And our Pick of the Month for December is ‘the cumquats of christmas past’ by Ali Whitelock

 

All you want for December’s Pick of the Month is ‘the cumquats of christmas past’. This strong and beautiful poem by Ali Whitelock had a profound effect on the voters and, for many, left a powerful impression long after reading it. It was, quite simply, an ‘incredibly moving’ picture of grief.

Ali’s poems have been published in several magazines and journals. Her memoir, poking seaweed with a stick…. was published to critical acclaim and her poetry collection, and my heart crumples like a coke can will be released in 2018.

 

the cumquats of christmas past

you hailed your taxi tuesday the eight––
eenth of february 2014 at four twenty seven p.m.
i watched it approach swerve to the kerb
its back doors fly open––if this was death i saw it
crouched behind the wheel & jaded as a night
shift driver full of red bull & no doz & cheap 7/11
coffee ten thousand cigarette butts spewing
from its ashtray’s filthy mouth
the driver bundled you in––no fanfare
no prayers no bach cantata sung in sotto voce
that might accompany you on the fresh black
tarmac of your new road ahead––& nothing
soft for you to lay your head on
just a cracked vinyl seat stale cigarette
smoke a strawberry scented christmas tree jiggling
like a tea bag from the rear view mirror. i lay my
hand on yours leaned in whispered something like
i’m sorry made sure your pyjama sleeves were clear
of the door before pressing it closed as the first
bubbles of fermenting sadness rose in me
and i forced them down like cumquats into a jar
filled with brandy in preparation for christmas
which was still ten months away & for weeks i kept
cramming till the skins of my cumquats tore
their flesh bled out & you could no longer
tell where one cumquat ended & another
began
& when finally christmas came i half
decked my halls whispered infrasonic compliments
of the season too low even for a passing whale hung
empty stockings from the mantle their gaping mouths
speechless by the un-kindled fire & when finally
lunch was served & those of us left were gathered over
turkey & ham i took my jar of preserved cumquats
from the dark of my pantry, made my way around
the table & heaped everyone’s plate with a side of my
compressed orange grief.

 

 

Voters comments included:

The grief is palpable. The writing easy but descriptive and efficient. Almost overwhelmingly sad but controlled,acknowledged and accepted

The cumquats of grief that’s why – how they pack in more around Christmas, preserved, ever jammed.

The concept of Ali’s grief being squished down like cumquats in a jar totally hit the note – and spooning them out at Christmas just about finished me…! Absolutely loved it.

Very evocative language! What a wordsmith!!

Ali’s work really captures the crystal prisms of December

I love Ali’s breathless ramblings that cut closer and closer to the bone with savagely unscrambled line. Great stuff

Very emotional felt the grief of the writer

A quirky, punchy and powerful poem. Works very effectively – love it!

I can see, smell and taste the cumquats.

love the syntax, imagery, emotion

It punches me in the stomach and I love it.

Ali’s voice is so original yet speaks to the heart of what is Universal. She’s a thrilling find!!

it was the perfect portrait of the cab driver. such compassion for him while drawing this ghastly portrait.

The poem dealt with grief in such an original way. Many of the lines stayed with me long after I read it. Very original and moving. Would love to read more of Ali Whitelock’s work.

This poem combines wonderful lyricism with a visceral use of the vernacular. It is an intimate telling which is what poetry should be

Brilliant, brilliant soulful writing!

I adore her quirky poetry, it makes me want to read more (and get to know her!)

I love the way this poem flows, without rules and she captures the approach of death in a sad and unique way

This poem resonates emotion … the grief is palpable but not obvious in the chosen words. Original. Creative. Yet totally relatable.

Simply a wonderful poem that does the very tricky thing of making another person’s loss and grief so tangible and visceral to the reader. The details: eg. making sure pyjama sleeves were clear of the taxi door which is then pressed close like the lid on the jar of cumquats. Breathtakingly good.

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Vote for your December 2017 Pick of the Month

 

Are you sitting comfortably?

There’s a storybook feel for most of the shortlist for our final Pick of the Month for 2017 but, being IS&T, we are always telling it slant!

Please make your choice from the poems below (or see the ‘Vote for your Pick of the Month for December 2017′ 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. 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.

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November’s Pick of the Month is ‘Frequency Violet’ by Kate Edwards

As ever it was a close-run contest but ‘Frequency Violet’ charmed the voters and Kate Edwards’ poem is our Pick of the Month for November 2017. With comments such as ‘unique and interesting’, ‘quirky’ and ‘playful’, we think everyone just lost their hearts a little!

Kate lives in the Calder Valley in Yorkshire but hails from the Black Country. She is a graduate of the Warwick University Masters in Writing Programme and Co-Artistic Director of all-female theatre company, Jammy Voo.  Twitter: @k8_in_space

 

Frequency Violet

Some have misgivings about Violet. They believe
she is on the spectrum; somewhere at the very end,
in fact. None can account for it but we’re told
she hums inaudibly in the octave of ozone, and lives
in an airlock, loiters in restricted zones, makes
uncanny utterances, keeps marine snails, crushes
pencils into graphite dust, dances like it’s the seventies,
tattoos the world’s conspiracy theories onto uterine vellum,
stays up all night smoothing polymers under strip lights,
blinking. Rumours insist she has an eye for tactical missile
design and stockpiles blueprints, knows how to execute
the perfect gem heist and leave fingerprints all over it.
Her party trick will make volatile hearts and auras
of loneliness glow in the dark; despondency shine black.
Dreams of Violet often precede a wedding or a gas attack.

 

More voters comments below:

Gorgeous, delicate, efficient and bold. Love this. Stayed with me.

Imagery, rhythm, language, detail, originality

It’s just such an unusual and clever poem, I loved the originality of it.

I love the narrative in Kate’s work and the definitiveness that runs through it. It also has a sense of playfulness that delights the reader.

Violet stuns and surprises. The last line is particularly wonderful!

Because I’m in love with Violet…

I just really like it. Despite being unable to describe why. I guess I just like Violet 🙂

As someone trained in science I love how scientific integrity is maintained without compromising poetic sensibility. It’s beautifully nuanced, each line vibrating at the right frequency.

Wonderfully imaginative writing

The opening mis-direction and then the mixture of science and wonderful absurdity. Brilliant

Kate’s words jump off the page and suck you into an imaginative vortex. Her images sing and I want to read more please.

Tough choice this month! I love the energy and humour of Kate’s poem

I love its surprises, its wit and danger.

There’s just a life to this piece and it seems to be staying alive in my head as I find myself coming back to thinking about it.

 

 

 

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Vote for Your Pick of the Month for November 2017

We’re heading towards the end of the year and many of the poems shortlisted for our Pick of the Month for November are exhorting us to use our senses to their extremes: to inhale, to look, to see, to listen.

Please make your choice from the very fine works featured below (or see the ‘Vote for your Pick of the Month for November 2017′ 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 will be announced on Friday 15th December.

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.

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Longlist Announced for IS&T/Café Writers Pamphlet Commission Competition

After nearly two months of deliberation and consideration we are pleased to announce the longlist for the Ink Sweat & Tears/Café Writers Pamphlet Commission Competition. Please click on Pamphlet Commission Competition 2017 Longlist in the menu above or go here.

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October’s Pick of the Month is ‘The night that takes our shape’ by Phil Powrie

 

Phil Powrie’s ‘The night that takes our shape’, an ‘evocative, melancholy and beautiful’ poem is a much deserved Pick of the Month for October 2017.  This dark and haunting poem struck a chord with many who felt it was one for our times; its reach even went as far as Charlottesville in the US.

Phil writes books on French cinema, and teaches cinema and French at a university in the south of the UK. He has published poetry in South.

 

The night that takes our shape

afraid to abandon behind us the night that takes our shape
holding our candles like flickering flags
here am I a soldier here a priest each with a weapon
you march you pray in a patch of light

your limbs pull away like garlands
offered lightly to the clock’s lazy eyes
your hands clasp around mine
and you sing come dance with me come dance again

and march and pray
to hold the night at bay
to keep abstracted dark forever from the field

more than what we lost we regret what we never had
and dark shapes come to haunt us
marching and praying with their unbearable battalions

 

Voters’ comments included:

It is beautiful, so personal and yet so much about our times.

the candles in the night make me think of protests, Nazis with torches, counter protesters (this vote is from Charlottesville). I feel the darkness.

Elegant, succinct, evokes a clear image…

For its mood, and the melancholic form of dim extinguishing.

A refined and all at once unsettling use of the sonnet form

It’s beautifully compressed and suggestive — a small gem.

A powerfully evocative poem , tight, bare and visual

a moving poem, especially the way it sustains the multiple metaphor of darkness

the way it moves through night-time images, sensations and feelings like the mutable shadows one sees in the dark, like a dream.

powerful shifting imagery that avoids the predictable relationships that often render poems staid and overly familiar in their metaphorical usage.

lovely dark poem that fits our dark times and remind us of the need not to despair

I love the beautiful language and the carefully developed metaphors of the soldier and the priest.

An intriguing, suggestive, atmospheric piece of writing that lingers in the mind and repays close attention and rethinking.

…It spoke to me, especially the verse ‘more than what we lost we regret what we never had’. It evoked a friendship I recently lost, or better said never managed to have. This is very true.

A stirring evocation of the paradoxes of night and darkness–rebirth, certainly, but also mourning and loss.

This is a lovely poem that merges images of faith, war, and love.

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Time to Vote for Your October Pick of the Month

We move from the sublimity of ‘Self Portrait With Spiders’ to the divine ridiculousness of  ‘The Chocolate Parliament’ – can it be any more ridiculous than our own – and meet sorrow, despair and isolation on the way in our very fine shortlist for October’s Pick of the Month. Do make your choice from the works below (or see the ‘Vote for your Pick of the Month for October 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.

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