And our Pick of the Month for September 2020 is ‘The Anatomy of Boys’ by Nwuguru Chidiebere Sullivan

Nwuguru Chidiebere Sullivan’s poem ‘The Anatomy of Boys’ spoke to so many, and it is for this reason that this ‘fascinating’ ‘beautiful’ and ‘inspiring’ poem is the IS&T Pick of the month for September 2020. Huge congratulations to him!

Nwuguru is a budding writer from the Ebonyi State of Nigeria. He writes autobiographically about life, the boy-child, and about multiple aspects of the ebbing African culture. He is a penultimate Medical Laboratory Science student with lots of unpublished works to his credit. His works have been published at Quills, Ace World, Trouvaille Review, Ducor Review, The Lake, LiteLitOne, Inverse Journal, The SprinNG, Journal Nine, e.t.c. and he has also contributed to several anthologies.

He was the winner of the 2018 FUNAI Crew Literary Contest.

After careful thought, and with Nwuguru’s blessing – he asked that it be put towards a charitable cause of our choice – we donated his £30 ‘prize’ to the Nigerian Diasporans Against Sars fundraiser.


The Anatomy of Boys

Boys are cold birds
Boys are carrying broken wings

Boys are burning oceans
Boys are drizzling ashes

Boys are not the thorny rose
Boys are petals of hibiscus

Boys are rainbow
Boys are not cloaks for a deluge

Boys are glass prisms
Boys are bends stifling grief

Boys are untapped palm trees
Boys are cask for unharvested tears

Boys are cameras
Boys are libraries of cracks

Boys are dustbin
Boys are cavity for filthy blames

Boys are suns
Boys are shining in isolation without stars.


Voters’ comments included:

I could feel every word, every line and every stanza of the poem, as it had an usual way of describing me

I love the poem’s construction, how it reminds me of what it means to be male— and what it should never mean.

lots of surprising images

I liked the vigour of it 🙂

It talks about the boy child and I can relate so well with every line of the poem.

The poem appeals to me

The anatomy of boys is a great metaphor depicting the future.

The lyrics of the poem are so deep but have captivating meaning which is very true.

I love the flow of the poem.

The poet was so explicit in his writing. I love the idea.

I love the simplicity of the poem and the way it carries the plight of the boy-child with scintillating metaphors

Simple, touching and reflective

Honestly his poem have really impact positive life unto me

His poem seems to be the best among all. Telling us the hiding things we don’t understand

Gives us an insight of the thought

He is passionate about what he does


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Lucy Atkinson is the IS&T Pick of the Month poet for August 2020

‘Evocative and charming, a modern day folk tale’, a comment on Lucy Atkinson’s ‘Sunspot’, perfectly summing up why this fine poem is the IS&T Pick of the Month for August 2020.

Lucy is a North-East born writer studying a MA in creative writing at Durham University. She has published poetry in magazines such as Acumen, Agenda and Crossways. Her play ‘As It Was’ was recently published by lazy bee scripts.

Lucy has asked that her £30 ‘prize’ be donated to Teesside Hospice.



I watched her. Persephone.
Sunflowers on her dungarees. Breathing in
the blackened syrup. London air.
She’s trying not to talk about it
but she remembers. Winter.
There’s Parsley on the windowsill. Planted
in a little mug. The only spot in her fifth-floor flat
that ever gets some sun.
She doesn’t talk about him, either.
If there was a him. She asks me
if I would sing if they put on a karaoke night
down at our local pub.
She misses Karaoke. Good music and bad.
All at once and all around.
A tsunami for the thoughts.
On the radio they play “Wild Daffodils.”
A low budget song from an album
by a local artist. We both agree
he can really sing. There are no people singing
here. Karaoke or in the streets.
But she mouths the words to
the same song that the radio played an hour ago.
Winter is gone. She’s forgotten it.
She asks what song we can dance to next.



Other comments include:

I love the modernisation of a classical myth transformed into something both beautiful and relatable.

Myth is used in an original way brought alive by visual details.

A stirring last line which brings out a relentless sense of optimism in the emergence from a period of strife. ‘Blackened syrup’ as a descriptor for london air is wonderfully cloying and seems to be in conversation with Celan’s black milk of morning, offering a sense of warmth and depth and but also stagnation in comfort which reminds one of the immobility of any kind of depressive episode.

Fantastic imagery, simple yet hugely affecting; the smallest details pack a serious emotional punch throughout her poem.

Like reading a good story. I could imagine standing by the window looking at the tiny bit of sun.

The imagery is so alive with nature and the air of London, it conjures up the place for me.

A thoughtful and beautiful piece of writing.

I loved the imagery with the plants and flowers running through it.

The positivity of dancing and singing in the future is especially poignant in the current circumstances

Imaginative writing always grabs my interest. This poem more than most stayed with me after reading.

Hits the spot. Real.

Excellent poetry, a rising star

Powerful emotions delivered exquisitely

I love the first two lines especially, and I think this poem represents this moment- when the world has had to retreat inside, and is watching the seasons change without being able to go out and resume our lives

Reminds me of times that I have felt alone and having something positive to cling to.

The pathos behind it

The form of writing has a semblance to contemporary rap music.

This takes me back to feeling warm and safe and I love the imagery in her words, it’s so powerful and peaceful at the same time

Focuses on the next and the things we enjoy. It contained a lot of beauty.

I find it very emotive and eloquent. Reading this poem I find myself taken to the place and can see it happening.

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And Your Pick of the Month for July 2020 is ‘Eagle’ by Joanna Nissel

The importance of family connections prevailed in voters’ minds and the wonderful ‘Eagle’ by Joanna Nissel is our Pick of the Month for July 2020, but it was an extraordinarily tight race with only a few votes in it.

Voters commented again and again on the beauty of Joanna’s writing and imagery and the poignancy of the poem, how it felt very personal and how they kept going back to it.

Joanna is a Brighton-based poet. She was the runner up for the 2018 New Poets Prize and has been published widely, including Tears in the Fence, The Fenland Reed, Eyeflash, and Atrium.


After Kathryn O’ Driscoll

Wasn’t my heart a finch bird?
Wasn’t it the yellow-joy chirp overheard
on the dawn walk to work

–a reminder of the things in this life
that are delicate and made of more
than the hollow-boned expanses
between their filaments of cartilage?

These days I break over a disapproving glance,
forgotten change, the endless endlessness
of doing a little better every day.
But I remember when,

before his heart stopped, my father
and I used to sit on the flint wall
in the garden and listen to the gurgle
of wood pigeons he swore were eagles.

I raised an eyebrow; he snorted, smiled,
and told me he pitied the man who married me,
this great, wise queen to whom he offered his arm.
I took it and rose, stood on the wall’s flinty precipice

and under the glow of moonlight
I could almost see the feathers sprouting,
their glint of gold so bright against the garden
and my legs, wings, ready to kick off, to dive.


Other comments included:

I loved the imagery and delicateness of the piece.

So beautiful, and resonates on many levels

It’s beauty and originality

‘Yellow-joy’ along with many other stunning uses of imagery will always get my vote. Joanna is an incredible writer.

As feel part of your life, and current to whats going on. It’s a very personal touch to real life.

Poignant and moving, I really love the imagery this poem evokes.

When I read Joanna’s poem this morning I didn’t think much of it, but throughout my work day it kept popping back into my head and made me think more and more about it. I’m a fan of things that get me thinking about them and when they make me come back and read them I really enjoy them.

Because it shows the humorous and loving relationship between father and daughter. Wonderful

Emotional and evocative piece.

I was moved by it. The expectant paternal love that has resonated through this poem brought me to tears.

Beautifully delicate and calming

Love the way it’s written you almost feel in the moment there with the author

Beautifully written, felt completely captivated by the prose

Its beautiful, powerful, and skillfully written

A beautiful snapshot of a child’s memory of her father and the mystery of nature we can’t quite see but know is there.

Captures the emotion of a loved one in a beautiful and elegant way.

it reminds me of the moments with my grandparents, filled with the imagination they induced into my childhood mind; the journey and language within the poem was really resonant and it flowed really well to the pay off of becoming an eagle to the backdrop of pigeons!

The emotional narrative compels immersion, with the writing being truly memorable.

Beautiful imagery and perfect pace. The poem has a strong sense of humanity and juxtaposes sadness & hope most effectively.

It just had me enthralled from ‘Wasn’t my heart a finch bird?’ The images of fragility are so compelling and the way she relates it back to ‘stronger’ times with her father. The woman he saw in her and how she has become a little broken. I just love this.

Jo’s relationship with her father is beautifully described and brings a tear to my eyes.


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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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