Time Once More to Vote for the IS&T Pick of the Month. What Will it be for May?

The uncertainty, confusion and yearning that we are feeling because of the Covid-19 pandemic, has been joined by anger, frustration and devastation experienced in response to the killing of George Floyd at the end of May. And the poems on our May #PickoftheMonth shortlist represent this tumult of feelings.

Are you caught up in the fear of L Kiew‘s ‘Today everything is on fire & it’s dangerous’ or overwhelmed by what lurks in Tom Dwight‘s ‘Daylight and Dust’? Can you feel ‘what is missing’ with Jane Pearn – so poignant – or does Dan Dorman‘s delicate ‘Black Feathers’ resonate. Is it Mary Ford Neal‘s formidable ‘Jane’ that you want to stand up with or do you wrap up in the love that pervades ‘The Romance Languages’ by Isabelle Thompson.

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 May 2020 Pick of the Month′ in the Categories list to your right on the screen.

Voting has now closed. May’s ‘Pick’ will be announced on Tuesday 16th June at 4pm.

For the lockdown period, our normal Pick ‘prize’ of £10 towards the UK charity of your choice or a National Book Token will rise to £30*. Charities and booksellers, both, have been hit hard by the shutdown and we wanted to make a (admittedly very small) gesture of support.


*Book tokens can only be used within the UK and will be divided between £20 for the winning writer and a £10 token for the person of their choice.


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Mary Ford Neal





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.



Mary Ford Neal 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.

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Dan Dorman



Dan Dorman teaches creative writing at the Cleveland Institute of Art and circulates library books. His writing can be found at jubilat, Word for/Word and Jet Fuel Review. Connect with him @dormanpoet and dormanpoetry.com.

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Isabelle Thompson




The Romance Languages

My mother is learning French in stumbling
little phrases. Bonjour, Julien. Bonsoir.

Who is Julien? Merci, Julien.
Salut, Julien.
Bonne nuit. I imagine

a man dressed all in blue, drinking a glass
of Badoit. ~Bonjour~, Julien, she says.

My father, in the living room, watches
WW2 films in the darkness, oblivious

to Julien the Frenchman watching his wife
over the rim of high-end sparkling water.

Au revoir, Julien, says my mother.
Les femmes sont toutes les mêmes! cries Julien,

and melts into his glass, where the bubbles
bop and bump against each other, trying

to express everything they feel, like germs
of life connecting and expanding.

My mother goes and makes two cups of tea,
carries them to my father in the lounge

and switches on the lamp. They sit together,
not speaking, fluent in each other’s thoughts.



Isabelle Thompson is a recent graduate of Bath Spa University’s MA in Creative Writing. She has had poetry published previously in Ink, Sweat & Tears and The Lake. Her reviews appear in Sphinx.

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L Kiew




Today everything is on fire & it’s dangerous

the wind claws
crimson back & forth

running across grass

trees catch
leaves ember & cinders


I pray
please rain
save some green

there’s a grasshopper
poised for flight
at the bottom of the page



A chinese-malaysian living in London, L Kiew earns her living as an accountant. Her debut pamphlet The Unquiet came out with Offord Road Books in February 2019. She is currently a participant in the London Library Emerging Writers Programme. Website: http://www.lhhkiew.co.uk/

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Jane Pearn




what is missing

is touch — is cotton to wool, sheer
to slub
is holding hands

is hug — forms moulding each
to each, body to body
rise to hollow

what is missing is skin warm against
cool, is the cheek-scuff
of familiar stubble

is rough sunbrown finger tracing
delicate never-seen-daylight crease
what is missing is

the warm air of whisper in her ear — is folding
into the scent of him — is the long weight
of his arm

across her shoulders like a bracket ending



Jane Pearn lives in Selkirk, in the Scottish Borders. She was of the winners in the 2019 Guernsey International ‘Poems on the Move’ Competition, and recently came second in the Against the Grain poetry competition.

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Tom Dwight




Daylight and Dust

The real horror is a body like an empty glass
slowly forgetting itself – trying to remember
how to hold anything but daylight and dust.

This is how men are taught to feel pain,
learn which parts are allowed to break
whilst they try to make sense
of all the time they can’t trace,
their memory fringed
with the silver of a distant light.

This is how it always was, half-said
in the anaemic spaces of life,
people tangled around themselves
like violets lost in weeds,
like birds declining over an open sky;

as if only empty, meaningless things
can lift off and take flight.



Tom Dwight is a poet currently studying for a PhD in English literature at the University of Bristol. His poetry has appeared in Eye Flash Magazine, Stride Magazine, Peculiars Magazine, and was shortlisted for the Streetcake Experimental Writing Award.

Twitter @tomdwightmusic

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