Vote for Your July 2018 Pick of the Month!

It is an emotional and powerful group of poems that makes up the shortlist for our July 2018 ‘Pick of the Month’. They will hit you hard and it will be equally hard to choose the one that affects you most. But do take the time to go through the six exceptional works below (or click on ‘Vote for your July 2018 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 will be announced at 4pm on Friday 10th August.

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 All shortlisted poetry Picks, provided they remain unpublished and meet other eligibility criteria, will be considered as IS&T submissions for the annual Forward Prize for Best Single Poem.

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UEA FLY Festival 2018 Competition Winners 11-14 yr olds – Amelia Jones and Wilfrid Watson

More superb winning entries from UEA’s Festival of Literature for Young People, this time for the 11-14 year old age group.


Overall Winner 11- 14 and Winner: Prose 11-14



Mother says there used to be a type of flower called bluebells; I still haven’t decided whether to believe her or not.

You see, Mother spins lots of make believe stories in that web of hers – fairies dancing on waving streams, the daunting breath of her old pet dragon and most outrageous of all, the time she danced on the moon.

As a child, I believed the stories she’d whisper me to sleep with. As a child, I was able to picture the small fey and ferocious beasts she created. But a bluebell? That seems too good to be true.

Mother says, “It’s true alright, Cassi. Just long gone, and longer forgotten.” Mother says the last time she plucked one was the summer of 2018, which was a long time ago indeed.

As I normally do, I’ve searched high and low on the shelves at my local libraries, endlessly scanning pointless indexes for signs of a flower that supposedly existed. Nothing. I’ve even asked classmates at school. For the few seconds a day they pull their eyes from the glaring screens of their phones, I ask my questions – “Have you seen a bluebell?” or “Did your mother tell you about bluebells too?”  To both enquiries, I can only receive a pair of folded eyebrows, knitted into the shape of confusion, and sometimes the occasional shrug as people turn back to their overpowering screens, ignoring my claims of the elapsed blossoms.

Mother has tried to describe them to me too, hoping that I would be able to picture the plant that is now only fictional. “Sometimes not even blue, but a mixture of cobalt and violet. They had hanging buds in the shape of an old church bell, the ends curled up harmoniously.” The purple heads were – apparently – attached to a long, jade stalk, mounted in the earth. Mother says they smelt sweet and she would often desire to pick some on her walk home from school, as a batch grew among the morning dew on the path she took.

“Too valuable!” Her father would scold her for removing the blossoms from their natural home.

How is something so valuable – something so sweet, delicate and beautiful – so easily forgotten? The flower, once adored by the people of Britain, is now something even my history teacher has overlooked.

Even though I don’t know if a bluebell is just another of Mother’s stories, I yearn to see one – more than I wish to see the fire-breathing dragon. The reason for this? I know that I’ll never see a world of unimaginable fables, but bluebells could be real. Maybe they were real. Maybe, some are out there now, lost among scraps of debris, a blue curl of petals. Maybe, hidden in the depths of a forest, is a single flower, standing tall, waiting to be remembered.

Mother says there used to be flowers called bluebells; but they are forgotten.

Mother says there used to be flowers called bluebells; but I don’t think it’s true.



Amelia Jones



Winner Poetry 11- 14


The Lost Adder

Who saw the adder’s
shimmering scales?
Not I, said the father,
I was looking through my texts.

Who saw the adder’s
camouflaging pattern?
Not I, said the mother,
I was surfing across the web.

Who saw the adder’s
red forked tongue?
Not I, said the school boy,
I was playing GTA.

Who saw the adder’s
long and slender body?
Not I, said the school girl,
I was checking Facebook and Twitter.

Who saw the adder’s
gold and glittering eye?
I, said the little child,
Though I do not know its name.



Wilfrid Watson

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Megan O’Reilly’s ’15th of April’ is the IS&T Pick of the Month for June 2018.

It is perhaps appropriate, in the middle of our two-day feature on the young writers coming out of the UEA FLY Festival, that the winning poem for the IS&T Pick of the Month for June should come from a young writer in the next stage of her process and be her first published work. The word ‘beautiful’ kept coming up again and again with respect to Megan O’Reilly’s exquisitely moving ’15th of April’. We should all have someone like this to remember us.

Megan is a 22 year old Creative Writing and English literature student living in Bath. She is currently working on her first pamphlet of poetry inspired by the loss of her best friend. You can find her café loitering and petting every dog she meets, that is if you don’t confuse her with her identical twin sister.

She has asked that her £10 ‘prize’ be donated to Doctors of the World.


15th of April
Saturday morning,
I watch condensation drip down the window
and steam rise from the brim of a blue coffee cup.

Today marks a year since your death
and I still sit at this same window,
sip from a cup you gave me two Christmases ago.

I reach out to wipe the glass,
and the garden comes into focus,
just as a figure steps out onto the lawn,

a shape made of delicate bones:
a deer, alone and trembling,
as she picks her way through the long grass.

Deer don’t come down this far from the forest.
Perhaps she came for the mushrooms;
the morels and the fresh shoots of grass.

I move closer to the window, she stops,
body juddering like an old movie reel.
Then she looks right at me.

I am close enough to see her dark brown eyes.
She tilts her head to the side, as if to speak.
But there are no words.

She disappears and leaves the garden bare.
But for an instant, your brown eyes looked back at me.




Voters’comments included:


It’s beautifully paced as well as poignant and resonant. That last image really lingers with me, too! 

Beautifully written, emotive and heartbreaking

This poem made me cry . Very moving.

Beautiful ❤

Megan’s poem was so beautiful, it moved me beyond words.

Such a beautiful metaphor

This is such a tender, understated poem, which captures grief with sensitivity and without a hint of mawkishness.


This poem has inspired me in the ways in which I view poetry, it is so personal and heart-achingly beautiful! I love that the poet has used her own experiences to create such a meaningful peice. The delicate and touching way she writes about love and loss inspires me to love each day to the full with the people I love most.

Heartfelt, poised, not overstated.

This poem is powerful and has strong imagery.

This piece of poetry I can really relate to, you can feel the emotion in this and I think Megan has done an amazing job in writing this piece!

This is a beautiful and moving poem that caused me to reflect on loved ones I have lost. It delicately depicts the profound presence loved ones have in our lives even after they have passed. This is an emotionally raw and thought provoking poem.

The poem exquisitely and powerfully expresses the natural, everyday moments that make and break us as we experience loss.

This made me cry; it touched me so profoundly and I was there with her. A beautiful piece!

The poem touched me the most and I’m able to relate to it

The vivid imagery and innocence of the the deer juxtaposing with the lost friend is very poignant.

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UEA FLY Festival 2018 Competition Winners 15-18 yr olds – Megan Leung and Lauren Murray

Ink Sweat & Tears once again has been a proud supporter of the Poetry Day at UEA’s Festival Of Literature for Young People (FLY) and we are also very pleased to be able to bring you the winners of 2018’s writing competition (sponsored by Gnaw Chocolate!)

This year it was all about LOST WORDS:

Words for nature are disappearing! Many British children no longer know words such as dandelion, conker and bramble.

The competition was inspired by artist Jackie Morris and writer Robert Macfarlane’s wonderful book called The Lost Words: A Spell Book. Entrants were asked to create their own magical writing with 500 words of fiction, or non-fiction, or a poem of at least 20 lines which celebrated one of the lost words suggested. The standard was very high with judges noting: ‘ It was lovely to see such great responses to the natural world and for what language can do to illuminate our experience of it.’

The overall winner and winners in each of the prose and poetry categories for the 15-18 yr old group are given below. Entries from the 11-14 year-olds will be published tomorrow.



Overall Competition Winner and Winner: Prose 15-18



Winona once told me that people are like dandelions.

It had been summer then, and with it had come the balmy heat that coated our faces as we lay flat on the lawn, our stomachs bared to the empyrean blue, fingers and toes scrunched amongst blades of grass, the warmth turning our palms sticky as they traced faint trails through the swathes of green that populated the garden. I glanced at the nearest dandelion to my right; Winona’s lawn would always be stippled with the flowers, blotches of yellow decorating the thriving verdancy, a blaze of fervid colour to match the heat of the season. No sooner had her father rid the grass of them, they would return, their yellow petals forming a sort of homage to the sun that smiled down upon them. Winona would say that she preferred it that way, the flowers weren’t harming anyone, and besides, it was better than having absolutely no flowers at all. I nodded my head in agreement.

“We’re very similar really, humans and dandelions,” Winona would reason as she placed a couple in her hair, the flaxen petals and tendrils melding amongst her own auburn curls. “When dandelions get old, their hair loses all its colour, and they start to go grey and wispy and tufts of their hair fall out. I saw the exact same thing happening to my granny, you know.”

At this, I remarked that I would rather not get grey hairs as easily as the daffodils, who seemed to go barely months without starting to disintegrate into whitish fluff. Winona laughed at me, proclaiming that “Kids rarely ever got grey hairs” and that I had nothing to be afraid about.

The following summer, the dandelions bloomed in Winona’s garden, just a few doors down from my own. But I didn’t ask to go and turn cartwheels over her lawn or put flowers in her hair, for I knew that though the doorbell would ring, its tinny and shrill voice echoing between the walls, no one would emerge from behind the hazy gloom. Winona’s parents had divorced abruptly a few months previously, and Winona had been forced to move south with her mother.

She never replied to our messages.

The dandelions in my garden now are a powder white, the seeds formed of miniscule fibres intertwined within perfectly spherical globes. It is autumn now, the soft susurration of the trees signalling the coming movement of the breeze. With the wind, the seeds waver, like some undulating wave of miniature ostrich feathers, before being swept up, spiralling towards the ether like a small brume of diaphanous thread. And I realised that Winona and I had grown older, like the dandelions in our gardens, before being helplessly pulled by the wind into the seemingly never-ending spiral of life.

Like the dandelion clocks, we too had been dispersed with time to our different places in the world, perhaps never to meet again.




Megan Leung


Winner: Poetry 15 – 18



My grandfather told me that starlings
Came from the days when the sky was alive.

He told me
The starling
Is a wandering star
It has fallen from heaven;
It has travelled so far.

And his hands began to fly,
Casting dappled shadows on the wall,
Just skimming my covers, and then
Soaring up, up
Towards my half-open window
Where the night breathed and sighed
And dead birds choked on clouds
And starlings
Were no more.




Lauren Murray

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Time to Vote for your June 2018 Pick of the Month

We have had some stunning work published on IS&T in June: Emotional, moving, curious and powerful, so much so that even putting together a long list was difficult. But we have our shortlist now and we can only ask that you some time away from the sun, the tennis and the football to make your choice for Pick of the Month.

Please see the works featured below (or click on ‘Vote for your June 2018 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. 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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‘In Her Bones’ a prose poem from Anne Ryland is our Pick of the Month for May 2018.

After a hard fought contest – it always is – Anne Ryland’s ‘stunning’ ‘original’ ‘vivid and unexpected’ prose poem ‘In Her Bones’ is the Ink Sweat & Tears Pick of the Month for May 2018. And it is testament to Anne’s skill that she brought the articulated skeleton that is Agnes, ‘completely at home in her two hundred and six bones’, effectively to life. We wanted to know more.

Anne has published two collections: Autumnologist (shortlisted for The Forward Prize for Best First Collection 2006) and The Unmothering Class (2011). Recent poems have appeared in Oxford Poetry, Agenda and Long Poem Magazine. Her website is

Anne has asked that her £10 ‘prize’ be donated to Carers UK, a charity dedicated to making life better for carers.


In Her Bones

I discover her just off Pier Road, sitting on the bench that overlooks the river. Draped on the wooden slats, right femur resting on left, Agnes is completely at home in her two hundred and six bones. Relieved of padding and muscle, of her woman-paraphernalia (I note the handbag years have dragged her right clavicle down), her hinges and locks are exposed, her irregularities.

I lower myself onto the bench beside her. We share small hands and feet, but Agnes is now pure vertebrate; I see her spine’s ability to spring, absorb shock. Her pelvis has acquired a creamish lustre, a cradle opening to receive sunlight, but it would be impolite to place my palm in her ilium. Instead, I shift a little closer to inspect the jigsaw pieces of her skull. She carries on staring out towards the North Sea, an expression of Ah – behind her orbits. Might a bird seek refuge in her ribcage?

Agnes has no need of breath. The wind is her breath, passing through her bars, her lacunae, as if she were an instrument being tuned. Despite her loosened appearance, Agnes is incurably informative. She embodies the Greek word ‘pneuma’, meaning that which is breathed – or blown.

Agnes is reluctant to disperse or lie down. I’m unsure whether she’s a companion, or a proxy who’s been hiding in one of my recesses. For now, she settles into tide watch. I will wait. Agnes, at her most osseous, must have a voice – chalky, no … airy, like the voice of a haar.




Voters’ comments included:

‘In Her Bones’ is a poem that really evokes a sense of peace and stillness. I loved the words and rhythm of this poem and the setting it describes.

The subject matter is very descriptive, giving one the feeling of being there, sitting next to Agnes & experiencing what she sees so that is why it gets my vote.

I can just picture Agnes on the bench staring out to sea eternally. Very powerful.

Original in conception and execution – graphic, brave and unpredictable – wonderful tender tone.

It’s so original in subject matter and intriguing. I love the language of the skeleton too

A novel prose poem (excuse the pun) –

[I chose it] because this is the first prose-poem I’ve come across which manages to hold and justify its shape without losing movement and momentum, like an articulated and articulate skeleton in fact.

Very intriguing imagery and beautifully worked concept of skeleton as eccentric person .

Captures the atmosphere of Berwick Pier and is a skilful use of [a] prose poem

Agnes is an intriguing character & I thought about her a lot after I read this poem. Ann Ryland is a really interesting poet and it’s great to see her exploring the prose poetry form.
I live in Berwick upon Tweed and I have often walked along that pier past the seats. The poem evokes feelings of Berwick’s history and Agnes could be anyone of the strong, patient and faithful women that belong to Berwick’s past.
Wonderful tone, and takes the reader on such a flight of the imagination! Surreal, wry and convincing.
This prose poem has a beautiful haunting flow.

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Myra Schneider On Grenfell






Grenfell Tower a Year On

If trying to keep your head, you raced
towards the pillar of flame and smoke choking
the building, not knowing if your children, partner,
mother, brother, friend were trapped inside it;
if you lost one or many whom you loved;
if hoping to find a keepsake you made a visit
to your flat after the furnace was quelled, found
a smashed sink but nothing to take away
among the heaps of rubble, the twists of metal;
if numb, you received and offered sympathy for days
and soothing voices promised a new home
within weeks;
if living in the shadow of the Tower
you heard the reports of the corners cunning knaves
had cut in ‘ascertaining’ it was safe and a year on
you still had no place to call your own,
what trust would you have in promises, in words –
lashings of fine words which butter nothing?



Myra Schneider’s most recent poetry collections are The Door to Colour (Enitharmon) and the pamphlet Persephone in Finsbury Park, (SLN). Other publications include books about personal writing. She is consultant to the Second Light Network for women poets and tutors for The Poetry School. A new collection is due this October.

Myra also contributed to the poems for Grenfell Tower anthology (Onslaught Press), available here, which includes poems from Georges Szirtes, Medbh McGuckian and Red Watch fire fighter Ricky Nuttall. All profits go to The Grenfell Foundation being set up by Grenfell United.

Grenfell United are calling for the UK to observe 72 seconds of silence at midday to remember each life that was lost in and after the Grenfell Tower fire. On the evening of the 14th June, the group will be taking part in the Silent March and then will gather to observe “Iftar” and the breaking of bread at sunset. They hope many  fellow marchers will join them. For more details go here follow @grenfellspeaks on Twitter or Grenfell Speaks on Facebook.

Tomorrow, Friday 15th June, has been designated #GreenforGrenfell day.




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