, we noted that the poems were extraordinary and they truly are. But ‘Realisation about a friend’ by Alexandra Corrin-Tachibana tops the list in this case. Voters admired its simplicity and its beauty and loved the image that it conjured. This was a subtle poem of ‘impact and power’!

Alexandra lived in Japan for 10 years. She holds an MA in Writing Poetry from Newcastle University, was shortlisted for the Fish Publishing Prize 2018, and read at the American Writer’s Program Conference, in Portland Oregon this year.


Realisation about a friend

and deliberately
you draw
information out of me

the way my son
eats a strawberry
holding firmly
onto the green stem
sucking it down
to the pulp




Voters comments included:

The poem has the visual quality of a haiku and hangs there after being read which I found quite beautiful

I love it…on the surface it’s beautifully straightforward but then it leaves you extremely intrigued and wanting to know more. Also you know exactly what the author has a wonderful universality. We have all felt like that

The words really meant something to me.

This poem really spoke to me. So clever, to get to the heart of a feeling, so directly.

Very disguising.

Very realistic!

short; to the point; succint.

Such a lot of insight and history in such a small space.

It’s a great piece of work.

It conjures up such a vivid image. Short and clever


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