It’s our last Pick of the Month for 2018: Vote Now!

I think that we can all say that 2018 has been an ‘interesting’ year, maybe one that is glass half empty, and our Pick of the Month shortlist for December reflects this in part. With Catherine Ayres, Luigi Coppola and Laura McKee from our ’12 Days of Christmas’ feature* and Rebecca Gethin, Edmund Prestwich and Eloise Unerman coming in from the rest of the December cold, we’ve a group largely reflecting on loss. But because these are exceptional poets, those slants of light always shine through.

The shortlisted poems have either been chosen by Helen and Kate or received the most attention on social media. Do take the time to go through them below (or click on ‘Vote for your December 2018 Pick of the Month′ in the Categories list to your right on the screen.)

Voting has now closed. We will announce the winner at approximately 4pm on Tuesday 15th January.

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 All shortlisted poetry Picks, provided they remain unpublished and meet other eligibility criteria, will be considered as IS&T submissions for the annual Forward Prize for Best Single Poem.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 was Highly Commended by the 2018 judges. It features in The Forward Book of Poetry 2019.)

* We include 1st and 2nd January from ’12 Days of…’ when we make our shortlist.

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Catherine Ayres



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,
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.

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

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Luigi Coppola



The Harvester

There is a darkness coming
a little at first, just ahead of the rest

His breath is a slow yawn
it draws in a shade
a cold and a rustling
everything sleeping, drying

An idiot-ox striding
his March drawing blood from flower
herb from hand

The stampede lasts for months

He is the Harvester
hoof and horn
giggling and dribbling

with the sun on his back
and snow in his mouth


Luigi Coppola has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize twice, appeared in Worple Press’s The Tree Line anthology and has print and online publications, including in Acumen, Ink Sweat and Tears, Iota, Magma and The Rialto.

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Laura McKee




Since it was all about a son

I ask my son now that he doesn’t really believe in everything
what’s Christmas all about then? I mean what does it mean to you?

there is still a hole in the roof to follow a star through
but we have just had the boiler fixed

warm and sleepy he stretches out his body
and his answer      er            er         er      cold      but warm

because you wear
I don’t mean just you
but you wear
way too many layers of clothing

I ask him does that make you just right
or too warm then
too warm he says assertively
half asleep and fully a wise man



Laura McKee knows the handwriting of all the elves but doesn’t have the teeth for sellotape. Find her spearing the Turkish Delight, or on Twitter: @Estlinin and newly hatched on Instagram: @pretendpoet1

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Edmund Prestwich




Aqua Alta

It started as often before:
water, creeping through doors,
pushed in by wind and tide,
flooded the lower floors.
Venetians, grimly stoic,
waded to work as dawn
broke cold and yellow; waded
through ruined books, shoes
and baby clothes, or queued
in bakeries and bars
while water rose to their knees.
Four Russians in trunks and bikinis
grinned mockingly for the cameras
round a table by St Mark’s,
till, as the water rose
their bodies disappeared –
left jerking heads, cold hands
clinging to the table
and frozen manic grins.
Their legs kicked in frenzy,
pale blurs in the green murk,
while silently all round
the sea hordes muscled in,
bream and bass and squid,
red mullet, flickering eel,
gamberetti, spider crabs,
and mercury-poisoned razor clams
borne in on the drifting sand.



Edmund Prestwich lives in Manchester. He has published two collections, Through the Window and Their Mountain Mother. You can link to his website and blog at and his Amazon page at

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Eloise Unerman


Divorce for Dummies

Our divorce was a collection of digestive
biscuit meetings, the formalities of splitting
our elaborate throw cushion collection, who
would have the kids – a pair of ugly goat
mugs neither of us wanted but neither of us

would give away. I felt like we should’ve
been arguing over his Range Rover, yelling
across the drive about custody of some
annoying purse dog, spilling all our dirty
secrets onto the counsellor’s desk. All you do

is nag, nag, nag, he’d say. I’d flip my hair
and glare at him from behind obnoxious
black sunglasses, then launch into a rant
about how much I hated the hair he leaves
in the shower drain. I wanted to break

things, start rumours, invite friends over
to throw darts at pictures of him and refuse
calls from my retired in-laws. Instead
I felt like you do when you go shopping
but don’t find anything on your list.

Eloise Unerman is a writer based in South Yorkshire who writes poetry and short stories, and attends Rotherham Young Writers. She was awarded the Cuckoo Young Writers Award 2017 and was Young Poet in Residence at Ledbury Poetry Festival 2018.

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Rebecca Gethin




Fog inhabits the air
so as I walk through cloud shadow
I find another beside me,
her breath condensing on my hair
drawing me into the grey no-light
that sprawls around, ensnaring me
in a long drawn-out dawn
where all I can see lies at the end
of my outstretched hand.

I never held my mother’s hand
with its sparrowy bones,
felt the answering grip –
the veins on her hand blued,
joints swollen, index finger skewed.

If I could, I’d have said,
What I love the most is how, as you get older,
more and more of you comes to the surface.


Rebecca Gethin lives on Dartmoor in Devon. In 2017 two pamphlets were published: A Sprig of Rowan by Three Drops Press and All the Time in the World by Cinnamon Press who published an earlier collection called A Handful of Water and two novels. She has been a Hawthornden Fellow. In 2018 she jointly won the Coast to Coast Pamphlet competition, is reading at Aldeburgh Poetry Festival and has been awarded a writing residency at Brisons Veor.

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