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’ has been chosen as one of Ink Sweat & Tears’ entries for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem 2018.


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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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.


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

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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:

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



& 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


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