Hannah Hodgson’s poem ‘Death Rattle’ is the Pick of the Month for February 2020

We live in uncertain times, and that voters chose ‘Death Rattle’ by Hannah Hodgson as the Ink Sweat & Tears Pick of the Month for February 2020 not only indicates their overwhelming admiration of the poem and the poet but is also an acknowledgement of the fragility of us all.  ‘Death Rattle’ is ‘moving and powerful, stark and black’ yet also ‘effortlessly beautiful and effective.’

Hannah is a 22 year old poet living with a life limiting illness and disability. She writes about these themes as well as hospice, feminism and other topics. Her first pamphlet Dear Body was published in 2018. www.hannahhodgson.com.


Death Rattle

Back in the day, everyone loved a good hanging –
curiosity gathered in the town square, red-nosed,
waiting for the theatre of mortality to end.

Today I attract the equivalent crowd –
have to untangle my vocal cords
from intrusive questioning.

Hospice is an experience with the brink,
as near the cliff edge you can go without falling.
Natural death isn’t quick.

It begins with a storm brewing in the chest –
thunder of increasing intensity,
crackles of lightning in the airway.

It ends with a moment of clarity,
final words like a rainbow
slowly disintegrating.



Other voters’ comments included:

It is simple, a little sad but also calm in the face of death.

It just connects with me in a way that the others don’t

Such a tricky subject matter, but this poem also manages to be beautiful. The “untangling vocal chords” is such a powerful image and the whole poem gets across the idea of intrusion and desperation. I was left speechless the first time I read it.

Such a massively powerful poem that nails its subject matter with great force

I love the line about crackles of lighting in the airway.

Very moving poem and I love Hannah’s economy of expression.

Powerful, spare and thought-provoking

Insight, honesty, economy, essence.

So powerful – and that ending…

I like this poem’s clarity and its lack of sentimentality

Hannah Hodgson’s poem is powerful and emotive without straying into the realms of cliche. The final image of the disintegrating rainbow is one that will stay with me.

Extremely well written

It’s a stunningly honest and clear sighted poem

I love the overlap between sound, physicality and natural phenomena in ‘Death Rattle’, particularly the lines: It begins with a storm brewing in the chest – thunder of increasing intensity, crackles of lightning in the airway

Very moving and yet not sentimental poem, well done to her.

Words that evoke Hannah’s reality.


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Vote! Vote! Vote! For your February 2020 Pick of the Month

The only thing that unites our shortlist for February 2020’s shortlist for Pick of the Month is how fine these poems are. There are sweet memories (Attracta Fahy‘s Dinner in the Fields) and less warm experiences – ‘Some things never change’ from Maurice Devitt. Chris Fewings’ ‘Cure’ makes us smile while Sarah Passingham‘s ‘The Machinist’ makes us shiver. There is cynicism in ‘The Art of Collaboration’ from Kevin Higgins and (a qualified) acceptance in Hannah Hodgson‘s ‘Death Rattle’.

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

Voting is now closed. February’s Pick will be announced on Wednesday 18th March.

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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Poems from Dipo Baruwa-Etti, Helen Calcutt and Abegail Morley are the IS&T Entries for the 2020 Forward Prize for Best Single Poem.

Do please read these fine poems below, go to http://www.inksweatandtears.co.uk/pages/?cat=118 or click on ‘2020 Forward Prizes for Poetry Entries’ in the categories list to your right.

Good luck to all!

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UEA Poetry MA Scholars Memoona Zahid and Konstantin Rega

In 2011, IS&T publisher Kate Birch established the The Ink Sweat & Tears Poetry Writing Scholarship (MA) at the University of East Anglia (UEA); Konstantin Nicholas Rega is its ninth recipient. Memoona Zahid is the second student to be awarded The Birch Family Scholarship set up to support UK-based poetry MA students from the BAME community. Both Memoona and Konstantin read at the Norwich Café Writers spoken word night last November.



daylight savings happens every year

but this year                everything       is making me cry.
frank o’hara and his mouth full of suns,
doughy snow, autumn and pop song
sadness.        a side effect of the crying:
my period is late, anyways, does it matter
at all? i wonder about our affinity      to
using the placing of stars
in the sky as justification for our softer hearts
but tonight, i looked out of the window
and it was all fireworks and gunpowder.
our air is made up of mostly nitrogen –
but we could inhale so much
and our lungs wouldn’t know
until death became the side
effect of too much nitrogen   and anyways
isn’t death the side effect of everything?
we are so often afraid of the dark we stop
time with our own hands,
use sun power from frank o’hara’s mouth
to put everything to a standstill.                    okay
maybe it isn’t like that, after all
someone would’ve noticed
the nitrogen in our lungs and we would’ve
saved one another from the darkness,          right?

october is the month for placing suns in
mouths,           so here i am
all gold



Memoona Zahid was born and raised in London and recently graduated from Goldsmiths with a degree in English with Creative Writing. She is currently studying for an MA in Creative Writing at UEA where she has been awarded the Birch Family Scholarship. Her poetry interrogates identity and selfhood, alongside femininity and culture. You can follow her on Twitter @memoonawrites. humanunderwater.wordpress.com




She Stays in Winter

The road to — is mucky
soiling snowfall. Like blood jelly
spring gives black, blank stirs.

The road to — begins to green
sprouting snatches. Soon red fuzz will
spin a babushka’s pattern of poppies.

The road to — longs for autumn
our poets’ singing. Darker clearings
dirty the last expanse of opal snows.

The road to — remembers me
oozing out footprints, to keep as fossils.
I carry painted eggs and painted wounds.

This road leading to —
has taken my mother and hers
before. Our sores dressed in furs.

On this road to the city of —
clouds colored as a healing bruise
recall festival flags I shall soon see.

The road, waterlogged with tar-
like slush under rosy clouds
imprinting my steps and my
basket of eggs and winter wounds,
takes travelers to invisible Kitezh.

How long have I beaten this path,
booted feet weighed down
by boreal chills and frosted zephyrs?
A season soaked with ancient gold
sparking the crystalline walkways

to an incongruous flow of blushing fire
(my father’s face comes just now:
cold touching as if to burn
the milk of his curdled flesh).

It is usually mother who flees
at springtime to distant markets,
her works famous from Siberia
to the Baltic coast. Yet she stays in winter with
the Mystic Rose and my untidy rosemary.

Going past the sacred forest, for its
holy hoard of white Taimyr reindeers, I
try to decipher their pale
hides amongst dusky trunks.

As my own skin camouflages sick sores,
the forest belt of birch keeps theirs
as feet and hooves hurry on mushy sprigs
fallen from shaggy coniferous breeds
fencing the Vladimirka road to Kitezh.

You see, Easter is not the only expected guest,
however this one remains in its earthen folds—
stygian loam acting as lush furs holding,
coveting a being lost in birthing.

My sestrichka reminded me
how to pack the pysanka just so
even though it was me mama taught
me mama made sit with needle—
as the egg’s essence drained.

Rooks have returned to wreath
birches in bucolic leftovers,
nests soon swelling boughs:
harbinger of spring’s emerald stench.

The road to Kitezh hosts cornflowers
dispelling winter’s net in blue bouquets
that haunt the earth’s bed—
seeds never frost-suppressed,
as with wounds, they come again.


Mystic Rose: another name for the Virgin Mary



Born in Krasnoyarsk, Russia, Konstantin Nicholas Rega currently attends East Anglia’s MA in Creative Writing (with the Ink, Sweat and Tears Scholarship and the UEA Music Centre Award). He has been published by www.jonimitchell.com, Mikrokosmos Journal, The Claremont Review, Minetta Review, The White Wall Review, and has won the ZO Magazine Silver Prize for Poetry, and currently writes a Jazz Column for Into the Void, and he is a Poetry Reader for GASHER and a contributor to Treblezine. He has read at DATABLEEDER I and the National Centre for Writing’s UEA Live. neomodernkonstantin.weebly.com

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Your First Pick of the Month for 2020 is ‘Realisation about a friend’ by Alexandra Corrin-Tachibana

When we launched January’s Pick of the Month, we noted that the poems were extraordinary and they truly are. But ‘Realisation about a friend’ by Alexandra Corrin-Tachibana tops the list in this case. Voters admired its simplicity and its beauty and loved the image that it conjured. This was a subtle poem of ‘impact and power’!

Alexandra lived in Japan for 10 years. She holds an MA in Writing Poetry from Newcastle University, was shortlisted for the Fish Publishing Prize 2018, and read at the American Writer’s Program Conference, in Portland Oregon this year.


Realisation about a friend

and deliberately
you draw
information out of me

the way my son
eats a strawberry
holding firmly
onto the green stem
sucking it down
to the pulp




Voters comments included:

The poem has the visual quality of a haiku and hangs there after being read which I found quite beautiful

I love it…on the surface it’s beautifully straightforward but then it leaves you extremely intrigued and wanting to know more. Also you know exactly what the author means..it has a wonderful universality. We have all felt like that

The words really meant something to me.

This poem really spoke to me. So clever, to get to the heart of a feeling, so directly.

Very disguising.

Very realistic!

short; to the point; succint.

Such a lot of insight and history in such a small space.

It’s a great piece of work.

It conjures up such a vivid image. Short and clever


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Our first Pick of the Month for 2020. Choose January’s Now!


The ordinary becomes extraordinary in the shortlisted works for our first Pick of the Month for 2020 and the decade.

Seemingly familiar warning signs in Rob Stuart‘s Word & Image are, in fact, ‘Poetry Hazards’. Melanie Branton’s ‘Going South to Morden’ is much more than a Tube journey and are we sure we know where Chin Li is going in ‘The Crossing’? Dave Stacey’s ‘Morning has broken’ looks beyond a sunrise and ‘Alexandra Corrin-Tachibana’s ‘realisation about a friend’ is intriguingly reticent. Then you have Paul Stephenson‘s take on ‘January’ which is both out of left field and makes complete sense.

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

Voting is now closed. January’s Pick will be announced in the next few days.

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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The final pick of the Month for 2019 is ‘No more ordinary mornings’ by Mick Corrigan

For December’s  Pick of the Month, the future and the state of our planet knocked everything else into touch – even the fine slant of our 12 Days of Christmas shortlisted poems – and Mick Corrigan‘s ‘No more ordinary mornings’ emerged as the final IS&T Pick for 2019 and, fittingly, for the decade. This ‘brilliant’ poem resonated because many voters felt it was true. Or would be.

Mick‘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.


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.


Voters comments included:

It may seem odd, the idea of poetry making something real, but that’s what happens here, making climate change real because it’s mundane.

It resonates so well with the times we live in

This is a ‘wake-up’ poem, its sincerity written in simple language. I love the ideas and the scary notion of  ‘No more ordinary mornings’.

Mick’s use of imagery and clever wordplay sways my vote.

Mick Corrigan has been a wordsmith and voice for some time now roun’ & roun’ the block on both sides of the pond. Foresight in technicolor and 2020 hindsight fitting of this starboard listing ship of fools, friends, and countrymen.

Touched a nerve

Because, there are no more ordinary mornings.

Bleedin’ fabulous

Enjoyed immensely!

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