And your Pick of the Month for December 2018 is Catherine Ayres and ‘Christmas Eve tea’

*The word ‘beautiful’ was repeated over and over in the comments and, although it is a word sometimes overused when describing poetry, in this instance it felt just right and voters made ‘Christmas Eve tea’ by Catherine Ayres the IS&T Pick of the Month for December 2018.

Catherine is a teacher from Northumberland. Her debut collection, Amazon, was published in 2016 by Indigo Dreams.

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

 

Christmas Eve tea

5 o’clock.
Light silvers the sill.
This is the season of curious moons,
when we’re lost in the velvet of ourselves,
undreaming the deep nights
 between tomorrow and the past.

Rooms flower slowly, like stars.

Here are steep steps,
a hexagon of doors,
two china dogs guarding
the gas fire’s slapped cheeks.

I find the Smarties tube of tuppences.
I shake the Virgin so the Holy Water swirls.
I am allowed to sink my face
into the Sunday furs.

In the kitchen,
a clutch of pinnied women
makes the china clink.

Cold meats,
trifle,
salad from a tin.

This is not a photograph –
it’s the warm edge of the past
where the women I love
are still alive.

I thought life would slot
into a snug line
by the sink.

My kitchen is neat and cold.
Light silvers the sill.
At the window, stars.

*********

Voters comments included:

The imagery of such a common place event comes through in an extraordinary manner in a beautiful aesthetic flow.

Strong images and I love the shape and mood of this poem

Best evocation of the past I have ever read – love the warmth and softness of it and remembered especially the 3 lines after ‘this is not a photograph’

Her use of description is incredible.

So effectively describes that slip through time where memory is the only way to get to people and things that are no longer actually here. I love the contrast between the warmth and coldness.

It’s a lovely light touch with a deeper sentiment

‘The warm edge of the past’ is so evocative of a world we have lost – the sense of a community that no longer exists, a momentary glimpse. This so delicately expresses those times when history briefly superimposes itself upon the present like a ghost. Beautiful.

The spare quality of her vocabulary underpins the universal ache of nostalgia without descending into bathos.

a lovely neat, crisp poem with lots to say in few lines

It is the essence of nostalgia without a shred of sentimentality, the smarties tube, China dogs and pinkies . Women I feel I knew.

I love the simplicity and yet the layered complexity of Catherine’s poem. She is able to convey emotion in the most creative ways for example ‘lost in the velvet of ourselves’. You can’t quite describe what that means whilst at the same time I know exactly what she means. Her words hit a sense that needs no other explanation – I immediately know what she means – like some long lost melody that we suddenly remember in our hearts.

This poem has a nostalgic feel to it but is written in a modern form. It is satisfying to read but leaves me thinking about the themes for a long time.

Like many of the best poems, this one is rooted in precise detail but at the same time leaves space for the reader to bring their own memories. I loved reading this on Christmas Eve.

Right from the first line, this poem is full of Christmas imagery – spare use of words with no shortage of story. A back-story that is nostalgic and a present that is cold and yearning – repeating the first line as the penultimate line, launches the final line full of hope.

It was the magic she found in the every day, the lightness of touch with the nostalgia across generations that also felt universal, inclusive and comforting to me as a reader. It was hard to choose between this and ‘Narrowing’, but this one just had the edge in terms of seeming positive and enchanting.

It’s such a beautiful, economical evocation of a woman’s life – and her connection with a previous generation of women.

This poem took me to a place that was at once full of something beautiful and consumed by sorrow.

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Skendha Singh is our IS&T Pick of the Month Poet for November 2018

 

We have all been there. And that is why Skendha Singh’s simple yet effective, still yet biting, accessible yet intense poem ‘Dear -‘, punctuating the end of a relationship, is the IS&T Pick of the Month for November 2018.

Skendha graduated with an M.Litt in Writing Practice and Study from the University of Dundee and has been writing and editing, since then, for her bread and butter. She currently lives in Delhi.

Skendha has asked that her £10 ‘prize’ be donated to the Scottish Wildlife Trust.

 

Dear –

or, maybe not dear. Or dear, as addressed
to an editor, an employer, a stranger one has
business with. But, not a stranger, intimate –
like an ex, but not estranged, close
as a friend, watchful like a long-nosed
neighbour.
You are too heavy a consequence. I spin
into you at the blind corner of each second, all
my paper bags ripped, my 200 mill
bottles of wishful thinking broken, spilling liqueurs
on the pavement.
And you rend my list of family and friends.
Elbow me in the gut then grab my shoulder. No, stop
bending over me in kind courtesy and offering
to pick up my things, to drop me home in that Eagle
wagon of yours which won’t ever brake at the bend.
You tip full cups down the drain,
and leave your scent lingering.

I’m done.

Come and pick up your things. Not tomorrow. Now.
As you read this, I’m blotting the echoes
of yesterday, all the old voices, like bat
droppings in the basement.
Boxing up the old clothes, my parkas, plaid shirt
socks: they never made me feel invisible, anyway.
I’ve folded your dark clouds, your damp of rain
You’ll find them piled on the balustrade.

But I’m taking the jokes that no one else gets.
And if you seek therapy, we might
go camping, with flasks of coffee, cling to clefts
of light culling the canopied woods. We might even
become friends when I can call you solitude.

 

*********

 

 

Voters’ comments included:

A stillness, and so many layers of emotion! Beautiful.

This poem compelled me to read on and into it. It has a great rhythm and is incredibly unique in style. I Love the way it bites!

Very intense [and] different

I enjoy how accessible this poem is, and its turns.

This poem really resonated with me.

Very emotional and experienced expression

The imagery and voice

… She is very talented and very natural….

I liked the poem and [wanted] to appreciate and motivate a budding writer

From the poet’s heart

Deep, Profound, yet abstract, in style. Subtle yet forces vivid imagery sans colours but those with emotions, feelings and under the layer one’s private voice in the head. It could mean different things to different people, yet effectively establishing an introspective and reflective connect…Great piece, fresh and bold piece.

 

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Gboyega Odubanjo’s ‘Obit.’, a timely Pick of the Month for October 2018!

 

Rarely has an IS&T Pick of the Month reflected so entirely things as they are now. Four young men, ages 15-22, stabbed in south London between the 2nd and 6th November is four too many and Gboyega Odubanjo’s ‘Obit.’, though written and published before these dates, is a powerful and moving reflection on this. In the words of one voter it is ‘a devastating subject expressed with cool restraint and wry humour.’

Gboyega is a British-Nigerian poet born and raised in East London. In 2018 he completed an MA in Creative Writing (Poetry) at the University of East Anglia. His debut pamphlet, While I Yet Live, will be published by Bad Betty Press in 2019.

 

Obit.
(After César Vallejo)

i will die in london in the neighbourhood
i grew up in outside the town hall
on the high street. i will have been stabbed
and my killer will look just like me so
no-one will look for him. my body
will remain dead in daylight for hours until
the sky turns more blick than blue. on the news
i will be smiling. i will be as handsome
as i have ever been. today a young man
has died they will say today a young man has died today
it will be a friday a young man has died young o so terribly
young. i will die again three days later
when i hand myself in no-one will believe it because
i will look just like me. i will look like i have died o so
many times already. i will be survived by myself
and the many times that i still have to die.

 

Additional voters’ comments include:

Another young man, today, in Anerley. Odubanjo engages so powerfully with this crisis.

I felt gutted by this poem, saddened and angered. It is incredibly powerful!

Very striking and the repeats work so effectively. I admire the simple language.

Poignant. Being handsome in the news was a nice touch.

It – quite literally – took my breath away. I gasped.

Every line packs a killer punch

Subtly surreal and innovative voice

Gboyega’s poem is heart-wrenchingly honest and political whilst still managing to create beautiful imagery with a strong, assured voice. wonderful stuff.

Bloody hell! Memorable before you even finish reading it. A proper punch of a poem

 

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Amy Kean is our Pick of the Month Poet for September 2018

 

Our Pick of the Month poem for September 2018 could only have been written in the 21st century and the depth, wit and brilliance of Amy Kean’s ‘I put make-up on for the Deliveroo driver’ resonated with many voters

Amy is an author and advertising creative from London. Her first book – The Little Girl Who Gave Zero Fucks – is out in October, and she’s had work published in The Guardian, Disclaimer magazine and Litro amongst many others.  www.shitsandgigs.com

Amy has asked that her £10 ‘prize’ be donated to PDSA, the charity that offers reduced cost and free veterinary care for pets in need.

 

 

I put make-up on for the Deliveroo driver  

Pornography implies this a fruitful strategy for lonely women.
Often their husbands are out of town, but you could be anywhere.

I put make-up on for the Deliveroo driver, hot ribs and bang bang cauliflower hint at my intentions.
The miso aubergine and Chilean Malbec brazen, our language: body and artisanal oriental fusion.

I put make-up on for the Deliveroo driver, barely-there razzmic berry shorts simmer on my thigh tops.
These neatly boxed breasts ready and protein-heavy like five days of meal prep in airtight tupperware.

I put make-up on for the Deliveroo driver, painted my lips crimson as a blood clot five centimetres in length.
Pinched my cheeks so hard the rest of my body forgot how pain feels.

I put make-up on for the Deliveroo driver to prove my fruit is not forbidden. I am Eve, original biblical MILF. I am the childless witch in a gingerbread house, I am his stepmother, I am your cracked, overheated induction hob.

I put make-up on for the Deliveroo driver but the helmet hid his face. It might have been you. He might have been wearing make-up too. A woman with appropriated braids was vaping in the car.  He was late, forgot my spring rolls and the sticky shredded chilli beef still breathing. I imagined it was you. Delivering sustenance in disguise to check I’m alive.

 

*********

 

Voters’ comments included:

I thought that its structure seemed effortlessly worked and loved its ‘killer’ humour which belied such pain. Great poem, seemingly light but full of deep emotion.

Bold and vivid imagery, long lines, primary colours, unashamed sexiness and brilliant that the braids are “appropriated”.

Very heartfelt poem

Amy is corky and [a] brilliant writer. She is super intelligent and [has a] great sense of that old traditional English sarcastic humour

Inspirational and motivational magic

It’s so real – it really landed with me.

I love the idea of non judgemental cosmetic application. I agree, when I wear lippy & mascara it shows I value me!

It’s honest, sad, real, in-your-face and ultra modern. Love it.

Loved the humour.

Human, fallible, wonderful writing

It’s funny and fresh and oddly real!

It’s hilarious

Quirky. Funny. Relevant.

Just brilliant

Resonating themes.

We all do it

So original.

I love her sharp incisive wit

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The beautiful ‘…And tell the stars’ by Maryam Gatawa is our Pick of the Month for August 2018.

Maryam Gatawa, a young poet from northern Nigeria, is our Pick of the Month for August 2018 with many voters being stunned by her ‘uplifting’ ‘deep’ ‘reflective’ and ‘inspiring’ poem ‘…And tell the stars’.

Maryam’s works of poetry have been published in reputable journals inside Africa and overseas. She can be reached through Facebook at ‘Maryam Gatawa’ and Twitter @meegat12.

She has asked that her £10 ‘prize’ be donated to the Nigeria Muslim Forum UK which raises money for education schemes and the relief of poverty.

 

…And tell the stars

Then tell the stars
To take their leave too
For within our breasts
Shines the inward light
To sail us through
These fields of darkness

Why wait for the gardens to
Bear you sweet roses
Or rent the cloaks of your hope
To greedy mighty whales

Go forth with your hoe
And till the fertile land
Plant upon its face
Sweet corns and grapes
And  when the winter knocks in
Tell her to stay
You have enough grains in your home.

 

*********

 

Voters’ comments included:

Even from the title, it won

And Tell the Stars teaches strength, perseverance and inspires hope.

It’s beautiful!

Maryam’s style of poetry is simple and inspiring. Her use of metaphors is excellent. Her “…And tell the stars” has more than one meaning which is one of the most remarkable features of poetry. She definitely has my vote for that.

Maryam Gatawa is a new dawn to poetry in northern Nigeria…

Maryam is an amazing poet who inspires women to write and this poem reeks of awesomeness.

…a role model for the upcoming poets.

It’s simply captivating

It pricks at my conscience, inspires my senses, in mingled spews of nature and reality

It’s really touching and emotionally enlightening.

The poem is simple amazing, it’s flows directly from the recess of the soul.

It appeals to more, especially in this period that we expect to harvest our fields this farming season. I consider it a great art to construct your poems in short lines and still go on to make much sense and put out something beautiful.

The flow, the rhythm and the imagery. She just seem like a natural to me.

Maryam’s poetry is always fresh and strange to me anytime I read her. Through her poems, I come to terms with dreams and imagination. She writes poems that will stand the taste of time.

Her lines are daring.

A poem of wit and wisdom.

Lifelesson

 

 

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‘Epoch’ by Rebecca Sandeman is your Pick of the Month for July 2018!

It came right down to the wire this time but Rebecca Sandeman’s ‘Epoch’ edged home to be the Pick of the Month for July 2018. This ‘powerful’ ’empathetic’ poem moved voters and marked Rebecca, in her words ‘usually a fiction writer’, as one to watch in poetry.

Rebecca is a PhD student at the University of Sheffield and Events Organiser for a lawyers firm. She is editor at @CicatriceJournal and her work has appeared in Route 57, Edinburgh Inkwell, Llady and Prole.

 

 

Epoch

And I can’t
can’t
do the 7:45 wetness
on the bathroom floor
anymore

I step in it
And my socks
are sad on the way to work.

Conduit Road is more
miserable
having items which
weep unexpectedly.

I’m sorry that I break
once
every 28 days.

It’s an unfortunate side effect
of pins in your arm
and love.

And you,
you
Tell me everything’s
going to be okay
in a voice I abhor

offering orgasms
and cups of tea,
to talk me down
from the ledge.

I tell you I’ve got cold feet
And that I miss
my Waitrose deliveries.

I say I don’t want
you to touch me
and that your family
are annoying.

(Which they are)

And then
And then

We turn off the light
With our
new clean bed sheet

which you have blow-dried
along with my knickers
for work

and we kiss in the dark
for hours

my tongue tells your teeth
how much of a fool
I am.

 

*********

 

Voters comments included:

It moved me, to a better place

Amazing poem, loved the bit about the socks

Truly powerful words, spoken with a knowledge of great breadth. I’ll keep my eye on this poet.

It provides insight into the feelings of others when ill health is prevailing and encourages the reader to be empathetic.

Talented, creative and truly spoken.

The simple little gestures of love made me cry!

Astonishing work.

A classy writer who has style and clout

I just adore her

Sad socks and a pervading rawness – I like this.

A powerful depiction of conflicting emotions in a period of someone’s life. I can relate to this.

… she is such an inspirational person and so talented in her artform

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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.

She has asked that her £10 ‘prize’ be donated to Doctors of the World.

 

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.

 

********

 

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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