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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Pat Edwards




March 1999

Everyone is panicking about millennial catastrophe,
anticipating computer failure on a global scale.
All the clocks will stop, North, South, East, West;
the moon, sun, oceans, will descend to chaos.

With everything that’s going on around us,
I’m not really getting very much sleep.
I keep people informed with regular updates
by changing the answerphone message.

I’m keeping a sort of diary because
I’m sure I’ll want to look back on all this
once it’s become ancient history, so to speak.
That came out wrong; didn’t mean it like that.

The woman next door is practising the organ.
Friends are rehearsing what to say, how to be.
But this March is turning out to be our last.
How can anything ever come good with you dead.




Pat Edwards is a writer, teacher and performer living in Mid Wales. She has been published in Obsessed with Pipework, Picaroon, The Rat’s Ass, The Fat Damsel, Ink Pantry and Amaryllis. Pat runs Verbatim poetry open mic nights and is curating the 2017 Welshpool Poetry Festival.

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Deborah Sibbald




Portrait of the late Mrs Partridge

I inhabit the rough drawings of numberless wild places
which camouflage my handsome
brindle rougey linen plumage
and faintly jewelled russet feather boa
My chestnut hair  is blown upwards
like whirring flames taking flight from brittle ferns
pale grasses and unmothered leaves
as though magnetised towards  the sun
I avoid high flashy places  and menace from the sky
so sleep motionless in round  hollows
scraped smoothly in saturated earth
Away from scent hounds and mathematical problems
my spirit soars reckless unskinned  from flesh
Dreaming of soft blue naked forest  rivers and silver mountains
whose composition asserts itself under an oily brush
I sang for a mate at nightfall



Deborah Sibbald lives, works and writes in London and has recently begun to submit some of her work. She recently completed an online UEA/ NCW course with Helen Ivory.

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Tim Love





He slips into the house, puts his pack of beer on the kitchen table, takes a can and
walks from room to room, staying a while in the back room.  The IKEA
furniture’s pushed against the walls exposing a floor of wooden panels.
He returns to the kitchen.
There are bowls of crisps on the work surfaces. He takes a handful with him into the
back room where the music is loudest. He sits on the settee for a while, then on the
floor in the corner. He looks around. There is an illuminated fishtank, a piece of wood
cellotaped over the top. He notices that each electric socket has an

He goes to the kitchen.  He notices that each electric socket has an energy-meter
there too. He gets one of his cans, takes two big swigs and then carefully tops it up with wine, carries it to the front room. He stands, sipping occasionally, then sits on
the floor in the corner for a while. He stands in the hall,
goes up two steps, looks back at the front door. He concentrates on his bladder.
He goes up three more steps. A window’s beside him. He sees a delivery van down
the road, a man carrying box after box of groceries into a house. He sees the
little shops opposite. Many have objects hung over their doors – the shoe-shop
has a big boot; another has a something like a gramophone horn. Two more steps. He’s on
the landing now. The bedroom doors are all closed. One has a Mondrian hung upside down.
One is padlocked. He waits outside the toilet door, studies the cracking paint,
the slight warping. He goes in, locks the door, only just undoes his flies in time.
Such relief. He lets everything go. His head spins. He’s so drunk. There are thick rugs,
shelves of exotically favoured products, toothbrushes. Noticing a full-length
mirror he’s reminded of a science program from the night before, where it
said that you can’t see your eyes move in a mirror because your sight blanks
out. He wondered how many hours a day his eyes were in motion.

He suddenly turns, looks at the door, rushes back to the kitchen where lights are on, away from the music he so hates.
The crisps are mixed up. He doesn’t like Salt and Vinegar. Above the big table two pieces
of paper have been blutacked to the wall. One has column headings Name and Time, the other
says that the world record for eating 100 sultanas one at a time is 44.65 seconds. On the
table is a pencil, a basin of sultanas, some cocktail sticks, and a kitchen timer.

He looks to the doorway. He laughs. He tries the front room again,
sits on a chair, sits on the floor in the corner for a long time. He hears a
glass break. It was perched on a chair arm beside him. His eyes drift to the bookcase.
“For Whom the Bell Tolls” is in amongst the Bs. He wants to move it. He know he
shouldn’t. He goes into the kitchen, gets a can of his favourite beer, the beer
he’d brought. He takes it to the utility room. It’s dark. When his eyes adjust he sees
a candle in the middle of the floor. He sits cross-legged, concentrates on
the flame. The rest of the room goes blacker. He feels dizzy. He returns to kitchen,
thinks about going home, opens one of his cans, goes to the back room to listen to
music that he doesn’t like, that he’s never liked. There’s a smell that wasn’t there
before. He waits in the hall, looks up the staircase then darts out of the front door.





Tim Love’s publications are a poetry pamphlet Moving Parts (HappenStance, 2010) and a story collection By all means (Nine Arches Press, 2012). He lives in Cambridge, UK. He blogs at http://litrefs.blogspot.com/

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Diane Mulholland


Self Portrait With Spiders

I stand still and let the spiders
spin their webs in all directions.

Each curve and angle of my body
is an anchor point. Each scar,

each detail of my history shapes
their work. They sense my breathing,

throw their threads into the eddies,
and catch them on the other side.

The spiders move like smoke.
They whisper over bare skin,

stepping lightly, trailing silk
that fills the room around my frame.

When they’re done, I step out
of the space they’ve made,
let it fill with light.





Born in Australia, Diane Mulholland now lives in London where she can often be found beside the Thames. Her poems have appeared in journals including Brittle Star, South Bank Poetry, and Ink Sweat and Tears. Find her on twitter @dianemulholland.

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William Stephenson




The Chocolate Parliament

In summer the facade drips sweet brown sweat.
Tourists like to nibble the carvings, especially
the gargoyles speckled with raisins and almonds.

It’s tastiest around election time when the walls
soften in the heat of spotlights orbited by flies
sucking news through microphone probosces.

Contingency plans exist to whip the building
into a mousse topped with cherries and cream.
A cross-party committee is tasting the recipe.

The PM favours a jam-cemented Victoria sponge
boxed with a snowflake logo and the legend
Suitable for Home Freezing.  Thus we will cheat

use by and best before.  Our bodies will harden
in coffins of ice, crystalline at minus eighteen,
our packaging bristling with warnings listing

allergens, sugar, saturates, kilojoules per serving.
Potential energy.  Fuel for the gut of the fat man
who drools at the glass as the microwave sings.




William Stephenson’s poems have appeared in Envoi, Iota, Magma, The North and The Rialto.  His first collection Travellers and Avatars was shortlisted for the Live Canon First Collection Prize and will appear in 2017.

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Phil Powrie




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




Phil Powrie 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.

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