Deborah McClean


Milk and Honey

It’s 22:37 and I look
down and see you.
You’ve had another hard day;
I’m not surprised you look so sad.

I’m sure you are thinking
of the good old days;
those days when you were idle;
those days when you were framed in soft fabrics: lace and satin.
Loved and fawned.

You see, my loves,
it doesn’t feel like it
but you are now
the most important part of me.

I love you so much more
because you love the angry little mouth that want want wants NOW.

Now now now now!

So. I’m sorry
that sometimes you get angry; sometimes you throb
and weep
and split yourself;
grieving for those gentle fawning days.

But I’ve stopped wishing for those good old days,
because the golden days are here:

I am now the land of milk and honey,
and you, my dears, are her life-givers.





Deborah McClean is an Irish poet living in Bristol. She now eats cake and writes poetry one-handed due to the arrival of her first baby. Deborah lives in a house with a percolator and a husband.

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Poems from Kate Edwards, Ali Whitelock and Jane Wilkinson are the IS&T Entries for the 2018 Forward Prize for Best Single Poem.

Revisit the poems below or go to

Good luck to all!

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Richard Hawtree reviews ‘Gerry Sweeney’s Mammy’ by Dónall Dempsey



Image result for Gerry Sweeney"s Mammyby Dónall Dempsey

This is a book of great clarity. Its poems draw strength from the twin securities of family and place before striking out boldly to engage with themes of death and loss. Dónall Dempsey’s new collection deftly shows readers how: ‘[t]he flag of self unfurls / snaps into the lost moment.’ (‘Walking from the Rising Sun to Kildare Town’). This is especially apparent in poems like ‘Follow the Leader’ where the writer’s daughter prompts this unfurling, teaching him not simply to recognise but: ‘to be / the world that she / can see / (half invention / half discovery) …’ Many of Dempsey’s poems take up this ontological challenge, asking us to consider how our being in the world is shaped by complex interaction with close relatives and friends. In short, Gerry Sweeney’s Mammy celebrates our fundamental interconnectedness, the strength of that human chain outlasting the home place or family tree. ‘Journey of a Smile’ finds just such continuity behind each smile in an old photo album:

It pays no attention
to gender

or place or place
in history.

Different people
lay claim to it.

Each generation
borrows it

This perspective ensures that the elegant poems of personal recollection, found throughout the book, work cumulatively to produce a thoroughly inclusive experience for readers.
But above all else, this is a book that revels in the mysterious power of words, in the conviction that: ‘language is lava // the mind is molten / always flowing’ (‘Hithering and Tithering Waters Of..’). And so a pyroclastic flow from Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake occasionally disrupts these texts, enriching their poetic soil with a thunderword ending in ‘[…] TOOHOOHOORDENENTHURNUK!’ (‘How Not To Swear When One Is Swearing’). Indeed, thunder itself is an important unifying device in this collection, a marker of self-discovery that is frequently linked to the poet’s acknowledgment of the human. Early in the collection we read:

Oh what a thing it was
being human.

I, in due course
was an about-to-be

clumping about the evening
(‘O Words are Poor Receipts for What Time Hath Stole Away’)

Later, the poem ‘In the Mythology of Foxes’ offers the same semantic pairing in counterpointing an uncle’s shooting of a fox: ‘the fearful thunder // of his gun / had ended everything’ with his nephew’s shocked response: ‘trying to comfort her / with his human tears.’ Many of the poems in Gerry Sweeney’s Mammy seek to recover this humanitas at the heart of things. It is present in the frequent intertextual allusions to Donne, Herbert, Hopkins, and Chaucer. In ‘Till Human Voices Wake Us’ even snow takes part in the search:

the human
tears in its eyes
the snow smiles

snow now

This is a book of great humanity; in ‘Hithering and Tithering Waters Of..’ the poet reads Joyce to his daughter as a bedtime story. Her response will be shared by many readers of this fine volume:

Beside the tickling waters of.
Beside the chuckling waters of.
Beside the laughing waters of.

She loves the music of it all.


Richard Hawtree‘s poems have appeared in British and Irish literary magazines including: The Stinging Fly, Banshee, SOUTH, and The Penny Dreadful. He has taught medieval literature at University College Cork and Creative Writing at the University for the Creative Arts in Farnham, Surrey.


Order your copy of Gerry Sweeney’s Mammy by Dónall Dempsey here:

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Michael Bloor



Bishop Shock at Inverallan Games 


Sandy Brodie pushed open the door of the Inverallan Barber’s. Lachie Brown was in the chair, with Jim MacBeth, the barber, in attendance and Willie Bain next in line for a haircut.

‘Aye boys, helluva storm oot there.’ There was a ragged, muttered chorus of ‘Aye Sandy’ from all present.

‘Shouldna’ be too long, Sandy, if ye just tak’ a seat. How’s business up at the hotel? Many guests?’

‘Aye, aye. A family o’ six folk frae Holland came in today. An’ the lady bishop decided to stay anither week.’

‘And wit’s the lady bishop doin’ wi’ herself? Willie here wis saying that she wis goin’ in for The Peat Throwing Contest.’

(Lachie Brown: ‘Peat throwin’ – load o’ bloody nonsense’).

‘Aye, that’s richt. They held it this morning, afore the rain started. An’ she competed in the ladies section.’

‘An’ how did she get on, the bishop lady? She wouldna’ be any match for Lady Gayle from the Big Hoose: she’s won it every year since it started.’

‘Well now, she was makin’ an awfy hash o’ it, at first. One peat hit Andy, the gardener, on the back o’ his heid. He wasna’ pleased.’

Willie: ‘Nothin’ pleases Andy Morrison. If Nicola Sturgeon ran off tae Las Vegas wi’ Donald Trump, he wouldna’ crack a smile. So did she improve, the bishop lady?’

‘Didn’t she just? I reckon she wis getting some tips off Donnie MacKinnon at the half-time break. Because she really began to rack up some style points from the judges after the break.’

‘She wis turnin’ a tight spade?’

‘Aye, aye, a very tight spade. You could tell Lady Gayle wasna’ best pleased. So Donnie won the men’s section. And the bishop won the ladies’.’


Willie and Jim together: ‘You mean…?’

‘Aye, that’s richt: Her Grace at first just ghastly, turned a tighter spade than Gayle…

Willie and Jim gently hummed the Procol Harum organ break.

(Lachie Brown: ‘Load o’ bloody nonsense’)




Michael Bloor is a retired sociologist living in Dunblane, Scotland, who has recently discovered the exhilarations of short fiction, with pieces published in Ink Sweat & Tears, Breve New Stories, Fictive Dream, Platform for Prose, the Flash Fiction Press, Flash Fiction Magazine, Scribble, Occulum, the Fiction Pool and the Copperfield Review.

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 Robert Ford



Lobster tail

Uncommon to find such a thing up here,
beyond the exhausted seaweed,
vacated mussel shells and limp
trawlermen’s gloves in bleached out
blue or yellow rubber, their fingers
often present if somewhat perished;
but there it was, cradled among the
whirled nests of exhausted marram
woven untidily through a scalp
of sutured pebbles. Time had melted
flesh away, revealing the miracle
of its engineering, in segments
and articulations, a suit of armour
still functioning in our snow-bitten,
astonished fingers, as we prowled
the empty shore, pleased to find
such a simple gift, today of all days.





Robert Ford‘s poetry has appeared in both print and online publications in the UK and US, including Antiphon, The Interpreter’s House, Butcher’s Dog and San Pedro River Review. More of his work can be found at

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Paul Vaughan




Man’s Best Friend

You showed up again
out of the blue.
Your shaggy parasitic black fur
a blight on my hearth-rug.

You turned your wet nose up
at the Tescos own brand dog food.
Barked to say your hunger
would be satisfied with nothing
until you had devoured the very sun.

Christ, you smell.
Snarling at my friends,
humping every leg in sight
until you’ve got me to yourself.

Well done. You win.
And when you drag your stinking arse
away again
this empty house will echo with your howls.
I’ll scrub the filthy dishes
and sit beside the ‘phone
you disconnected.




Paul Vaughan lives in Yorkshire. His work has previously appeared in Prole, Agenda, Poetry Salzburg, Frogmore Papers, Picaroon Poetry and Obsessed with Pipework, among others. He is also chief editor of the e-zine Algebra of Owls.

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John Horváth Jr



They Break Their Bread and Drink

The mother with her blackbread meal
And watered soup dreams peace
The cross she bears is its own grace
She breaks her bread and drinks

Grandmother cannot look upon the priest
Who blesses ships that carry off the troops
The invalid, the rheumy-eyed, they cheer them on
She breaks her bread and drinks

The sister in her petticoats
Donates her silkies to the cause
Gives all for army pay and soldier’s brat
She breaks her bread and drinks

The soldier and the sailor on the ship at sea
Write letters home to each of them (free
Postage Stamp) “I’m doing fine, don’t cry for me”
They break their bread, they sing, they drink.

The submariner ‘neath the waves
Takes comfort there’s no threat
He thinks, he breaks his bread, he drinks

Long hours through the night they rest,
They wake, They dress their very best,
Then orate, “With your boy’s sacrifice,
We all are soundly Blest”

They raise a toast to one and all
Their etiquette requires this
No more than this they toast then drink




Mississippian John Horváth Jr publishes internationally since the 1960s (recently in Munyori Review (Zimbabwe); Numbat (Australia). Pyrokinection, Illuminations (print), and Olentangy Review). After Vanderbilt and Florida State universities, “Doc” Horváth taught at historically Black colleges. Since 1997, to promote contemporary international poetry, Horváth edits

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