And the Pick of the Month for March 2017 is ‘Stranger’ by Jessica Mookherjee

Our poem for International Women’s Day, Jessica Mookherjee’s ‘Stranger’, has been voted as the IS&T Pick of the Month for March 2017, its mystical aura and the beauty of the language having seduced our readers.

Jessica is originally from Wales now living in Kent. She has had poems published previously in Ink Sweat & Tears as well as Antiphon, Agenda, Prole, Interpreter’s House, Obsessed With Pipework and Tears in the Fence. Her pamphlet, The Swell – was published in October 2016 by Telltale Press.

Jessica has asked that her £10 prize be donated to The Sophie Lancaster Foundation, which, in memory of Sophie who was kicked to death in 2007 for looking different, focuses on creating respect for and understanding of subcultures in our communities.



I’ll ask the Moon to do my dirty work.
In the backwash I wonder if the Welsh God
with his untidy name, painted her.
I’m the colour of the rock.
I’ll be a moon-glowing witch,
with cloud-hands getting slowly drunk, as I shrink out of the sky.
They ask me why I wear a bone in my nose and I laugh,
make their cows lame and their children fail.

Everyone’s asleep, I walk streets where lights
are still on in people’s houses –
to walk my coast path from West Cross
to the Mumbles Head, away from the village,
from that old infant school
with that big sign that told them to aim
for something they must have believed at the time,
where the milk was too warm and made them sick.

I want to flick a switch and turn
off all the stars. I can drop gold-crushed light
on the cliff paths, and sit
down here on Brandy Cove, sea-faced.
They spread rumours that I was the moon and chased me
with silver, I know I can’t drown
because I’m the water.


Voters’ comments included:

Bold, energetic, innovative and deeply feminine poem which takes the reader on a journey that’s both fabulous and believable.

Jess’s poetry has layers of vivid imagery, dreams and ancient stories. As an artist working with the visual world, I like all the hidden depths – they recall everything and nothing of what i have experienced. Pictures and colours rise to the surface!

Because of the symbolism and how it captures a mystical angst of being different

The magical atmosphere evoked in the poem and the beautiful use of language – “gold crushed light “!

‘the Welsh god/with his untidy name’ – you know when you read something and think ‘I wish I’d written that’?

It has a feeling of sparkly abandon and the last three lines just melt me.

The last two lines: Miller ending – a sort of satisfying semi-paradox

Because the witch sings a strong song.

I love the beauty the words in this poem convey.

The imagery, the language and the sense of ancientness

Beautiful, lyrical, other worldly. We Welsh are very fey

Astonishing, luminous and mystical poem, utterly beautiful!





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Moray Sanders’ ‘In my father’s pocket’ is February’s Pick of the Month

Pick of the Month time and February’s choice is ‘In my father’s pocket’ from Moray Sanders. Moray has written prose with the support of Creative Future for some years; through them she then won a mentoring opportunity with New Writing South and has been working with Vanessa Gebbie, who encouraged her to write poetry. This is her first poem, and first open submission, and ‘the spareness, and the ache’, as Vanessa puts it, struck a chord with many of you.


In my father’s pocket

Feel that square of paper
in your jacket pocket
next to your heart.
Unfold it.
Hold it out if you need to.

“This is my father.
He is loved,
not lost.
Please bring him home and
when you have read this,
put the paper back
in his pocket
where he can feel it
next to his heart.

He is loved.
Not lost.
Thank you.”


Voters’ comments included:

I loved how much feeling and narrative was packed into this spare, beautiful poem

What a wonderful first poem. It tells such a sad familiar story in such a spare, heartfelt way, full of love. What a lot to get into just a few short lines.

I feel I can relate to this in my own way. I can put a story, well life event, into this poem so it I feel the words.

Beautifully crafted and fleetingly precise.

I like the gentle beauty of the poem and the quiet sadness…

Me and my daughter both read this poem and she picked this as her favorite. Maybe because she doesn’t see her dad very often as he is in the army.

Poignant in its simplicity.

It is spare, understated and very moving. The word count belies the strength.

It connects with me as I lost my father as he committed suicide and I never knew him. The poem is uplifting and hopeful.

Moray is so economical with her words yet we understand the loss, feel the emotion, and hope for the future. Paradoxically we want more words, an explanation, an outcome – well a happy ending don’t we?

So true to life. My husband has Alzheimer‘s disease and carries a piece of paper with his details in case he gets lost. This poem really moved me.

In my opinion this piece is a tender and clever exploration of love and loss in its many forms and layers. Quite apart from the deep, profound love that one may feel towards an elderly parent, this poem hints at multi-generational accretion of love… This poem has the weight and feel of a modern classic.

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And January’s Pick of the Month is ‘Waiting’ by Rachael Smart

When we published our latest shortlist, we noted that it looked to the displaced and the vulnerable so it is perhaps no surprise that Rachael Smart’s ‘Waiting’, a poem that speaks to the vulnerability that is personal to so many of us,  is our Pick of the Month for January 2017.

Rachael’s short fiction and poetry have been published online, in literary journals and placed in competitions. She is currently studying for an MA in Creative Writing at The University of Nottingham. She writes best when the pencil loses its point.

And, in January’s spirit of looking to the vulnerable, Rachael has asked that her £10 ‘prize’ be donated to The Railway Children, a charity that provides ‘protection and opportunity for children with nowhere else to go and nobody to turn to’.



At Swanpool
the sand is Demerara sugar
a dark heart floats: cocoa
on a cappuccino scurf.
Out there, the horses break
relentless, Shire hooves kicking up
pasts. Fairy lights string
the ships in, a bistro siren
big on gratuities and gulfweed.

The sea has taken a pea-green boat
and my son out with it,
he is only a dot. It isn’t that
I don’t trust his father’s rowing, only
his feet don’t touch the bottom.
I see goggles – lost
a midnight vigil
tiny rib bones
hooked on a rock.


Voters’ comments included:

It captures a parent’s habit, almost need, to envisage catastrophe in the midst of the mundane, almost as if preparing for the unthinkable. The description of the scene is both precise and mythical. evoking fairy tale, so appropriate for the child, and the wildness that the parent fears may overwhelm the child. It haunts the reader in all senses of the word.

Beautiful evocation of a mother’s love. The lines took me in an instant to a memory of such a moment. My mother feared open water. 🙂 Imagery shimmers. Tingling last lines and perfectly formed.

This poem stands out in a sea of amazing poems. It’s a concise, tight study of an unnameable worry that I could totally relate to. I can’t ask for more.

I find I’m often floating around in a bubble of beautiful words then she pops you abruptly out of it with her dry sense of humour, then in a few words can make you heart wrenchingly sad. It’s a little roller coaster of a read.

Wonderfully poignant…startling images. A lot said in few words. Love it.

Struck a chord with me, thought provoking

…the horror-laced edge, a sugared seaside idyll spoiled by maternal anxiety

Concision allied with the sheer intensity of such remarkable, memorable imagery make this the stand-out pick in a very strong field.

Beautiful play with words, could visualize everything. Really lovely


And one final, very personal comment which shows even more why it struck a chord with so many of you:

She’s my girlfriend and my son is in this dark poem with me on the boat. We were on holiday in Cornwall. When she nailed the last line, we drank red wine. Makes my heart hurt to see it in this list. Just that.


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