Our final Picks for 2016: Elisabeth Sennitt Clough and John Mackie

We take one last lingering look back to 2016 with our final ‘picks’ for the year. Both Christmas poems, they affected us in very different ways. You chose Elisabeth Sennitt Clough’s painfully resonant ‘The Homewrecker and His Pun’ as our December 2016 Pick of the Month and, from a fine shortlist,  it is a very worthy winner and is one of IS&T’s entries for the 2017 Forward Prizes for Poetry Best Single Poem Award.

Elisabeth was born in Ely and now lives in Norfolk with her husband and three children. Her pamphlet Glass was a winner in the Paper Swans inaugural pamphlet competition and her debut collection, Sightings (Pindrop Press) was launched in Brussels on the 15th January. Her poems have appeared in The Rialto, Mslexia, Magma, Stand, I,S&T, and The Cannons’ Mouth. www.elisabethsennittclough.co.uk

She has asked that her £10 ‘prize’ be donated to the NSPCC.


The Homewrecker and His Pun

She has high hopes for her white sauce
this Christmas. The roux glistens
from the wash and slap of milk,
as she lightens it a ladle at a time.

Her veins grow taut on her forearm
as she beats the buttery yellow mixture.
Droplets hit her skin and form small crusts
among archipelagos of freckles.

She’s positioned her radio by the stove
and between songs, the cartoon
her daughter’s watching in the living room
competes with the early morning announcer:

on the first Christmas Day, the angels
promised peace and good will on Earth.
She downs another sherry, her hand
less steady on the wooden spoon.

Her husband comes in, flushed from his walk,
a sprig of mistletoe tucked in his cap.
Though his affair happened last Christmas,
her eyes stiffen: you whore of a man.

He blames the drink for shifting her
into the sickness of every woman
he wants to leave behind. She doesn’t make it
to dinner and their child is left to wonder why

when she’s seen the béchamel burnt to flakes
in the pan, her father tells her don’t go
in the bathroom because your mother’s been
at the sauce and hurled it all over the floor.


Voters comments included:

Level of detail. And keeping us waiting for the pun, pointing up the desperation.

[her] style is magical and gets me travelling every time I read her poems.

I like [it] for its lyricism and its emotional punch. The poem flows beautifully too…

Deft and painful, beautifully worded.

…a gloriously detailed depiction of domestic emotional turmoil at Christmastime.

oh yes I remember it well typical christmas…

I love its strength – the steady transition from control to loss thereof, and marbled with sexual innuendo. That’s a lot to juggle all the way through.


However, in addition to our December Pick we also wanted to have an Honorary one for the whole year. When Scottish poet and musician John Mackie died on 23rd December 2016, his poem ‘The 25th’ had already been chosen for IS&T ‘s ’12 Days Of Christmas’ series and was, appropriately, posted on Christmas Day. His support of the feature was total; his was the first ‘Like’ that our first ’12 Days Of…’ post on the 22nd received on Facebook.

IS&T editor Helen Ivory had already put ‘The 25th’ forward as one of her choices for December’s Pick of the Month shortlist. In light of all this, then, we felt it would be right to honour John separately and have donated £10, the usual ‘prize’ for our monthly Picks, to one of the charities he supported, Erskine: Caring for Veterans.

Our condolences go out to his family and friends and, in his memory, we reprint his poem below:


The 25th

How the hell
do they do that
year after year
on the morning of
this Decemberfest purloined
from Mithra;

timed to perfection
best bib and tucker
yellow beaks gleaming
posing for presents
promising nirvana
if I feed them now
tip tapping my conscience
and memory of you?

it’s a bit of a struggle
I am still in Jajouka
seeing off the goat boy
with the screaming of pipes
or lost in the Latin
some other God mumbled
to justify incense
and the rose window at Chartres

but hey here you are
at my feast for one and his cat
even though it’s been years
since I laid you a place,
how do you do that,
turn up
without smelling as bad
as you did
when we burned you
at Buckie on medical advice?

the children are scattered
London, Bonn, Rome
they remember you differently
as careless of them
as though your cancer was wilful –
was it so hun? I know that it forced me
to a series of metaphors
still point, rock, tower of strength
I never wanted, am trying still to melt them
as much as I loved you please go away
and take your Christmas blackbirds
with you


John Mackie lived in Aberdeenshire. He had been published in a range of media since the 1960s and you can find his more recent work in Scotia Extremis, Poetry Scotland, The Poets’ Republic, Clear Poetry and Spotify.

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Christian Wethered’s ‘Blade’ is our Pick of the Month for November


Maybe it was the sense of speed, the need to leave it all behind and yet remain ‘weirdly still in the centre’, but Christian Wethered’s ‘Blade’ raced home to be Ink Sweat & Tears’ Pick of the Month for November 2016.

‘Blade’ is one of IS&T’s entries for the 2017 Forward Prizes For Poetry Best Single Poem Award.

Christian, 29, works in London as a freelance tutor and musician. He was a finalist in the Aesthetica Creative Works competition and the Decanto Poetry Competition. He has also been published in The Penwood Review and The Caterpillar.

Christian has asked that his £10 prize be donated to The Samaritans and will also, in the spirit of the season, receive a complimentary copy of our Christmas anthology TWELVE: Slanted Poems for Christmas.



Sometimes you can ride it, like in Texas when
you put your foot down and we flew, the screen
and mirrors all enveloping, sucking and flapping
the horizons in its corners, and then just for a few
minutes we were the vanishing point as desert stretched
and bended and we were weirdly still in the centre,
the constant motion and suspense, the sheer possibility
of it all in a perfect cycle, our wheels spinning still



Voters comments included:


Beautiful and escapist. Atmospheric. Reads like a journey away from the cold and the dark.

Liked the idea of becoming a vanishing point and the image of the desert being distorted and wrapped around.

Love the open road! This poem was a welcome thought break during the work day.

Beautiful imagery – a real sense of movement whilst being still, very clever.

Gets my vote because it makes me cry!

Loved its sense of motion and perspective!

Haunting, I feel like it echoes

It makes me yearn for feelings I haven’t experienced yet.





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Eliot North’s ‘My Mother Visits the Dissection Room’ is Pick of the Month for August 2016

August’s Pick of the Month comes with the wonderfully quirky title ‘My Mother Visits the Dissection Room‘ which in itself demands that you read it. And it is clear from our voters’ response to it that the poem does not disappoint!

My Mother Visits the Dissection Room‘ is one of IS&T’s entries for the 2017 Forward Prizes For Poetry Best Single Poem Award.

Eliot North is a doctor, educator and writer who lives and works in the North East. Commended in the National Poetry Competition 2014, she made The Crab Man into a Filmpoem with artist and filmmaker Alastair Cook. She loves to collaborate.

Eliot has asked that her £10 prize be donated to the mental health charity MIND.


My Mother Visits the Dissection Room

She said she wanted to go there.
So I pulled some strings,
read her the rules.
“Sensible shoes?” she said.
“Yes Mother. Plus clothes
you don’t mind ruined.
Fixers, they don’t wash out.
The smell will get you,
but not of death. More chemicals
like wax and rubber.”
But my mother, being my mother
didn’t seem to mind.
Walked right up to the
plastic head,
stuck her hand inside.
“You won’t even know
I’m here,” she said.
Pulled on a dark-blue lab coat.
Watched closely
as I unzipped the body bag,
revealed cavities and cages.
Stood on tiptoes to peer inside,
scribbled in her notebook.
So I placed a stool
three feet away;
her territory and mine.
When the students filed in
they looked at her,
the older woman with colourful shoes.
Whilst I quizzed the students,
she daubed her paints.
At the end they crowded round her.
Admired her line and
brave use of colour
whilst I put the organs back.
As the students left
she called out to them.
“Call me Poppy!” she cried.
They waved from the door.
“Weren’t they interesting?
What a wonderful body,
all those nooks and crannies.”
I slung the heart in a plastic bag.
Looked at my watch
before herding her out.
Then as we went to the door
she turned round and said,
“Shall we say the same time next week?”


Author’s Note: My mother has never actually visited the Dissection Room.



Voters comments included:

Original quirky and wonderful blend of mood/tone

…it’s a poem which jiggles my thoughts on what a poem is – quietly insightful, gentle, humourous and kindly observant (with a wry smile) and for the beautifully timed line ‘you won’t even know I’m here’

An intriguing subject and some subtle humour.

funny, poignant

Witty and enjoyable read!

Quirky perky tone. Very visual and full of action.

I can just picture this event!

I liked it’s vivid-ness

The colourful character of the mum is clearly conveyed.

I love the contrasting view from the mum, I love the lyrical flow and I love the meter


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