john sweet’s ‘…and the heart a broken bell’ is Pick of the Month for March 2016!

 

The Ink Sweat & Tears’ Pick of the Month for March 2016 is ‘…and the heart a broken bell’ by john sweet:

b. 1968, a believer in sunlight and surrealism.                                                                                               opposed to plutocracies posing as democracies and most social media.                                                         most recent collection is The Century of Dreading Monsters (Lummox Press).

john has asked that his £10 prize be donated to the Cats Protection League.

 

…and the heart a broken bell

says she’s tired of being dead and
what the hell am i supposed to do?
can’t have power without money
can’t have god without the devil

late august sunlight after
four days of rain and i kiss her
feet when she asks
i kiss her breasts

lick the tears from her cheeks and
wait for the moment to pass and
what we are is finished
but not quite yet

what the space between us sounds
like is an unspoken apology
no one wants to talk about the
future when it never amounts to
anything more than children
sleeping in a house on fire

 

Voters’ comments included:

All the poems were moving and powerful (as they always are). However, john sweet’s was the one I went back to read over and over.

Awesome stuff from a man who isn’t afraid to be edgy and speak his mind!!

It sounds like a couple in love and then has a surprise ending.

Most lucid poet on the net

 

 

Comments on the other shortlisted poets included:

 

Robert Harper, ‘Through a Lens’

it did that thing some good poems do – distracted me and found a way to get under my skin while I was looking elsewhere, then located a store of un-expired pain and re-activated it. Ouch.

 

Janet Hatherley, ‘Ghazal: Trace’

A difficult form to master in English, but this looks effortless, with form and content working so well together.

 

Jane Lovell, ‘Two Mountains’

I like the way it has merged the notion of destiny with domestic imagery in a moment of private epiphany.

 

Marion Oxley, ‘A Taxidermist Regenerates Blackburn’

I like the earthiness of it and the way it tugs you through as you read to find out more.

 

Anthony Wilson, ‘The Future’

Complex and compelling.

 

 

 


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Vote for your March 2016 Pick of the Month

It’s that time again. Time to set aside a few minutes and vote for your Pick of the Month for March 2016.

Our shortlist of six is below (or see the ‘Vote for your March 2016 Pick of the Month’ in the Categories list to your right on the screen). These have either been chosen by Helen and Kate or received the most attention on social media.

Voting is now closed.

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.

(*Ink Sweat & Tears reserves the right to refuse certain charities if we feel they are too controversial.)

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And the IS&T ‘Pick of the Month’ for February 2016 is Patri Wright’s ‘It Starts with Her Awkward Hairline’

 

We are now very pleased to announce that the Pick of the Month for February 2016 is ‘It Starts with Her Awkward Hairline’ by Patri Wright.

Patri has been shortlisted for the 2015 Bridport Prize, and poems from his pamphlet Nullaby have been published in several magazines, including Agenda and Brittle Star. He is a Lecturer at The Open University and teaches Creative Writing.

Patri receives a £10 National Book Tokens gift card.

 

 

It Starts with Her Awkward Hairline

 

the bit behind her ear, along the bone,
I accidentally on purpose stroke
as the comb starts to move freely. Her head
between my knees, a kiss on her lobe —
something she wouldn’t get in a salon —
and fingers that look for further lugs.
The part along her neck too, the transition
of neck and scalp, like beach and sea
where hairs grow upward. Once she
hid it from view, calling herself simian;
and now it’s a zone, one she says I made
for her, that wasn’t there before.
I kiss this too, following the teeth
and say: ‘Repeat: “I am beautiful.”’
She says: ‘You are beautiful.’ Still that’s
better than it was, as I work on her
one stage at a time. All that’s left now
is the style, and I start back with the comb,
fan out a fringe as she watches TV.
The filaments are the days we’ve got left.
Roots of silver I cover with cosmic blue.
And here an echo, almost unheard.
I did this for another. I was smaller.
We had an electric fire. She wore
rollers. And it was far from a chore,
rather utmost pleasure, untangling
strands until they flowed like rivers.
I still seem to know how much pressure
to apply, not to hurt a single nerve.

 

Voters’ comments included:

I love the tenderness conveyed in this poem and how it manages to draws the reader in. I also like how it makes use of a single experience to draw to time periods and relationships together.

Though I like many here, I think this is the best poem. It’s moving and evocative.

very loving , gentle, sensitive and enthralling.

Sweetly erotic, makes for a multiplicity of devotional feelings adopted in childhood, carried through to a maturity of romantic love that care alone deems redundant. This one is a national treasure.

Unsettling

Beautiful piece of subtlety

Tender. Full of feeling & sensitivity. A delight.

Thoughtful, sensational lines and the courage to hunt down what he wants to say. Wonderful structure that draws the reader into the heart of the poem. Enjoyed.

It’s observant and a deeply charged and intimate poem! Patri has a scholarly edge over many. He has an incisive way of constructing poems with a great thoughtfulness.

A moment perfectly captured. Touching intimate detail. Clever time shift

It makes my mum tangible

 

 

Selected voters’ comments on the rest of the shortlist are below:

 

Jinny Fisher, ‘The Scarf’

The pure simplicity of it, great layout, love the repetition, so much in a few perfect words.

 

Robin Houghton, ‘Tying the bowline’

The way it flows and builds up an image in the mind…

 

Emily Oldham, ‘Love’

It conveys so much in so few words. And I love the lines “So you take nothing from the dark when you flee, except your voice.” Because we do often flee from love but that gets us very little.

 

Paul Smith, ‘The Mattress Conspiracy’

Got me at the first line!

 

M. G. Stephens, ‘Missing Silverware’

Never read such an accurate reflection of my own memory!

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Vote for your February 2016 Pick of the Month

It’s that time again. Time to set aside a few minutes and vote for your Pick of the Month – poem or short story – for February 2016.

Our shortlist of six is below (or see the Vote for your February 2016 Pick of the Month in the Categories list to your right on the screen). These have either been chosen by Helen and Kate or received the most attention on social media.

Voting has now closed.

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.

(*Ink Sweat & Tears reserves the right to refuse certain charities if we feel they are too controversial.)

 

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And the first ‘Pick of the Month’ for 2016 is ‘Electricity and void’ by Mike Farren

It went right down to the wire, but we can now announce that January’s ‘Pick of the Month’, and our first for 2016, is Mike Farren’s ‘Electricity and void’. Mike is a freelance writer and ex-IT consultant. He lives near Bradford and has had poems published on the Leads to Leeds website and in anthologies from Beehive Poets, most recently alongside Ian Duhig, Steve Ely and others.

Mike receives a £10 National Book Tokens gift card.

 

Electricity and void

We are mostly electricity and void
and, mostly, it suits me to believe
matter illusion, time a mystery.
But on this warm-cold night in early spring
you lay your material, electrical void
next to mine, and nothing is important
but the solid and the here – unless
it’s the memory of the breeze that lapped
at our mezzogiorno sweat,
before standing at the window,
looking down on the whitewashed wall,
teeming with insect life,
ready to sing like angels.

 

Voters comments included:

It’s my kind of poetry. Reminds me of Douglas Dunn; almost Larkin. Very Farren too, no doubt.

One of those short pieces of prose that, as you read it several times, you come to gain a very vivid image of a place and time that holds great personal meaning to, and left an very enduring impression with, the writer. Very uplifting, and I love the final line.

A resonant poem sharing a touching personal moment; what it means to be present and alive to our experience and the world beyond.

The imagery seems familiar but is a challenge. I am hoping that my mezzagiorno sweat also goes when I stand at the window.

This poem has a resonance that I find deeply appealing

It stayed me with for days.

[I liked] the imagery and the sense of life

Captures the pain and beauty of being alive

Mike’s poem captured a very human moment, describing a great feeling of tenderness and hope in a few lines.

The unexpected imagery and the distance it travels.

 

 ……………………


Comments on the rest of the shortlist included:

Diana Brodie, Happy

Spare and precise expression, moving and surprising, mysterious and thought-provoking.

…it left a mark in my mind which remained with me long after I had finished reading all the poems.

 

Zelda Chappel, Exhalations

I love the way Zelda takes a relationship & turns it into something tactile – something that gets into your bones

The language, the way it sounds spoken out loud, the flow, the rhythm, the force of it.

 

Kitty Coles, The Thin Woman

Imagery that instantly grabs attention and is memorable; good robust language.

reminiscent of Sylvia Plath but different and very visual

 

Daniel Roy Connolly, Des bons mots

Such technical brilliance, such mordancy

‘All things considered takes ages.’ Simply the best opening line I’ve ever read.

 

Seth Crook, Three Years

Pure and limpid voice, restrained emotion, for me it’s word perfect.

One word leads gently and flawlessly into another, building an intimate world that nevertheless allows me to participate in it. It’s a loving, sad poem that makes me feel warm and loved.

 

 


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January 2016 Pick of the Month

It’s that time again: Voting is now open for the Pick of the Month – your favourite poem – for January 2016

Our shortlist of six is below (or see the Vote for your January 2016 Pick of the Month in the Categories list to your right on the screen). These have either been chosen by Helen and Kate or received the most attention on social media.

Voting is now closed.

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.

(*Ink Sweat & Tears reserves the right to refuse certain charities if we feel they are too controversial.)

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And the final Pick of the Month for 2015 is ‘The Alchemist’ by James Parris

We can now announce that December’s ‘Pick of the Month’, and our final one for 2015, is James Parris’ ‘The Alchemist’ which featured on the first day of our ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ series. James writes from East London and has only just begun to turn his mind to poetry.

James will receive a copy of our Christmas anthology TWELVE: Slanted Poems for Christmas and has asked that his prize (£10) is donated to St Martin-in-the-Fields.

 

The Alchemist

The house was strange without one.
Corners where it could be swelled
daily in their emptiness
and threatened to topple the festivity.

Contrary under her gaze, he determined
that a squat bought thing just wouldn’t do,
and, shedding skeptics,
picked me as acolyte for misadventure.

And so in speckled overalls, like skins,
treading dampness into itself,
we left Crosby-carolling
for the trees who shivered at garden’s end

and saw in hand and hand on trunk,
he hoisted me into the twiggy innards
and spiced stench of sap
to amputate a branch or two or three

that we might puzzle together
in counterfeit of Christmas.
Metal teeth chattered bark to pulp
until my knuckles roared.

Then on the grass he laid our loot
and crouched and bent and sculpted,
rehearsing imperfect forms
gloveless, beneath the limbs’ original,

and twisting out an edifice, like origami
patterned from some secret
blueprint, invisible to me,
he stood content over his design.

Inside, we propped our patchwork nature,
boughs shot out like a mad star,
where he hoped it might not
shout its own lie loud enough

for her to tear it all to pieces.
Still, she came, and stood, and, silent,
circumspected for a hanging second.
And she smiled.

From one angle it was almost a tree.
But from every side his alchemy
now seemed to warm the house,
fuller in its strangeness.

 

Voters made the following comments:

The wonderful use of words that give it such a unique rhythm but mostly the sentiment and the pleasure the alchemist finally brings.

I liked the idea of building a Christmas tree and it being perfect despite its imperfections

For it’s extreme originality.

The most well-written, insightful poem of the list.

Subtle, understated, great word-pictures – like “knuckles roared”.

This gets my vote because to me it symbolises families coming together at Christmas.

 

 

 

 

Comments on the rest of the shortlist included:

 

Lana Bella, Eleven Years Tasted Like a Thousand Year Old Chinese Egg

I liked the mystery in this.

 

Joanne Key, Watching Tai Chi in the Park in December

Loved the initial apparent simplicity of this poem, then it moves and weaves to become multi layered and full of depth.

 

Sally Long, The Door

Like the door,it opened my mind

 

Wendy Pratt, Undone

This one left me undone x

 

Andrew Turner, My father’s watch

I love the way the poet has described the passage of time inside the ‘carefully imagined tin’.

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