Vote for Your Pick of the Month for August 2018

The long hot days of summer have drawn to a close but there is still time to take one last look back and vote for your Pick of the Month for August 2018. These shortlisted poems, wistful and reflective, with several inspired by music and one including a stop at a lonely diner, have either been chosen by Helen and Kate or received the most attention on social media.

Do take the time to go through the six exceptional poems below (or click on ‘Vote for your August 2018 Pick of the Month′ in the Categories list to your right on the screen.)

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 All shortlisted poetry Picks, provided they remain unpublished and meet other eligibility criteria, will be considered as IS&T submissions for the annual Forward Prize for Best Single Poem. (‘Frequency Violet’ by Kate Edwards was a Pick of the Month for November 2017 and has just been Highly Commended by the 2018 judges. It features in The Forward Book of Poetry 2019.)

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‘Frequency Violet’ by Kate Edwards is Highly Commended in the 2018 Forward Prizes and appears in the ‘The Forward Book of Poetry 2019’

We are beyond excited to be able to announce that Kate Edwards’ poem ‘Frequency Violet’, which charmed and delighted us and was Pick of the Month for November 2017, has been Highly Commended in the 2018 Forwards Prizes following our submission of it for the Prize for Best Single Poem. Violet makes her print publishing debut in ‘The Forward Book of Poetry 2019’ available here.

Huge Congratulations to Kate

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Matthew Tett reviews ‘More than you were’ by Christina Thatcher

 

 

 

 
Losing a parent is hard and when it happens, it’s tough. It brings a glut of unexpected emotions and without a doubt, More than you were, Christina Thatcher’s debut poetry collection, deals with the death of her father in a beautiful, heartfelt way.

Thatcher, an American Ph.D student at Cardiff University, has written More than you were as a response to her father David’s death, in 2013, from a drugs overdose. Not knowing the deceased does not make the collection any less impactful. In fact, the poems deal with Thatcher’s grief in a multitude of ways from constructing her father’s obituary through to cleaning out his apartment.

In the opening poem, ‘First Drafts’, Thatcher explores the process of writing a suitably respectful piece for her father – and how, after she’d ‘read hundreds of them…’ she didn’t want her father ‘to look bad next to the other obituaries’. Further in the past is ‘Day One’ – and the room being ‘like molasses’ is poignant: time takes on a new meaning. It’s not something that can be imagined, or easily understood.

Interspersed throughout are ten ‘lessons’ – learning points, often focusing on what Thatcher learnt from her father, or has realised since he died. In ‘Lesson #3’, David Thatcher told his daughter that ‘some things were never mean to be loved.’ In ‘Lesson #5’, he kills eels, en masse, and explains this as a kind gesture. But learning is not just restricted to the ‘lessons’. In ‘There’, Thatcher realises how much her father was to her – ‘the everything in that room’. The disconnect of the nouns ‘expert, alchemist, front man composing lasagna’ show how much he meant to her – and how much fathers mean to many of us. In ‘Anticipation’, the focus is less positive – waiting for something that never comes. Thatcher was desperate for ‘the taste of cinnamon’ chewing gum but such desire was futile. It is fascinating how the adult memory can hang on to glimpses into the yesteryear of childhood. If only all responsible adults followed through with their promises.

Thatcher’s poems are short, often one-stanza affairs, each one conveying strong emotions that only the bereaved can ever fully understand. ‘Shaking hands at a funeral’ is reminiscent of Seamus Heaney’s ‘Mid-Term Break’ – the main difference being Thatcher writes about death’s impact on an adult, whereas Heaney wrote as a child. But the fall out (‘death would strip me, leave me barren, like winter’) is the same. The tragedy of getting older, with funeral attendance being the norm, is clear in ‘Multiples’. In ‘Sharing’, a warmer sense is felt – where Thatcher debates where to scatter her father’s ashes, listing beautiful potential locations in her adopted Wales.

What really rings true in this collection is the contrast between what was and what could have been. In ‘Out’, there is a strong element of wondering – with reference to ‘bottles of Bud’. One can’t help feeling empty with the thought of wasted opportunities. But this doesn’t stop Thatcher reminiscing – particularly when it is the anniversary of her father’s birthday in ‘When you sneak up on me’. The longevity of grief’s impact is evident here, as it is in ‘Echo’ with its sense of finality – with ‘Everything being paid up.’ After a loved one dies, there is a lot to organise, alongside the grieving and emotions. Even though such jobs can be unwanted and tempting to ignore, their completion leaves a sense of everything being done.

Towards the end of the collection, Thatcher reflects on the present day. In ‘On learning to help myself’, she uses the analogy of ‘luck’ – and that she doesn’t have to rely on this in order to have a good life. Finality is confronted in ‘Your estate has closed’ – and in ‘Resilience’, accepting the truth (and internalising the loss) is tackled. The concluding poem, ‘Finding You’, sees Thatcher returning to one of her father’s old haunts and the impact a guitar has on her. It is a reminder to us all that the small things in life can cause the strongest emotions.

Having recently lost my own father, albeit in very different circumstances, More than you were hit home. The collection should be read as a whole, such are the effects of grief. Thatcher candidly writes about the myriad ways that a parent’s death can affect a child – and no matter the situation, her writing is beautifully executed and deserves to be absorbed slowly, with consideration and a sense of peace.

 

 

Matthew Tett is a freelance writer and teacher based in the south-west of England. He is Reviews Editor for NAWE’s Writing in Education and writes for various publications, including the Cardiff Review.

 

You can buy your copy of More than you were by Christina Thatcher here: https://www.parthianbooks.com/products/more-than-you-were

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‘Epoch’ by Rebecca Sandeman is your Pick of the Month for July 2018!

It came right down to the wire this time but Rebecca Sandeman’s ‘Epoch’ edged home to be the Pick of the Month for July 2018. This ‘powerful’ ’empathetic’ poem moved voters and marked Rebecca, in her words ‘usually a fiction writer’, as one to watch in poetry.

Rebecca is a PhD student at the University of Sheffield and Events Organiser for a lawyers firm. She is editor at @CicatriceJournal and her work has appeared in Route 57, Edinburgh Inkwell, Llady and Prole.

 

 

Epoch

And I can’t
can’t
do the 7:45 wetness
on the bathroom floor
anymore

I step in it
And my socks
are sad on the way to work.

Conduit Road is more
miserable
having items which
weep unexpectedly.

I’m sorry that I break
once
every 28 days.

It’s an unfortunate side effect
of pins in your arm
and love.

And you,
you
Tell me everything’s
going to be okay
in a voice I abhor

offering orgasms
and cups of tea,
to talk me down
from the ledge.

I tell you I’ve got cold feet
And that I miss
my Waitrose deliveries.

I say I don’t want
you to touch me
and that your family
are annoying.

(Which they are)

And then
And then

We turn off the light
With our
new clean bed sheet

which you have blow-dried
along with my knickers
for work

and we kiss in the dark
for hours

my tongue tells your teeth
how much of a fool
I am.

 

*********

 

Voters comments included:

It moved me, to a better place

Amazing poem, loved the bit about the socks

Truly powerful words, spoken with a knowledge of great breadth. I’ll keep my eye on this poet.

It provides insight into the feelings of others when ill health is prevailing and encourages the reader to be empathetic.

Talented, creative and truly spoken.

The simple little gestures of love made me cry!

Astonishing work.

A classy writer who has style and clout

I just adore her

Sad socks and a pervading rawness – I like this.

A powerful depiction of conflicting emotions in a period of someone’s life. I can relate to this.

… she is such an inspirational person and so talented in her artform

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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

 

Bluebells

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

 
 

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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.

Bravery

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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