Vote Vote Vote for Your Pick of the Month for October 2018


The nights are closing in and it’s time to choose your Pick of the Month for October. Change is in the air and we have shortlisted two of the submissions for our National Poetry Day #Poetryforachange feature, excellent works from Jenny Hope and Angela Readman. But some things cannot be changed as we are movingly reminded by Nicholas McGaughey and Abegail Morley. And for Maggie Butt and Gboyega Odubanjo, some things that should change and can change, do not change quickly enough and we must remain vigilant.

Do, please, take the time to go through these six fine poems below (or click on ‘Vote for your October 2018 Pick of the Month′ in the Categories list to your right on the screen.)

Voting is now closed. October’s Pick will be announced on Friday 16th November at 4pm (GMT).

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 All shortlisted poetry Picks, provided they remain unpublished and meet other eligibility criteria, will be considered as IS&T submissions for the annual Forward Prize for Best Single Poem. (‘Frequency Violet’ by Kate Edwards was a Pick of the Month for November 2017 and has just been Highly Commended by the 2018 judges. It features in The Forward Book of Poetry 2019.)

Read More

Angela Readman





The pelt drags me across sand like a drown animal.
I walk miles, eyes fixed on Birling Carrs, a lime light
of seaweed and coal. Birds nesting in cliff face ,
a chorus stuck in a skull. I didn’t know what was here,

buried by tides. I almost missed it – a packet of pills
at nineteen, another at thirty, yet I’m here.
Salt-slapped and grit toothed, sea glass in pocket,
a blister pack of rock pools in my hand. I kneel

to the fur of pondlife, stroke dulse- a strap
bright enough to tie me to this moment alone.
The sun steals a peek of itself laid on the ground.
I sit with it a while. Lichen observing me breathe,

water and shadow a snakeskin boot on my feet.
Snippets of rock pipits popped in my mouth,
I suck an almost song and head back.



Angela Readman is a twice-shortlisted winner of the Costa Short Story Award. Her debut story collection Don’t Try This at Home was published by And Other Stories in 2015. It won The Rubery Book Prize and was shortlisted in the Edge Hill Short Story Prize. She also writes poetry, and her collection The Book of Tides was published by Nine Arches in 2016. Her first novel Something Like Breathing will be published next year.

Read More

Jenny Hope



On becoming a bee

Choosing when was difficult. What time of year?
Winter could get me five months or so, if you were lucky enough
to make the cut, to be spent mostly in the hive. Bee Hygge?

Honey-scented? I’m over romanticising. It’ll be clustered
together for warmth. And besides, these bees aren’t Danish.

Spring to summer might be best, a six-week stretch,
but I’ll pray for decent weather. I’m reliably informed
I can go in at cleaner level – (accreditation for prior learning they called it).

My children wanted to know – Why?
Children always do – especially when full-grown.
Why? Because my job here’s done. You don’t need me now.

I tell my children I have to work my way up before I get outside.
Cleaning, nursing, building, guarding – “Oh you’ve done all that already.”
I know, (but marvel how they do actually remember this)

“You’re old enough to do it for yourselves.”
They’re not impressed. “I’ll always be your mother…”
Of course I’d let them watch the process of me becoming bee.

God only knows they’ve seen the worst of me already and besides
they need the closure.

Will it hurt? What will happen? What will you do?
They’re still asking the “why?” My heart buzzes.
They look unsure.

“When I do get out…” “You’ll look for us?”
“Yes…” they’re happier now. “What else will you do?”

“Oh…I’ll have to learn to shit mid-air. They both thought this funny
especially when I told them I’d get on-the-job training.

So the day came. We went into the garden. Yes, the sun was out,
a warm mid-spring day. I wouldn’t see the sun for a while.

“Here’s where I turn myself inside-out.”
I pause for effect, and to lighten the moment.
“ and I officially become hard-arsed.”

A dandelion clock rolls between us.
“Mum…” My daughter’s hand holds mine.
My son catches the clock.




Jenny Hope is a writer, poet and workshop facilitator. She lives on top of a hill in wildish-Worcestershire. Her websites are and

Read More

Maggie Butt





Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford

A witch was bottled, and stoppered with wax
in this ribbed and silvered scent-bottle.

The hand-written ticket does not explain how
she was captured, but says an old lady warned:
if  you let her out there’ll be a pack of trouble.
Now cramped in this wasp-waisted glass

for more than a century, trouble a-brewing,
her anger has matured, grown both expansive

and precise. If she escaped, her wrath would tempest
through this tip-toed museum. Displays

of apple-corers, wart-cures, mole’s fore-feet
would spin and shatter, curiosities whirl in a typhoon.

She would howl like winds from the lands which offered
up the reindeer skin knickers and raincoats

of seal intestine embroidered with caribou hair,
trash their hard-won, unexpected beauty.

A small girl asks her father if it’s true, says she thinks
the bottle is too small to hold a real witch.

He hurries her past the shrunken heads; murdered
toddlers’ skulls; tiny, silken Chinese shoes to hide

the mutilated, putrifying feet of other daughters,
and doesn’t say what spells he’d be prepared to cast

so she could never be contained and labelled.
He doesn’t say that furies roam the world, screeching

through the night, twisting the minds of men to unspeakable
acts; or that he knows his love for her looks small

and breakable as the witch-bottle, stretches wide and helpless
as the sky at evening; and how little he could do

if the witch began to twist the fire-sticks in their sockets
till the whole world was ablaze with tongues of rage.




Maggie Butt’s fifth poetry collection was Degrees of Twilight (The London Magazine) 2015. Maggie is an ex-journalist and TV producer, who supervises Creative Writing PhDs at Middlesex University, and is a Royal Literary Fund Fellow in Kent.

Read More

Nicholas McGaughey




The Slip

This is the bay
Where you walked into
The sea. Today

We bring a dog,
Collared in a blue
Silk bow, to get some air.

I see you out there,
A silver kite, trailing
Seagulls. Almost waving.




Nicholas McGaughey is an actor. Recent work has been published in London Grip, Poetry Scotland and Lampeter Review.


Read More

Gboyega Odubanjo





(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.




Gboyega Odubanjo 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.

Read More

Abegail Morley





Yesterday I forgot you entirely ‒ well almost. I forgot
how you died at least, and today I realise I might have, in error,
sliced the roots of the rose you love, and in the low-setting sun
can almost forgive myself. But not quite.

I know you flinch like sea stopped on the beach, pooling
itself like a myth in the cold, and February’s naked air slowly realises
its been struck by you jumping from a quiet cliff,
mid-week, when everything is supposed to be ordinary.




Abegail Morley‘s recent collection is The Skin Diary (Nine Arches). Her debut was shortlisted for the Forward Prize. She was“One of the Five British Poets to Watch in 2017” (Huffington Post), edits The Poetry Shed and is co-editor of Against the Grain Poetry Press.

Read More