Sue Finch’s ‘The Seventh Car Will Be His’ is Pick of the Month for September

As always, it came down to the last few votes but ‘The Seventh Car Will Be His’ by Sue Finch just edged ahead to be Pick of the Month for September. This ‘dark’ ‘sad’ poem drew voters to it because it was ‘extremely visual’ but at the same time much remained unsaid. Ultimately, it left the reader with a sense of unease and forboding

Sue loves North Wales, the sea and being lost inside a film. She is currently completing her MA with MMU. She has asked that her £10 ‘prize’ be donated to Cancer Research UK.

 

The Seventh Car Will Be His

As the raindrops collected on the glass
the old man opposite strolled down his path.
Kneeling on the chair she watched all movement.
Next door’s tatty tabby sat on the kerb
washing methodically behind his ears.
A crisp packet, encouraged by the wind
that brought the rain, turned a somersault
and she wondered if it felt its freedom.
Time had halted in their house since last night;
She didn’t want to hear her breath, admit
she existed or have to move from there.
Only when her brother came to kneel too
could she exhale the sigh that needed to
escape from the jail of her too-taut lungs
It will be alright, he said, sparing her
a glance. Are you sure? she asked not looking.
The seventh car will be his, just you see!
She knew she did not want to see the truth.
The truth was the rabbit hung in the shed,
The truth was the claret blood dropped from its nose –
congealed yet fresh on the stone floor. The truth
wasn’t quite covered by half a blanket.
Multiples of seven came and went and
the old man returned. Not noticing them
he shut his front door and stayed safe inside.
He lit the front room then darkened it again
with his smoothly drawn pleated curtains,
They both knew he was still there, just hidden.
But so too was the lifeless hanging pet.
They sat watching, waiting, not yet crying.

 

Voters’ comments included:

This poem makes me feel as though I am the girl who is shocked at the sight of a dead rabbit. It is easy to imagine myself in the girls shoes, being a child again, watching out of the window, being comforted by my brother. A vivid picture is painted of what can be seen in the street while they are waiting. I like the fact that the biggest shock comes at the end when you realise it is a pet rabbit rather than one that would be used as food. It is atmospheric and dark.

The sense of tragedy and mystery which shimmers with every word.

Extremely visual.

Evocative, sad and beautifully written

So real it hurt.

Strong imagery (rabbit, crisp packet and tatty tabby). The line – Time had halted in their house since last night – is powerful and foreboding.

I love the authenticity and childlike tone which is captured so well in the poem. It keeps resonating inside me.

There is a build up, tension leading toward something unknown, and even then only implied. Very cleverly done.

I like the subtle way it hints at something dark. Fantastic!

Emotive. Perfect. Clever.

Sublime.

…it’s the one that made me stop at the end and just contemplate the most.

Read More

And the Pick of the Month for August 2017 is ‘Cowardice’ by Freya Jackson.

This was a nicely balanced competition with votes and comments across the board but Freya Jackson’s supporters just tipped the balance at the end and her ‘Cowardice’ is Pick of the Month for August. This ‘raw’, ‘visceral’ poem disturbed and disoriented but you found beauty in it too. A very worthy winner and one for our time.

Freya is a 21 year old writer from Leeds, Yorkshire (UK). She has been published in, amongst others, Arc Magazine, The Literateur, Hapex and the A3 Review. She was a finalist for the 2015 Princemere Poetry Prize and Highly Commended for the Binnacle Ultra Short Competition 2016. See here also: http://www.pothook.co.uk

She will receive a National Book Tokens gift card for £10.

 

Cowardice

& I did not even as she was screaming, 2 policemen between
her holding her like the edge of a dam edging into her
onto her but that’s not my business makes me think too
much all the times I was – the woman on the wall
was either screaming or struggling but not both I can’t remember
and my mother said he was probably her boyfriend it
was probably fine don’t panic don’t cry no-one was hurting
her but he was the replay in my head was old stereo she
was screaming or she was struggling but not both I remember
why can’t I remember – it didn’t happen to me nothing happened
though all the fear in my head made me fizzy-drink shock
stuck I either screamed or I didn’t or I didn’t it happened two
three times nothing though he scared me kept following me
couldn’t shake him shake myself in the mirror I knocked on every
door but only one woman answered and my brother looked
afterwards like something awful had happened though the police
didn’t knew it was a waste of their time like they wanted to shake
me as I slotted the pound coin into the dip-centre of my palm
you’re a good girl, aren’t you I kept thinking about Mary before the
fall all dirty feet I’ll never let a man touch me wash me like that didn’t
let him either and he didn’t force me – nothing happened sixteen
and I’m playing at pain walking around suburban Sunday screaming
no-one around but me didn’t know if I was capable of it took too
long like learning to play the flute can’t get a sound out it the breathing’s
all wrong then all at once scream scream scream but no-one left their
house a wasted effort still I should have stopped at least it was like she
was falling in slow motion I thought they were going to hit her but they
didn’t & even if they did I wouldn’t have

 

Voters comments include:

Freya’s mastery of structure gives the poem a great sense of tension by exploiting the cyclical nature of gendered violence. Thoughtful and dynamic, her poem evokes both deep feeling and deep contemplation that relates to issues we must all face. A work made beautiful by its intent.

This is punchy, raw and very brave.

A careful & interesting use of words

The pace and sense of fear it conjures with the hopeless cowardice.

The panic and fear and disjointed thoughts really speak to me – it twists a knife in my gut. That kind of confused impression of something large and horrible and all too real.

The tone is just right – disturbing stuff, and the disturbance resonates in the language used. Lack of punctuation helps sense of disorientation.

Stunning poem

It’s just a beautiful poem

Awesome poem!

Freya’s poems are so vivid, I feel like I’m living the words she writes

 

Read More

August Pick of the Month Time and You’ll Need to Act Fast!

 

It’s a busy September for us with the deadline for our Pamphlet Commission Competition approaching on the 22nd and National Poetry Day on the 28th – we’ll be calling out for submissions on the theme of ‘Freedom’ very soon so watch this space. Therefore, there’s only six short days to make your choice for Pick of the Month for August and it’s a scorcher of a shortlist (unlike, perhaps, most of the summer!)

No pastel pastorals for us this summer. Almost all of the shortlist below (or see the ‘Vote for your Pick of the Month for August 2017′ in the Categories list to your right on the screen) are vivid and uncompromising. They have either been chosen by Helen and Kate or received the most attention on social media.

Voting has now closed. August’s Pick of the Month will be announced on Friday 15th Sept.

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 winning poetry Picks, provided they the meet the eligibility criteria, will be considered as IS&T submissions for the annual Forward Prize for Best Single Poem.

 

Read More

And the Pick of the Month for July 2017 is ‘Birds’ by Rizwan Akhtar

This one came right down to the wire and at one point we thought it might be a draw but Rizwan Akhtar’s ‘Birds’ just edged ahead to be Pick of the Month for July 2017.* What caught voters’ attention was the imagery, the allusions and the wonderful use of language. And, as one said, ‘Nature breathes in this poem.’

Rizwan works as an Assistant Professor in the Department of English, Punjab University, Lahore, Pakistan. He completed his PhD in postcolonial literature from the University of Essex, UK in 2013. He has published poems in well-established poetry magazines in the UK, Wales, US, India, Canada, and New Zealand. He has also done a 5 weeks workshop on poetry with Derek Walcott at the University of Essex in 2010.

 

Birds
for you

They scrape and bill for answers
I peck evenings for small words
finches and robins temper tones

They don’t flutter against my desires
Or rise from foggy halos
like sentences blurring intentions

only stare my doubts with little eyes
over ponds of petaled flowers
carrying conviction under feathers

a stripped choir of town’s winter
land on raven craggy earth
sank in scrimped necks

a milky whiteness of nude bodies—
clamp beaks against an urgent silence
of blue, red, and magenta quills

These birds I see cloister you
huddle like expressions
muted by long flights

They drop our histories
tied to footnotes, on vague wings.

 

********

Voters comments included:-

[It] awakens the romantic and philosophic eye of any literalist who has so far been looking at birds as only biological beings. It’s a ‘love at first sight’ experience reading this poem.

Imagery is from day to day examples, easy to understand yet impregnate with deeper contexts.

Fascinating fabrication of words

Because the words are so powerful they strike with intensity and the imagery is also very provocative!

Good control of the language and line length. Surprising imagery.

Fascinating and marvellous piece of writing

Language and style impressed me

The marvelous use of language to communicate the subject

Loved the theme, the message. Wonderful

The poem resounds [with] an intimacy with nature, creatural…

 

*It was such a close thing (one vote!), however, that special mention must go to Andrew Turner and his fine poem ‘The wolves were not invited’; its fairytale quality and unnerving ending appealed to many.

 

 

Read More

Vote for your Pick of the Month for July 2017

That time again and, holidays looming, we’re getting it in early. We’ve a shortlist based around flora – the lotus – and fauna – birds, foxes, wolves – with a nod or two to philosophy on the side. Do take the time then to look at the poems below (or see the ‘Vote for your Pick of the Month for July 2017′ in the Categories list to your right on the screen.)

The shortlisted works 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. All winning poetry Picks, provided they the meet the eligibility criteria, will be considered as IS&T submissions for the annual Forward Prize for Best Single Poem.

Read More

A poem sequence and an interview with Molly Pearson, the 2016/2017 recipient of the Ink Sweat & Tears Poetry Writing Scholarship at the University of East Anglia.

 

The following three poems are part of a sequence that explores the connection between natural phenomena and bodily affect.

 

specimens

 

#1

i will give a proof of my zeal: one day, on tearing off some old bark, i saw two rare beetles & seized one in each hand; then i saw a third & new kind, which i could not bear to lose, so that i popped the one which i held in my right hand into my mouth. alas it ejected some intensely acrid fluid, which burnt my tongue so that i was forced to spit the beetle out…
— charles dickens

knowing what will happen never stops me

when i took you in my mouth
divine complexity

a six-legged query      poised
on the tip of my tongue

rooting in the damp
soil of each other’s forms       until

your body sprang its sudden leak
those virulent colours       seeping

in the morning        i am swollen
entirely different
opened

my mouth becomes bank

vast atrocious trees       birds breathing

 

 

#2

i fulfil my functions like an unripe fruit
mulchy seed-skinned flotsam of potential
tulip machinery clanking
under the dirt

& yes       i have been fragile

have spoken in concentric circles
photodegredation        the light widening
damp wind torquing untold familiar words
bounce of water       gyre

fragile

knows its own extremity       is generous
jewelled piñata heart treating us all to itself
bruiseful rape-yellow pulp
uncensored streaming

 

 

#3

& as we were settling this final fathom, i saw a wonderful thing. lying on the bottom just beneath us was some type of flatfish. even as I saw him, his two round eyes on top of his head spied us — a monster of steel — invading his silent realm. here, in an instant, was the answer that biologists had asked for the decades. could life exist in the greatest depths of the ocean? it could!
— jacques piccard

a new old thing
slimy & exquisite

breathless       clenched by water
i feel        girl

call it awareness:

the body’s gunky sentience       each cavity
my middle ear       my pink & reaching lungs
gap where a womb should be
noisy air in blood

the outer window cracked        beginning to trickle
all that expectation

i let you into my skin
your flexing bones       your eyes

the dark inside me
tightens

 

********

Seven Questions with an Eighth

1. Where do you write? (do you have a place that you find yourself and your writing?)
Different poems suit the vibes of different places. I’ll write in coffee shops, libraries or at my desk at home beside my trusty angle-poise, whatever the current work calls for.

2. How do you write? (into a notebook or straight onto a computer?)
Computer, always. As a poet it makes experimenting with form and structure so much easier.

3. Roughly how much time do you spend each week on creative writing related activities? (writing, editing, correspondence & submissions)
I tend to write in short, intense bursts — by the time I open my laptop, most of the poem has already been written in my head and it’s just a matter of getting the words down — so the amount of time spent actually writing is small for me. The rest — editing, corresponding and submitting — takes forever! It evens out to a couple of hours a day.

4. What time of day do you usually write?
As soon as I wake up, regardless of when that is. I need fully charged batteries!

5. What does it feel like to write?
My best writing is done when I’m unaware of myself. If at any point I start thinking about who I am, what I’m doing, or (God forbid) why I’m doing it, block sets in. I’m in a very high state of awareness; it’s almost trancelike. I’m aware of the words happening, but not much else.

6. Are there any stimuli that will usually trigger you into writing?
The stimulus that triggers non-writing is definitely routine! Emotional, physical and even geographical shake-ups all get my creative juices flowing, so if I’m struggling, the best thing I can do is to go somewhere I’ve never been and write there. Failing that, a flat white generally does the trick.

7. What are you working on now?
For the past month and a half I’ve been working on HYDRA, a collection of poetry that explores our relationship with water. So much of the planet and so much of our bodies are liquid. Each human spends the first nine months of its life as a marine creature, and until around 400 million years ago all life was aquatic. It’s been fascinating to consider what that represents to us and the role that water plays in our twenty-first century lives.

8. How has the scholarship affected your writing?
It’s given me the opportunity of spending time with some fantastic writers, and I think that affects writing more than most people realise. The poets I’ve studied with for the past year on the MA are really talented, and watching them develop poetically in the same way I’ve been developing has been a privilege. In January I was lucky enough to be invited to read at Café Writers alongside Esther Morgan, whose work I really admire, and it was an amazing experience. Being around poets always makes me want to write poetry.

 

For details of UEA’s Ink Sweat & Tears Poetry Writing Scholarship established by IS&T’s Kate Birch please go here.

Read More

And the Pick of the Month for June 2017 is Angelica Krikler’s ‘Nature’

Out of the mouths of babes. Angelica Krikler, who wrote and submitted her poem ‘Nature’ when she was 16, streaked ahead of her fellows on the shortlist and is IS&T’s Pick of the Month for June 2017. Voters responded to the beauty of the poem and were engaged by its exceptional use of language.

Angelica lives in Essex and writes fiction and poetry outside of school. Her poem ‘Bacteria’ was published on the online Y-Magazine and another poem ‘Cleopatra’ is published in the latest issue of morphrog.com

 

Nature

Plants grow out of her eyes
Because all she sees in him is the beauty of nature
The chants she stops in her day to listen to
The air she exhales
And the mud she wipes from her feet
But nature is a vicious cycle
Two seas mix, the water never settles
Endlessly floating from the plaits in her hair and the sandy pebbles on the shore
Like the granules in a coffee pot
Weight on shoulders
Hands on the small of her back
Magnetic air between mouths
One day she’ll know what to spend her money on
One day she’ll know how to reply
She will lift up the old carpet
Dragging a tree away from its roots
Realising soon that sometimes nature must be cut away
In order to see the daylight

 

 

Voters comments included:

Angelica’s poem is beautiful, written with soul, sensitivity and maturity. Well deserving of the prize.

Unique & engaging poem

I think it’s a very powerful piece of poetry and it speaks to me on a deeper level than the others

Angelica is a phenomenal artist and writer. Her work evokes the beauty of the natural world and the wonders of our environment.

The most incredible young talent I have ever known X

Exceptional wording.

I like the use of enjambment.

…a stand out

This poem uses language cleverly and beautifully to express deep feelings and strong ideas

Beautifully written with a powerful and unexpected ending

Because I’m not a poem kind of guy but it made me think about the woman

Touched me on a personal level. Beautiful.

Amazing poem, very well written

Read More