Ken Cumberlidge




Too late it becomes apparent

that this is one of those poems
in which the teasingly unresolved title
doubles as the opening line

soon after which, you find you’ve
lost the will to persevere with it,
zoning out and moving on
before you’re halfway in.

A shame, because this means
you’ll never make it to the last bit,
which would halt you, open-mouthed
at its uncanny pinpoint aim:

home in like a smart bomb
on that bunker full of what you
can’t or don’t or won’t remember,
that refuses to be named—

the stuff that got you writing in the first place,

that you’ve been picking at the edges of,
in code, without your knowledge,
one imperfect stanza at a time,
your entire bloody life.



Currently based in Norwich, Birkenhead-born Ken Cumberlidge has been writing and performing his work for 40+ years. Recent work has appeared online (Algebra of Owls / Allegro / IS&T / Message in a Bottle / The Open Mouse / Picaroon / Pulsar / Rat’s Ass Review / Spilling Cocoa… / Strange Poetry / Snakeskin). For more please click on: Soundcloud and  YouTube


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IS&T November Pick of the Month: Vote Now!

It is time once more to choose your Ink Sweat & Tears #PickoftheMonth and this, at least, is one vote where there are no bad choices. You know whatever poem you pick will be a good one and also, that when the results come in, you definitely won’t have a horrible sinking sensation.

And, it may be the autumnal months closing in, but there is a sense of finality in these poems. Will you choose Carole Bromley‘s heart-breaking ‘The Day his Father Left’ or be drawn into the unease that lies just below the surface in ‘The Hidden’ by Anna Maria Mickiewicz? Will Elisabeth Sennitt Clough‘s ‘Ague’ grip you or the words in Niall M Oliver‘s ‘Straight off the bat’ be your undoing.  Are you in thrall to Peter Daniels‘ ‘Moments of Vision’ or is it Abegail Morley‘s ‘End’ that resonates the most.

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

Please VOTE HERE. Voting will close at 9pm on Sunday 15th December.

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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Sten Rod Ramkhur




The Room Laughed

The room laughed.
“I don’t know why people laugh”
He said.
“The man who used to sit in the middle there
Well he hung himself last week.
This is a serious disease.
I don’t know why people laugh”
Our eyes raise
The roof above white as paper.
We prayed that night 
For the empty chair.
The hanged man.
The sad disease.
The laughing room.




Sten Rod Ramkhur is a previously unpublished middle-aged poet currently living in the Shetland Islands.  They have worked for many years as a librarian across Europe and Asia.

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Matti Spence





There are changes

There are changes I would like
to make and there are those that are

made for me   pay attention to your
heart-beat which appears to happen by itself

– little breath-bows to an  unknown
somehow recognized musician –

and follow the giant skin-drum that floats
above the world to the end you have

desired for it / to that
necessary conclusion



Matti Spence is a poet and counsellor living on the edge of Dartmoor. He is co-creator of Rites to Roam, an interdisciplinary project which aims to explore how artists/poets/musicians connect to land through ritual and prayer. His collection When it comes to letting go of the image is available on Amazon: here



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Craig Dobson




Bad Biography

His home town had glory
holes poked through its park’s
bog walls. Outside, a granny in a
tartan coat rummaged bins and fed
club-footed pigeons for hours. Old fridges
and sofas loitered the streets. Newsagents sold single
fags to kids, and mags in paper bags to solitary characters
in macs. Gangs hung round betting shops and cafes where
tattooed men rated tabloid tits and rolled smokes one-handed
while playing fruit machines all day. Their wives waited for pay
back home on bleak estates, and their skinhead kids kicked their
way from glue-sniffing playgrounds to giro nights in pubs and strip
club bars, setting light to joy-ride cars in wasteland on the edge of town.


One side of his childhood was the sea – brown, sometimes green, never blue –
where jobless men fished for nothing and drunken couples fucked at night.
By day, lonely nutters wandered the prom, mumbling the hours away,
while bad-tempered tourists scoffed ice-creams from the rusting pier
to the games arcade and back again, in drizzling summer rain.
The stone beach was clogged with gobs of tar, used needles
and dead crabs. Hunched on outflow pipes, thin gulls
eyed the dog shit and windblown litter, or scavenged
scraps of fish and chips. Crowding the seafront,
single star hotels and paint-peeled B&Bs
announced in rows of faded signs:
Sea View, Zanzibar, Atlantic Breeze.
Underneath, always, ‘vacancies’.



Craig Dobson’s had work in Agenda, Antiphon, Butcher’s Dog, Ink Sweat & Tears, The Interpreter’s House, The London Magazine, Magma, Neon, New Welsh Review, The North, Orbis, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry Salzburg Review, Prole, Stand, The Rialto and Under The Radar.

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Rachael Clyne reviews ‘Girl, Falling’ by P.B. Hughes


Girl, Falling by P.B. Hughes


Every poem born of love or hope / is a risk

P.B. Hughes writes with intelligence and wit about her search for an authentic self. Girl, Falling is a pamphlet full of edgy language and varied layout that sometimes flows, sometimes disrupts– at times with unfinished lines. However, Hughes’ work is well crafted and accessible. My test of a good book is if I read it straight through, without stopping, and this was the case.

The book starts with a relationship demise and how, despite efforts to submerge herself to her partner’s needs– he unexpectedly leaves her. Hughes’ work conveys a struggle to emerge from gender bias and relationship. She examines language and punctuation, even the word No. In her opening poem, Dear World, she likens herself to punctuation, I am a full stop then a comma and finishes by saying:
i was light stilled to shadow
your negative

She questions society, Binary thinking is the pinball/of politicians, and reality, Don’t’ start with the assumption / that anything is real. Questions for a Lake, a list poem, is one of my favourites. It is also a poem of self-enquiry, including such questions as: What colour is your vision? Does silence exist? Did you feel like an outcast? At what depth are your secrets?

The poem that follows is Falling, in which she decides to enter the waters of self-discovery by plunging into a swimming lake. Water continues to be a theme throughout. In a later poem she is at sea with loss and little to navigate by.

There is intimation of rape, condoned by her partner. Poems that follow this seem more fragmented while delving deeper for answers. Some end with unfinished sentences:

Knee Deep in the North Sea

Take the fish and the selfie.
Fist the beach. Take home
a fistful of sand to hell with it.
Take out the metaphors and

escalator– a narrow shaft of a prose poem, ends:

few interact with the
blank sea rising
and falling to the
sound recording of a

A daughter, born via C-section, brings the possibility of love.  Dressing a Daughter, is a mother’s poem for a girl growing strong:

My daughter’s shoes are red like her heart
She wears them fiercely
Red shoes to climb trees

and when her daughter wants to daub her lips with red shoe polish, she ponders how to voice concerns for safety over experiment:

Do I
Talk about the a and b scenarios
– the safety of lipstick
for girls, the safety of shoe polish
for lips – ?

There are political nuances, Footnotes on Genocide, and on xenophobia, Keep Your Distance.  However, the last four poems bring a more positive note, expressing gratitude and a need for radical hope. Waters of loss and searching become a downpour of rain, with the welcome shelter of domestic contentment:

Clothes hung above an Aga afterwards
all I could smell was rain
rain in your hair
on your skin
as I stood behind you in a borrowed kitchen
while you buttered toast

Her final poem Source, feels triumphant, yet still twists and questions:

I keep coming back to you
back to source. Like salmon
although I hate the thought

of its brash belly clap on water…

But I am not a fish…

I carry the imprint
of a place to which
I keep coming back.



Order your copy of Girl, Falling (Gatehouse Press) by PB Hughes here:

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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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