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.

 

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.

 

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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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‘In Her Bones’ a prose poem from Anne Ryland is our Pick of the Month for May 2018.

After a hard fought contest – it always is – Anne Ryland’s ‘stunning’ ‘original’ ‘vivid and unexpected’ prose poem ‘In Her Bones’ is the Ink Sweat & Tears Pick of the Month for May 2018. And it is testament to Anne’s skill that she brought the articulated skeleton that is Agnes, ‘completely at home in her two hundred and six bones’, effectively to life. We wanted to know more.

Anne has published two collections: Autumnologist (shortlisted for The Forward Prize for Best First Collection 2006) and The Unmothering Class (2011). Recent poems have appeared in Oxford Poetry, Agenda and Long Poem Magazine. Her website is http://anneryland.co.uk

Anne has asked that her £10 ‘prize’ be donated to Carers UK, a charity dedicated to making life better for carers.

 

In Her Bones

I discover her just off Pier Road, sitting on the bench that overlooks the river. Draped on the wooden slats, right femur resting on left, Agnes is completely at home in her two hundred and six bones. Relieved of padding and muscle, of her woman-paraphernalia (I note the handbag years have dragged her right clavicle down), her hinges and locks are exposed, her irregularities.

I lower myself onto the bench beside her. We share small hands and feet, but Agnes is now pure vertebrate; I see her spine’s ability to spring, absorb shock. Her pelvis has acquired a creamish lustre, a cradle opening to receive sunlight, but it would be impolite to place my palm in her ilium. Instead, I shift a little closer to inspect the jigsaw pieces of her skull. She carries on staring out towards the North Sea, an expression of Ah – behind her orbits. Might a bird seek refuge in her ribcage?

Agnes has no need of breath. The wind is her breath, passing through her bars, her lacunae, as if she were an instrument being tuned. Despite her loosened appearance, Agnes is incurably informative. She embodies the Greek word ‘pneuma’, meaning that which is breathed – or blown.

Agnes is reluctant to disperse or lie down. I’m unsure whether she’s a companion, or a proxy who’s been hiding in one of my recesses. For now, she settles into tide watch. I will wait. Agnes, at her most osseous, must have a voice – chalky, no … airy, like the voice of a haar.

 

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Voters’ comments included:

‘In Her Bones’ is a poem that really evokes a sense of peace and stillness. I loved the words and rhythm of this poem and the setting it describes.

The subject matter is very descriptive, giving one the feeling of being there, sitting next to Agnes & experiencing what she sees so that is why it gets my vote.

I can just picture Agnes on the bench staring out to sea eternally. Very powerful.

Original in conception and execution – graphic, brave and unpredictable – wonderful tender tone.

It’s so original in subject matter and intriguing. I love the language of the skeleton too

A novel prose poem (excuse the pun) –

[I chose it] because this is the first prose-poem I’ve come across which manages to hold and justify its shape without losing movement and momentum, like an articulated and articulate skeleton in fact.

Very intriguing imagery and beautifully worked concept of skeleton as eccentric person .

Captures the atmosphere of Berwick Pier and is a skilful use of [a] prose poem

Agnes is an intriguing character & I thought about her a lot after I read this poem. Ann Ryland is a really interesting poet and it’s great to see her exploring the prose poetry form.
 
I live in Berwick upon Tweed and I have often walked along that pier past the seats. The poem evokes feelings of Berwick’s history and Agnes could be anyone of the strong, patient and faithful women that belong to Berwick’s past.
 
Wonderful tone, and takes the reader on such a flight of the imagination! Surreal, wry and convincing.
 
This prose poem has a beautiful haunting flow.

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And the April 2018 Pick of the Month is ‘Wildlings’ by Marie-Françoise de Saint-Quirin

 
Perhaps it was the long hot days of the bank holiday weekend and beyond when most of you placed your votes, and many ran free with their own ‘Wildlings’, but Marie-Françoise de Saint-Quirin’s poem is the IS&T Pick of the Month for April. This ‘beautiful’ ‘warm’ and ‘clever’ work resonated.

Marie-Françoise is a London based poet who was born in South Wales. Often using her mixed heritage and unconventional childhood as inspiration, she particularly enjoys writing about the mundane things that make up the fabric of who we are. Her work has previously been published by Message in a Bottle and Reach Poetry.

 

Wildlings 

My wildlings
leave tokens of love scattered
like breadcrumbs,
then shriek and howl
to scare away the birds.
He offers me bouquets of broccoli –
fistfuls of Brassica from a moss flecked giant.
She wraps me in sapling limbs and
sings me songs of answerless questions.
I am just a breeze, a whisper on a wishbone,
yet, snail trails glisten across
the sag of my skin and grant me substance.

 

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Voters comments included:

… I picked Wildlings because it wouldn’t let me go. I wanted to have snail glitter on my aging skin. I wanted to have answers to the questions my son sings to me.

A truly amazing and insightful work from one so obviously gifted. A piece so full of warmth and love that expresses the existence of a close bond between the poet and the Wildlings. The very thoughtful and thought provoking use of drawing parallels between the fleeting appearances of Nature’s little winged creatures and the Wildlings while illustrating the close bond that exists hints also at the acknowledgement ( albeit fleetingly that like Nature’s little fledglings ) of the poets transitory role in the life of her Wildlings “I am just a breeze a whisper on a wishbone “. But then just as quickly comes also the acknowledgement that however fleetingly their connection her strength is renewed in the affirmation ” yet snail trails glisten across the sag of my skin and grant me substance “. A permanent reminder of the legacy of her Wildlings’ love.

Brings it home how sweet it is to be with the ones you love

Evokes memories, reads beautifully

Resonates mothering

A beautifully written poem that made me smile and feel warm inside.

Very deep. Made me think.

Thought provoking and uses words to lull the reader in a false security. Very intelligent.

The style of writing speaks to my soul

I like the emotive use of language

Very well presented the poet uses playful language. I feel a sense of warmth when I read this poem.

I can relate, I have two wildlings of my own and here is poem that speaks their truths.

A fantastic poem that truly captures the wonderful feeling of being a parent

The imagery reminds me of my wildling.

Powerful imagery and thought provoking

 

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Susan Richardson is the IS&T Pick of the Month poet for March 2018

 

At Ink Sweat & Tears we normally would be less than sanguine about ‘Letches’ receiving the honours but when this refers to Susan Richardson’s ‘powerful’ ‘vivid’ ‘amazing’ poem which had such ‘relevance’ and has been voted by you as the IS&T Pick of the Month for March 2018, we can understand the response.

Susan is living, writing and going blind in Los Angeles. She shares a home with an Irishman, 2 pugs and 2 cats. She was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa in 2002, and in addition to poetry, she writes a blog called Stories from the Edge of Blindness. Her work has been published in: Stepping Stones Magazine, Wildflower Muse, The Furious Gazelle, The Hungry Chimera, Sheila-Na-Gig, Chantarelle’s Notebook, Foxglove Journal, Literary Juice, Sick Lit Magazine, Amaryllis, and The Anapest Journal, with pieces forthcoming in Eunoia Review.  She was also awarded the Sheila-Na-Gig Winter Poetry Prize and will be featured in the Literary Juice 2018 Q&A Series.

Susan has asked that her £10 ‘prize’ be donated to the RNIB.
 
 

Letches

 

The call to bright lights is a whisper,

tempting souls into the clutches of

dreams that hang on a celluloid precipice.

Los Angeles turns us into letches

who lurk under the wings of angels,

covered in soot from generations

of sweeping up discarded morals.

Decrepit men, slathered in wealth,

chase the skirts of simpering women

with molded cheek bones and noses

they weren’t born with.

Carbon copy blondes trample

over the backs of comrades, and reach

through barbed wire for a glimmer of fame.

They come in droves and shed their skins,

willing to do unthinkable things for

just a drop of starlight on their tongues.

 

 

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Voters’ comments included:

 

Susan’s words paint a raw, vivid, very real picture of a world I know all too well. She gracefully articulates a place that sparkles from the outside, covering up the darkness beneath that has the power to morph something beautiful into a hideous shell of its former self.

The imagery here is really powerful. Having lived in LA, I can totally imagine the hordes of carbon copy blondes trampling each other! Really good, cynically humorous stuff.

Pictograph of American culture beneath cellophane.

I love Susan’s writing and her beautiful soul. This poem hits on an interesting and less than beautiful view of life in LA.

This poem captures 2018 Las Angeles so perfectly!

The poem risks making us uncomfortable and yet we must admit the truth of this tragic story for so many “starlets.”

Powerful images and message.

Beautifully worded, modern and relevant

Breathtaking. Though-provoking. Wonderful.

Amazing touching brilliant

The sentences are well constructed, the words chosen just right, and that gives the poem its power to linger long in your mind.

She perfectly captured the dirty underbelly of the city.

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‘Dummies’ by Jane Salmons is our Pick of the Month for February 2018

The votes are in and the ‘Dummies’ have it for February 2018. Jane Salmons’ poem – ‘stunning’ ‘vibrant’ ‘fun’ – with its ‘brilliant’ image thoroughly appealed, occasionally disconcerted, and marks the first time a Word & Image piece has been chosen as an IS&T Pick of the Month.

Jane is a teacher living in the Black Country. She is currently studying for an MA in Creative Writing and has previously been published in Snakeskin, I am not a Silent Poet and Creative Ink. She also spends her precious free time creating handmade photomontage collages.

She has asked that her £10 ‘prize’ be donated to Age UK.

 

 

Dummies

We ride the escalators in pairs
upwards past the plastic palms,
the static rapids. Our flawless skin
shines blue in the half-light, the smell
of palma violets hangs in the air.

We dare not speak, nor touch,
for fear of waking the blinking eye
while above us, through the criss-cross roof
of steel and glass, the planets glow.
We do not know their names,
or if we do, forgot them long ago.

The hum of neon guides us
to our gods – Gucci, Prada,
Michael Kors. Consumption courses
through our veins driving us higher
to our great design.

 

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Voters comments included:

Beautifully written and captures the manic compulsive behaviour of affluenza.

It is so current and emotive as our younger generations are riding that escalator to consumerism.

Hugely evocative of the fashion-thick world we live in.

Jane has the ability to evoke a true and understandable atmosphere – I’m transported to the very place or feeling she is describing so beautifully in her poems.

Just love it – simple

A haunting and evocation piece, illustrated to perfection by Jane’s accompanying montage.

It’s a truly original piece of writing and brings shop dummies to life!

… not only so original in its conception but because of the careful crafting and execution of the poem.

Left field subject, finely crafted

Clever, thought provoking + brilliant image is a bonus

… a vivid description of materialism. Consumerism is sometimes our god.

I love the way she adds a surreal originality to the details in the visual image, and the poise of the lines.

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January 2018’s ‘Pick of the Month’ is ‘Bit Parts’ by David Riley

 

From a wonderfully varied group that included both Word & Image and prose poetry, voters went for the poem that most spoke to them directly and David Riley’s ‘Bit Parts’ is the Pick of the Month for January 2018.

David is studying for an MA at the Seamus Heaney centre, Queen’s University Belfast. He has had several poems printed and in shop windows.

 

Bit Parts

I want to ask you,
do you think we’re in a film?
If we get our lines wrong
will someone step out from the Golden Mile,
put us back on track –
though they haven’t done yet –
the director’s a secretive sod.

You smile.
I like it when you touch my face
I don’t say, just wait
for your fingers to move from my skin.
Like all the other takes, you begin again
look out to sea, wait for your cue.
I remember what you haven’t said yet.

 

 

Voter made the following comments:

Beautiful imagery

the humour and relative conciseness appeal to me.

I like the secretive flavour of the last line

Memory, reality, feelings, all questioned.

a very wander/wonder-ful poem

The pauses felt right.

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