It’s time to Vote for your October 2016 ‘Pick of the Month’


Our Pick of the Month shortlist for October is a sombre one. People and relationships are mourned, or not, and we’ve been drawn to the dark and macabre, perhaps befitting in a month that ends with the Day of the Dead.

You will find our shortlisted writers below (or see the ‘Vote for your Pick of the Month for October 2016’ 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. (You’ll note we have an extra this month. Competition on social media was fierce!)

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.

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Bethany W Pope, for Hallowe’en




Six Red Seeds

In Persephone’s dreams the sky is black
and ravens sing like mourning doves. Beneath the white grass,
the soil is red as pomegranate juice. She longed to go back
to her mother’s safe house, filled to the walls with stacks
of wheat and starched, white-cotton dresses.
In Persephone’s dreams the sky is black
as the eyes of her uncle, her rapist, who dragged her slack,
unconscious body into the womb of the earth through lips
of soil; red as pomegranate juice. She longed to fall back
into the white arms of her mother, where she never lacked
anything but freedom, where she could be a good, simple lass.
In Persephone’s dreams, the sky is black,
clouded with regrets. The sun is too bright, the air too rank
with slow decay. The thrum and pulse up here feels crass;
the soil red as pomegranate juice. She longs to go back
to the time before her rescue, where there was pain, and packs
of wolves, but where the truth was clear as her face in a glass.
In Persephone’s dreams the sky is black,
the soil red as pomegranate juice. She longs to go back.





Bethany W Pope has published several collections of poetry: A Radiance (Cultured Llama, 2012) Crown of Thorns, (Oneiros Books, 2013), The Gospel of Flies (Writing Knights Press 2014), and Undisturbed Circles (Lapwing, 2014). Her first novel, Masque, was published by Seren this year.

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Lew Kelly




Fairy Dell

Riverside section within Stubbylee Park, Stacksteads.
Sophie Lancaster was fatally assaulted in the park in August 2007.

The ground is digesting
the park in its underbelly.
All the things that used to shimmer

are being swallowed.
The rust dappled skate-park
does not welcome me,

the ground there is hungrier
since it happened.
It has already taken so much:

my first memories of the earth,
her blood, her last words.
I find Fairy Dell, ten years on,

find it sullen and negatively charged.
I wonder, is it still Fairy Dell
or just another riverside road?

The wooden shoe we carved at school
is licked with rot.
The witches’ cauldron is clogged

with dirt, our well of old water
we’d stir, chanting, casting.
Behind it, the stone circle hides

behind ash trees, the stones half-chewed
by the earth. It will keep devouring
until there is nothing left

but the orange sky,
tiny rotting organisms
stagnating the fringe of the pond.




Lew Kelly is a recent graduate of LJMU. He has previously been published in Cake, In The Red, 1533 and ISWrite. He’s currently publishing Lifejacket, an anthology to support refugees. His poetry aims to re-enchant adulthood.

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Sam Parr




Before She Went

She rests in music all day long
Jazz, Opera, Nationalist folk,
The closest thing to silence I can find here.                                        
If she raised her head,
she would see Tesco, a pub and the steelworks,
the new Wales,
rolling out like steam,
But instead she watches the sky
As an airplane splits it in two.

Her legs become just rumours under the duvet, and
her skin stops fitting,
That’s because it’s mass produced
she explains,
Its transparency seeps through into her bones,
And when she hoards enough will to
lift her arm
The moonlight slips through it
– salt dissolving –
Where do I end?
She whispers
As the nurse jumps
– I did not see you there,
my dear,
what with all this light.
She peers at my face
Breaking into her vision
and says
“Picasso, Van Gogh, Toft.”
You have grown so much,
you say to me,
As we lay our hands on her
our fingers becoming a roof
keeping her anchored
for just a moment longer.

And so she brings us together again,
in dying as in living,
As she had before the Swansea ocean,
before whose great exhales
our young hearts shook to,
until we gripped her hand
fingers wrapped around her thumb,
her skin the softest material
I had ever felt,
its constant beat so strong
it was if I held all of her
in the tiny shadow of my palm.

Sam Parr is an English with Creative Writing Graduate from the University of Birmingham. He is currently an intern at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, and writes in the breathing space before work in the morning

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Sally Beets



Tree Surgery

I was growing tired of trees, already,
before the end. Tired of going to nature reserves, forests,
woods, with your tree index book, looking up words in
Latin: Quercuis ilex, rubra, robur,
chasing after your over-excitable stinking dogs,
that muddied and laddered my tights,
or worse, when you produced that battered bat detector.

Everything comes back to trees: breath, literature, doors: the
furniture of life. Your calloused hands
always smelt and felt like bark,
your hair too – that space between your neck and
hairline, it was like that forest in Centre Parcs
where we went together, and then I alone, ‘escaping’,
(my chest tight in the healthy air)
– fresh, smelling faintly of damp sweat from
a freezing wrapped up winter walk.

Your favourite is the Oak. Like you, I thought:
classic, strong, reliable. You, the least complicated of men/
Even trees understand you –
Like the one you climbed in Epping Forest
and shouted from that you were king of the world, while
I refused to join in.
I’ve always liked willows: reflective, flexible, lazy.
Like the one where we had that perfect Indian Summer
picnic and made love next to cows in the stream, there was a
wedding just beyond the hedge.

I retain knowledge against my will, on how to
fell or pollard a tree. I know that they go into shock,
how they heal themselves, how you studied that tree
like an archaeologist, in Grace’s garden in Essex,
twisted like hair, it wormed its way in and
out of the ground, how you found a body
hanged from a tree in Hampstead Heath.




Sally Beets is a poet and Young Adult fiction writer. She is completing a masters in Children’s Literature and Creative writing at Goldsmiths University where she has had several pieces published in student publications.  She has worked as a teacher in the past and is involved in various local literacy charities and projects based in London.

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Taylor Edmonds






The creature found me in Hensol Forest
during my sixteenth summer
I didn’t eat anything that wasn’t blueberry flavoured
for two weeks and three days

It lived in a wood cabin with a log fire
and floorboards that creaked under my weight
We ate blueberry pie together with our bare hands
My blue legs crossed on a matted fur rug
with rust-coloured stains on the underneath

I bathed with blueberries
burst open their plump skin
and left a blue-black stain on the cast-iron rim of the bathtub

The creature slept in a room
with tree roots grounded into the floor
Trunks stretched their arms across the walls
As we entered their crooked fingers unfolded

A bluebird sang a song I did not recognise




I sleep in an oval wicker-basket
with a knitted tartan blanket
to keep my blue skin warm
I am like a newborn kitten
drowsy in my slumber

I wake to a bunch of painted roses
with thorns that prick at my fingertips
The creature collects drops of my blood
in a glass jar with the name Blue
engraved into its curves

I have my place on the oak shelves
next to the rows of other glass gars
coated with thick smears of dry blood
The creature wears his fur red
around his mouth

Taylor Edmonds is a Creative Writing student at the University of Gloucestershire living in Cheltenham, originally from Wales. She has been published by I am Not a Silent Poet.

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Messages: Morgaine Merch Lleuad for National Poetry Day


Summer, coming to an end

He interrupted me: Look at the bees!
I didn’t answer, so he came and crouched

where I lay.  Look at them, he whispered,
going ballistic in the toadflax!  And they were,

busy-humming in the flowers, innocent as
children holding hands, as his smile,

as I used to be.  But I was watching another bumble,
swollen and pushing as it slippery-slid inside

a brazen red nasturtium, achingly slow, and I
melted with loss.




Morgaine Merch Lleuad is a poet/novelist, and lectures in poetry and creative writing at Exeter University and the OU, respectively.  Her poetry has been published in various magazines, including Orbis, The Interpreter’s House, Iota, Ink Sweat & Tears and The Frogmore Papers. Twitter: @bagpussbotherer

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