David Calcutt




I Praise the Spider


At the web’s dead centre, a thumbprint
smudge in your secret heaven

tucked beneath an overhang of leaves
and hung about with jewels and corpses

baby-faced mummies, the empty
sacks of your children, trembling

as if with a god’s touch or curse
your fingers stroke the silks of your harp

sun-laced and lit like a bride’s crown
sending your music into the morning

dawn’s plainsong
the victim’s lament.


Almost invisible song, exquisite
intricacies traced on the air
flung out, and hooked to the lips

of the infinite. Low slung
between the fence post and the
garden shed, it seems to be holding

earth and sky in balance
a net to catch whatever
falls in, whether food-stuff

or breakage, or the flecks
of ash from autumn fires.
Like a hand, loosely cupped

around its fragile lifelines,
hoarding its meagre provisions
against the lean times.


I’ve been watching you
for so long, you have
my eye transfixed
and no matter how much

I wanted to I couldn’t
move away now.  Numb
from the feet up
as if injected

with your drug
swaddled in a cocoon
of rapt fascination.
I’m watching you eat

and have to go on
watching, unable to stir
a finger or thought
gripped, like your prey

between your busy hands.
Face locked forward
eyelids glued open
pupil pulsing with

the beat of sucked blood.
Later, I’ll sit almost
lifeless at the table
watching my own hands

flutter around the cutlery
while my mouth
goes on chewing
at tough meat.



lurker in the garden shed
prisoner in the empty bath


first at the wedding feast
layer-out of grave shrouds

dingledody –

out here in the garden
rain and shine
you’re in your element

at home
in your spun geometry
of air and light

inheritance perfected
into instinct


Little revenant
little suicide survivor
who would have thought
you could make it back
from such a big freeze
such a battering of storms
such withering of roots?

Yet here you are
on the first untroubled
day of the year, as if
you had never been away
hanging by a narrow thread
at home among the
quiet voices

the trembling, sky-tumbled
tears of dew.



David Calcutt is a playwright, poet and fiction writer. Many of his original plays and adaptations have been broadcast on BBC radio, and his plays for theatre have been performed in both professional and community settings. Several of his plays for young people are published by Oxford University Press, as are three of his four novels for young people. His poetry appears widely in print and online magazines, and he is the author of four poetry collections. Drawing on his many years’ experience as a writer, and the breadth and diversity of his writing, David has organised and worked on several small and large scale community writing and theatre projects, and continues to run a variety of writing workshops in community settings. More here: https://davidcalcutt.com/

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Nell Prince




Thunder Under London

It was there

a silver stratocaster making no sound

the air had a bleak purr

I picked up the neck and plucked a shape

Oh blare!  the ringing sweet of that strung gap

music meat to this hollow old world

I played and I flung

I flung out the heavy the sorrow the sadness that hung

I played and I played until an ending

a door to the roof of the sky that cracked

I was living and I attacked with bolts from my fingering pulse the shifting hum of the ohm the electric drone the curve that shouldering curve like a moon’s eclipse or a devil’s horn and that rough vibrating hum

I was being born

gripped at the frets the body smoked

it wrecked through the hollow halls

filled with a green fog the dark air and crammed crashing its waves on the concrete shore where the days had a spark

At last moored to a space I sensed the task:

to summon the living dead

the living that walked step by step, and forked in the dark,
and slept, dull irises that didn’t dare heart, blank faces commuting beyond the fake glare, stuck in the glass forests, the rock bare, and the cells glowing like tombs.




Nell Prince has had poems most recently published in PN Review, The Interpreter’s House, and Sidekick Books’ Battalion.  In 2016 she was runner-up in the Jane Martin prize.  She is working on a first collection.

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Abegail Morley





Forget you. The ash of bone. The uncradled
heart, leaky valve long scorched. Forget
the unthinking arm that fell on my shoulder,
those times we crossed the M6 flyover
and you drove with one hand on the wheel
and I’d change gear, rather badly. Forget
the mix-tape, its erratic path through
teenage years, the growing up, beers, larking
about on bridges and piers and dancing
all night in the Zap Club. Forget the sea
and its snub-nosed wall, the hiss of shingle
on sand, the plans we made at 2am
to be bruised by life. Forget the headlamps
dimming on the Downs, the uphill walks,
the drinks in the Nelson, Trafalgar Street,
the way your heart beat. And beat. Remember
the dull ring of my doorbell, the slight tap
on glass, the way my stomach flipped when
I knew you were there, before you arrived.
Remember what longing means, the thick taste
of Milky Bars for breakfast, the crack of your elbow
broken on the stairs at 4am, the thud of your step
across floorboards. Remember how in that crowd
we found each other’s silence, feathered it out,
knowing we might make it from friends to lovers
and friends again. Remember how we felt that night
when we each held our breaths, met under
an invisible sky. Remember how we said
when you died, I’d try to forget.



Abegail Morley’s debut collection, How to Pour Madness into a Teacup, was shortlisted for the Forward Prize Best First Collection. Her most recent collection is The Skin Diary (Nine Arches Press) and The Unmapped Woman is forthcoming from Nine Arches Press. She is one of the co-editors at Against the Grain Press and editor of The Poetry Shed.

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James Dixon




The late blackberries

The late blackberries come ripe this year,
bursting little beasties
slick with the devil’s spit.

We come home gorse pricked
and spittle flicked
and happy for the yearning.

Keep your high-rise monoliths.
I apologise- I truly do-
but I see no beauty there.

This and all and only.



James Dixon a novelist, playwright and poet based in Glasgow. His debut novel, The unrivalled transcendence of Willem J. Gyle (Thistle, 2017) was shortlisted for the 2018 Somerset Maugham Award by the Society of Authors and his first collection of poems, ‘They Being (Being There)’ has just been accepted by Jersey Devil Press.

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Elisabeth Sennitt Clough




When it comes, it will scratch away the surface
of Fen, release the secrets of our soil.

It will sing its lullaby over a girl’s bones
at the bottom of a village well.

Its tongue will rouse small forms
to hatch in the eyes of a dying mare.

It will dry its claws along her dorsal stripe.
For my father, it will lay bare the hemlock.



Elisabeth Sennitt Clough, PhD, is an alumna of the Arvon/Jerwood Mentorship scheme 2016 and Toast Poets 2017. She was also a Ledbury Emerging Poet 2017. Her debut pamphlet, Glass, was a winner in the Paper Swans inaugural pamphlet competition in 2016. It went on to win Best Pamphlet at the Saboteur Awards 2017. Sightings, was published by Pindrop Press (2016.) and won the Michael Schmidt Prize for Best Portfolio. A poem from that collection was highly commended in the Forward Prize and published in the Forward Book of Poetry 2018. Her second full collection At or Below Sea Level is a PBS Recommendation. Elisabeth is editor of the Fenland Poetry Journal. www.elisabethsennittclough.co.uk

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‘A conversation with my daughter about my brother’s suicide’ by Helen Calcutt is the IS&T October 2019 Pick of the Month


It is fitting that Helen Calcutt‘s ‘A conversation with my daughter about my brother’s suicide’ is the Ink Sweat & Tears Pick of the Month for October 2019. The theme of National Poetry Day in October was Truth and what can be more truthful, more honest than explaining to a child about the suicide of someone close? And then to write something so painful and so raw that also offers hope? As one voter put it: ‘Broke my heart. Then restarted it.’

Helen is the author of two books of poetry, Sudden rainfall (Perdika, 2014) a PBS Choice, and Unable Mother published by V.Press in September 2018. Her writing is published internationally, including award-winning essays and reviews for The Wales Arts Review, The Brooklyn Review, The London Review, Poetry Scotland and Boundless. She is creator and editor of Eighty-Four a poetry anthology on the subject of male suicide. Website: https://helencalcutt.org/


A conversation with my daughter about my brother’s suicide

She is awake.

The moon is bright and the clouds have parted.
The trees are painted trees, living a still life.

She tells me my brother is in the moon.
I’ve bathed her, given her milk
and as I fold the sheets from her knees

to her lap, she asks me how he died.
‘He was very sad’ I say
and she seems to understand.

She rubs the milk away from her lips with her hands
as if the moon had kissed her
and then asks why.

I try to explain.
‘Sadness can make you very tired.
It can make you want to sleep.

It can make you want to close your eyes on everything.’

Her hands are like two leaves
resting on the bedcovers. She asks me if I miss him
and when I say I do

her eyes go big and round
and she asks me again, how he died
if the sadness of missing him

will make me die.

I hold her then, I accept
the weight of her. I can feel her widening like the stillness of a tree –

my child, coming into a still life…

Then we talk about the moon being
the shape of an egg, upside down.
We watch branches touch on drifting clouds
and agree – we want to see everything.

We stay up half the night finding patterns on the walls.
Different kinds of windows.





Other voters’ comments included:

Given the devastating statistics of male suicide this is one of those poems that pushes through the poetry landscape as a signpost to show people where suicide takes those left behind. It is so personal and brave that it takes the breath away but comforts, disturbs and educates like poetry should. It is a timeless poem like Frieda Hughes poem also about her brother Nicholas’ suicide. Beautiful

A painfully, beautiful and brave poem. I’m voting not for the subject matter alone, but for the quality of the poem, which is up to the task.

An honest, brave poem that tackles a very difficult subject

Unbelievably sad and hopeful in equal measure.

A beautiful piece. The pain, honesty and love found in this poem is captivating.

Heartfelt words. Moments shared between mother & daughter. As a parent how can you explain death, particularly suicide, to a child?! This poem addresses that precious shared time as death affects us all – beautifully yet so clearly written.

tough subject handled beautifully. ..such delicacy…and the charming innocence of her child…the deceptive simplicity and wonderful leafy images. An open window of a poem despite the sorrow of loss etc

Such a sad tale told beautifully

A poignant and sensitive piece evoking the aching resonance of grief yet offering a glimpse of a stronger future. Beautiful!

Deeply moving to read. So perfectly crafted, that the craft is practically invisible – which is quite something to do when the subject matter is so painful to the poet. Not a trace of self indulgence – which unfortunately can affect so many poems of this deeply personal nature. Really up there as a genuinely great poem – one that will last.

If ‘truth’ were a poem, this is it.

It’s uncompromising, quiet power, its raw, intimate poignancy. She speaks of a motherhood I feel know, though I’ve never experienced what she has. The poem leads me to believe I have.

It’s a brave, beautiful, painful, but ultimately hopeful poem,and speaks with a clear, true voice.

Suicide being very close and personal to a lot of people hearts is still very unspoken about. This poem perfectly uses imagery to evoke the emotions surrounding this. It also depicts family, and the effect on small children, how do you explain suicide to young ones? This poem is fragile, yet strong. Sad, yet hopeful. But most importantly, truthful. When you read the poem it feels like it’s coming straight from the heart of truth and for me that is amazingly vulnerable.

The dynamic between mother and daughter over a painful subject is skillfully handled, the tension built and overcome together.

The tenderness and bravery of this poem is inspirational, it leaves an impression long after it has been read.




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Jonathan Chant




Bringing It All Back Home

To leave one’s notebook in plain view signals some kind of declaration, a piece of the secret realm rendered visible. I sit in my dressing gown, smoking in a room where I shouldn’t, play games in perspectives,

the tin lantern with glass chimney becomes a primitive hut,
star cut holes sealed with emerald glass, windows.

It’s too cold to write. I try anyway. Stitch images

The moon illumines frosted leaves at the window.
Runic pines silhouetted on the snow-clad hillside.
White blobs of stars and two raised discs,
earthworks on the horizon.

A bridge crosses a stream full of stars

That kind of thing.

Those shapes on the hill, if only I knew the language.

Was that creak a footstep? The door left ajar…

I’m the tramp in the forest
bringing the key home to you.



Jonathan Chant is a lecturer, poet and performer. He has been published in Obsessed With The Pipe Work, Tears In The FenceCaduceusInternational Times and by New River Press.

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