‘The card given out at his funeral’ by Claire Cox is our Pick of the Month for February 2019


You looked, you read, you voted and the ‘beautiful and disquieting poem’ that is Claire Cox’s ‘The card given out at his funeral’ is the IS&T Pick of the Month for February.

Born in Hong Kong, Claire now lives and works in Oxfordshire. She is Associate Editor for ignitionpress, and is currently a part-time practice-based PhD student at Royal Holloway, University of London studying poetry and disaster.

She has asked that her £10 ‘prize’ be donated to the Royal Brompton & Harefield Hospitals Charity.


The card given out at his funeral

has no obituary. No order of service.
Just his name, curlicued and slant,
year of birth, hyphen, year of death.

Above that, an old print plate of his
reproduced landscape-wise, its surface
sectioned into eighths, each eighth quizzing

depth of cut, luminescence, blackness,
how acid bites, how resin resists.
‘Fig. A’ points to pale ripples:

a thumbprint in negative,
dabbed there momentarily –
his brief experiment in flesh.




Other voters’ comments included:

Hit me in the heart – understated, interesting use of language … her poem stayed with me the most… e.g. how we are all but ‘a short experiment in flesh’.

Beautiful, restrained and powerful

I like its economy and unexpectedness.

I love this poem’s allusiveness, its brevity, its poignance.

Oh the sadness.

A surprising, and beautifully detailed memorial to the printmaker.

Such a gentle reverie and homily of a lost much loved one. Gentle, spiritual, thoughtful and with grace

The simplicity of the form and language allows the grief to speak forth without rhetoric.

simply written yet finely crafted

A brief but recognisable representation of a life.

Beautifully written and resonant.

An extraordinary poem- superbly crafted

I liked the baldness of the opening stanza and the concreteness of details.

It tells a story, but in a stark way. Heartfelt


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For International Women’s Day: Helen Ivory




Anger in Ladies &c

. . .makes a beauteous face deformed and contemptible. . .
and separates Roses and Lilies, by quite removing one or the other
out of the Ladies cheeks . . . (The Ladies’ Dictionary John Dunton 1684)


The ladies are ripping roses and lilies to rags.
They are broadcasting them like bruised confetti,
trampling them into the carpet
so the parlour reeks of death,
or the mask of death – death spangled up –
death sullying the carpet.

The ladies are rendering themselves contemptible,
they are pollen-stained and beastly,
they are pawing the floorboards.

Now they will lecture you
on how to wear your hair, Mr Dunton –
how to cover your shame.
They are sharpening their bread knives.





Helen Ivory is a poet and visual artist and edits IS&T. Her fifth Bloodaxe collection is The Anatomical Venus (May 2019). She is a tutor for the UEA/NCW creative writing programme. A chapbook Maps of the Abandoned City was published by SurVision Press in January. http://www.survisionmagazine.com/books.htm

Note: This poem is taken from The Anatomical Venus, which is available to pre-order here: https://www.bloodaxebooks.com/ecs/product/the-anatomical-venus-1210

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Poems from Louisa Adjoa Parker, Oz Hardwick and Jessica Mookherjee are the IS&T Entries for the 2019 Forward Prize for Best Single Poem.

Revisit the poems below or go to http://www.inksweatandtears.co.uk/pages/?cat=102.

Good luck to all!

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Vote for your February 2019 Pick of the Month!


It’s time to vote for the IS&T Pick of the Month for February and we are heading into the night: From ‘the slow, funereal booming of the wind’ of David Calcutt’s excerpt from ‘Wintering’ through uneasy mourning in Claire Cox’s ‘The card given out at his funeral’ and Ross McCleary’s ominous ‘I put a wolf in the basement’, rounded out by a disturbing birth (‘Cockroach’ by James Knight) and an even more disturbing rebirth – Kitty Coles with ‘Stonecutter’. Finally, we include a review of Roy McFarlane’s Ted Hughes Award shortlisted The Healing Next Time, a work Pat Edwards sees as ‘bleak, challenging, angry and exposing’ with McFarlane ‘destined to disturb his way into our conscience’.

You can run but you can’t hide!

Please make your choice from the entries below (or see the ‘Vote for your Pick of the Month for February 2019 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. February’s Pick will be announced on Thursday 14th March at 4pm.

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.

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‘Off-Peak Single’ by Oz Hardwick is our first Pick of the Month for 2019

This, for me, is the perfect prose poem’ was the comment of one of our voters and we don’t think it too far from the truth as we declare Oz Hardwick’s ‘Off-Peak Single’ as our Pick of the Month for January 2019. Voters loved the contrast between the mundane and the ‘fantastical’, the poem’s many layers and the excellence of it’s rhythm, tone and pace.

Oz is a York-based poet, photographer, occasional musician, and reluctant academic. His latest publication is a prose poetry chapbook, Learning to Have Lost (Canberra: IPSI, 2018). His ambition is to play bass in a Belgian space-rock band. www.ozhardwick.co.uk


Off-Peak Single

The turnstile jammed, trapping me half way through, casting me in the role of inconvenience for the queue that gathered in Fibonacci curves, bristling with smartphones and resentment. I scanned and inserted my ticket at every possible angle, then the same angles again but in a different order, but the gate didn’t move and the crowd swelled, became unruly, pleading and threatening. On the other side, the hall had emptied, fallen to silence as the lights went out. My ticket wore thin, and when I lifted it to my eye I could see through it to the desperate, angry, Biblical mass who looked to me for the release of all their earthly cares, or at least for loaves and fishes. By the time the ticket had fallen to fine powder, the turnstile was thick with moss, with small shrubs chancing their tentative lives in this emerging world. Bees waggled their stories of new terrain, and a yellow songbird scored its eloquent truth. My hands throb with the primal power of mulch and loam, my fingers unfolding in the prestidigitation of new life. I regret to inform you of the cancellation of all services. Let there be light.


Voters’ comments included:

Oz’s beautiful use of language and imagery are simply stunning, resulting in a richly detailed vision of hell and heaven. Wonderful!

Felt and seen so clearly, the surging mumble of the rabble in the room with me.

Just because it struck a chord with me. Somewhere inside.

This is an amazing piece of work. Simple at first glance, until one uncovers its rich tapestry. An excellent read.

Great poem, unusual writing and arresting tone.

Tongue in cheek subtly erudite, heart not quite on sleeve


I like the idea of a ‘real’ world beneath the superimposition of civilisation.

Great imagery; surrealist yet full of meaning.

I really felt it. It matched my mood.

I love the way he uses prose so poetically. Plus the situation, such humour, being stuck in the turnstile – which becomes surreal.

It speaks about the little things that should be so simple.

We’ve all had problems with mindless ticket machines, some of which are human. It resonates. If only I could have a reserved seat next to the window of life, all would be well!

Instills humour, awkwardness and tension of biblical proportions into something so simple which we’ve all experienced Sublime

It is so evocative – it took me away, made me see and feel and lose track of time.

The poem is playful, but I also like Oz’s notion that an ordinary act can trigger the rolling of the years. It has satisfying echoes for me of Thoreau’s story in Walden of the woodcarver of Kuru: .. “He had made a new system in making a staff, a world with full and fair proportions; in which, though the old cities and dynasties had passed away, fairer and more glorious ones had taken their places. And now he saw by the heap of shavings still fresh at his feet, that, for him and his work, the former lapse of time had been an illusion, and that no more time had elapsed than is required for a single scintillation from the brain of Brahma to fall on and inflame the tinder of a mortal brain. The material was pure, and his art was pure; how could the result be other than wonderful?”

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Vote for the IS&T January 2019 Pick of the Month.


It’s our first shortlist for 2019 and it is a good one. It almost feels as if all of human life teems here: the good, the bad and the very ugly – with escapes into the serene or a commonplace that is anything but common.

Will you rage with Alison Binney in ‘#WhyIDidntReportIt’ or be uneasily drawn to Alix Scott-Martin’s ‘Sisters’? Does Ian Heffernan, peering behind the scenes of ‘Hunters in the Snow’, compel? Maybe, you are intrigued by the everyday that becomes extraordinary in Sunil Sharma’s ‘Cages, urban, iron’ or ‘Off-Peak Single’ from Oz Hardwick? Or do you simply want to escape through a ‘Rhine Swim’ with Andrew Shields?

Do take the time to go through the six fine poems below (or click on ‘Vote for your January 2019 Pick of the Month′ in the Categories list to your right on the screen).

Voting has now closed. January’s ‘Pick’ will be posted at 4pm on Tuesday 19th February.

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. (‘Frequency Violet’ by Kate Edwards was a Pick of the Month for November 2017 and was Highly Commended by the 2018 judges. It features in The Forward Book of Poetry 2019.)

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And your Pick of the Month for December 2018 is Catherine Ayres and ‘Christmas Eve tea’

*The word ‘beautiful’ was repeated over and over in the comments and, although it is a word sometimes overused when describing poetry, in this instance it felt just right and voters made ‘Christmas Eve tea’ by Catherine Ayres the IS&T Pick of the Month for December 2018.

Catherine is a teacher from Northumberland. Her debut collection, Amazon, was published in 2016 by Indigo Dreams.

She has asked that her £10 ‘prize’ be donated to Cancer Research UK.


Christmas Eve tea

5 o’clock.
Light silvers the sill.
This is the season of curious moons,
when we’re lost in the velvet of ourselves,
undreaming the deep nights
 between tomorrow and the past.

Rooms flower slowly, like stars.

Here are steep steps,
a hexagon of doors,
two china dogs guarding
the gas fire’s slapped cheeks.

I find the Smarties tube of tuppences.
I shake the Virgin so the Holy Water swirls.
I am allowed to sink my face
into the Sunday furs.

In the kitchen,
a clutch of pinnied women
makes the china clink.

Cold meats,
salad from a tin.

This is not a photograph –
it’s the warm edge of the past
where the women I love
are still alive.

I thought life would slot
into a snug line
by the sink.

My kitchen is neat and cold.
Light silvers the sill.
At the window, stars.


Voters comments included:

The imagery of such a common place event comes through in an extraordinary manner in a beautiful aesthetic flow.

Strong images and I love the shape and mood of this poem

Best evocation of the past I have ever read – love the warmth and softness of it and remembered especially the 3 lines after ‘this is not a photograph’

Her use of description is incredible.

So effectively describes that slip through time where memory is the only way to get to people and things that are no longer actually here. I love the contrast between the warmth and coldness.

It’s a lovely light touch with a deeper sentiment

‘The warm edge of the past’ is so evocative of a world we have lost – the sense of a community that no longer exists, a momentary glimpse. This so delicately expresses those times when history briefly superimposes itself upon the present like a ghost. Beautiful.

The spare quality of her vocabulary underpins the universal ache of nostalgia without descending into bathos.

a lovely neat, crisp poem with lots to say in few lines

It is the essence of nostalgia without a shred of sentimentality, the smarties tube, China dogs and pinkies . Women I feel I knew.

I love the simplicity and yet the layered complexity of Catherine’s poem. She is able to convey emotion in the most creative ways for example ‘lost in the velvet of ourselves’. You can’t quite describe what that means whilst at the same time I know exactly what she means. Her words hit a sense that needs no other explanation – I immediately know what she means – like some long lost melody that we suddenly remember in our hearts.

This poem has a nostalgic feel to it but is written in a modern form. It is satisfying to read but leaves me thinking about the themes for a long time.

Like many of the best poems, this one is rooted in precise detail but at the same time leaves space for the reader to bring their own memories. I loved reading this on Christmas Eve.

Right from the first line, this poem is full of Christmas imagery – spare use of words with no shortage of story. A back-story that is nostalgic and a present that is cold and yearning – repeating the first line as the penultimate line, launches the final line full of hope.

It was the magic she found in the every day, the lightness of touch with the nostalgia across generations that also felt universal, inclusive and comforting to me as a reader. It was hard to choose between this and ‘Narrowing’, but this one just had the edge in terms of seeming positive and enchanting.

It’s such a beautiful, economical evocation of a woman’s life – and her connection with a previous generation of women.

This poem took me to a place that was at once full of something beautiful and consumed by sorrow.

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