Skendha Singh




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
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.




Skendha Singh struggled with writing this bio. Strange, since she 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.

Read More

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.


(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


Read More

Ali Jones




The Mathematics of Past and Future Selves 

There’s a small child sobbing, oppressed in her Sunday best,
red velvet dress, patent mirrors scuffed. There’s a bear,

one eye estranged, dangling free. There’s a shade
on the path, looming up in sunlight. They are waiting.

In the kitchen, china and loose leaf, the wedding service.
Dundee. When they call, she will turn through the years –

skitter up the path in a flash of dust. Their eyes are sepia.
Yellowed in foxed frames. In the snicket that runs between,

heroes shadow walk. I think she will be alright,
she looks the strong type, but it’s way too early to tell.






Ali Jones’ work has appeared in The Interpreter’s House, Proletarian Poetry, Ink Sweat and Tears, Snakeskin Poetry, Atrium, Café Writers, Laldy,   Green Parent magazine and The Guardian. Her pamphlets Heartwood and Omega are forthcoming with Indigo Dreams Press.

Read More

Tom Kelly



Memory Stairs
(Terry Kelly 1958-2016)

It’s not a constant ache, more longing,
email will suffice,
something bridging this gap.

I see your doppelganger
in a city street:
high forehead, eyes alert, searching
for the book no-one else will ever have.

I am calculating your age,
this or that year.
Your hair spreads,
lapping up and down on your brow,
the time escape me.

Some moments appear,
running down memory stairs,
fall apart with my heart.

I will not keep the review from ‘The Independent.’

It’s March and snow is up to my knees,
crossing the dene where it is deeper.
Auntie Bridget struggles into over-shoes,
has me hold her arm, wobbling down the path.

The rest is clanging bottles of oxygen. And you.
My mother screaming through papier-mache walls.

My memory is going into over-drive,
getting it all wrong.
You went over the handlebars and your curly locked head
danced to the ground.
Now I see you. Like our father,
on the day before your birthday.
Snow has gone,
only edges remain,
bacon rinds on an empty plate.

You would say Ian Hamilton would have pared this down
to a silver thread on a dark overcoat,
standing out so clear
like you today.



Tom Kelly is a Jarrow-born poet and playwright who lives further up the Tyne at Blaydon. His recent collection I Know Their Footsteps is published by  Red Squirrel Press.  This is his website:

Read More

Michael Bloor




The Night I Ordered the Smoked Eel

It’s late, late at night and I’m sprawled on the couch watching a DVD of Mel Brooks’ ‘The Producers.’

Somebody says, in a low drawl, ‘Must you keep picking your nose?’

I’m immediately alert: there’s no-one else in the room – there’s just me and Mungo the cat, either end of the couch. Nothing happens for a very long five seconds, then…

‘I said, must you keep picking your nose – it’s utterly disgusting.’

I stare at the cat. Mungo stares back, in that disconcerting, direct way that cats look at you: ‘Of course it’s me, you prat. Never heard of a talking cat?’

In the course of the evening, I’d drunk enough whisky to go with the flow: ‘Er, well, there’s that Saki short story about a talking cat called “Tobermory”…’

Mungo twitches his tail. I recall too late that poor Tobermory came to a sticky end. Mungo jumps off the couch, ‘OK, Sunshine. Just keep your digit away from your nasal cavities from now on, and we’ll say this conversation ever happened.’

‘Hang on, Mungo. Sorry about the Tobermory reference: I was in shock – never met a talking cat before.’

He gave his tail a final, lazy twist. ‘Bollocks. I talk to you all the time – you just never listen.’

I stare back. ‘All the time? So… when was the last time?’

‘Earlier this evening, when you were sat staring at a blank laptop screen.’

‘Don’t remind me – Must’ve sat there for over an hour. Dismissed one half-baked idea for a short story. Then totally failed to come up with another.’

‘Uh-huh. Hunched over your laptop, like a constipated tortoise.’

‘OK, OK, though I might borrow your “constipated tortoise” analogy. Err, what was it that you said to me back then, when I was staring at the laptop?’

Mungo starts licking his right-hand back paw. ‘Just said [slurp] I’ve an idea for a story, if you want one [slurp]…’

There’s a long pause. No pun intended.

‘So what was the idea?’

‘You really want [slurp] to know?’


‘OK. How about some of that “Tuna Surprise”?’

A few minutes later, in the kitchen: ‘So Mungo, the story idea?’

‘Mmm. Yeah. Hope you’re gonna buy some more of that “Tuna Surprise,” by the way. Right then: the story. You remember that Bergman DVD that you were watching before Christmas?’

‘Ingrid Bergman??’

‘No, you dope, Ingmar Bergman, the Swedish director. You were watching Bergman’s “The Face.”’

‘Oh yeah. Gotcha: “The Face.”’

‘Well, dumbnuts, that’s a great plot. The MC can work miracles. But nineteenth century Sweden has got no use for a saint or a messiah – he finds he’s disturbing, unpopular. So, instead, he makes a hand-to-mouth living as a travelling magician. Occasionally, he deliberately messes up a trick, so there’s less danger that the audience are disturbed by the thought that they might be witnessing a miracle. You’ll recall that there’s more to it, but you get my drift.’

‘Hmm, I get your drift, Mungo. It’s a great plot. But if it’s already been done…’

Mungo twitches his tail and turns away. I hastily apologise, ‘Oops, sorry. A bit slow on the uptake after that whisky. Gotcha now: maybe make a few alterations…’

‘Exactly. Update it to the twenty-first century; switch it from a travelling magician to, say, a travelling psychic. That sort of thing. After all, somebody pointed out that there are only seven basic plots in the whole world, so a bit of recycling’s unavoidable.’

I sit quietly for a moment, absorbing this scintillating guidance. ‘Thanks pal, want another dish of tuna?’

Mungo heads for the catflap, ‘The tuna’s finished. No thanks necessary. Just make sure you buy some more of that tuna tomorrow. Either that or some smoked eel – I understand that you can order that online.’






Michael Bloor is a retired sociologist living in Dunblane, Scotland, who has discovered the exhilarations of short fiction. Recent publications include The Fiction Pool, The Cabinet of Heed, Ink Sweat & Tears, Occulum, The Copperfield Review, Scribble, Dodging the Rain, Everyday Fiction, The Drabble, Firewords, and Spelk.

Read More

Anna Milan



Five Times



Mother rubs her eyes at the kitchen table. Says she’s drunk.
The midnight light stares at me, and I wait for the shade of bed.



I am almost naked under a duvet of dried grass cuttings.
The morning sun warms me in this hidden place, but does not tell.



Each night I fling saucepans across the floor to make space.
But there’s never enough time, and I can’t fit into the cupboard.



His evening anger reaches fingers into every room.
They pull me back through closed doors, towards him.



A blackbird watches me compound the dusk rain under a holly bush.
She wonders if I have food for her, or if I’ve become a threat.





Born in Lincolnshire and currently living in Hertfordshire, Anna Milan is an established copywriter. After a recent bipolar disorder diagnosis, she has rediscovered a love of the way poetry provides a mechanism to share the perspectives of others.

Read More

UEA Poetry MA Scholars Amanda Holiday and Kirstie Millar

In 2011, IS&T publisher Kate Birch established the The Ink Sweat & Tears Poetry Writing Scholarship (MA) at the University of East Anglia (UEA); Kirstie Millar is its eighth recipient. Amanda Holiday is the first to be awarded The Birch Family Scholarship set up to support UK-based poetry MA students from the BAME community. Both Amanda and Kirstie will be reading at the Café Writers spoken word night at Louis Marchesi in Norwich tonight


Shipwrecked Portuguese soldiers battle giant crabs in the Indian Ocean 1601

The Crabs

The sea had been flat and still, barely lapping
And lulled by heat and rum
we lay back in the boats drifting
damp handkerchiefs on our faces
against the sun

and before long,
one by one badoom badoom
our pirogues thudded up on sand and pebbles
wedging us askew on the shore
Big Paul woke first and leapt out
shouting ‘Santos Caranguejos!’
Monster crabs; pink, ungainly
blinked back slowly and waved their claws

We grabbed oars and ran at
the crustaceans poking fleshy faces
beating hardened shells
driving them inland. Yet more came –
an army sideways from the sea
Soon we were surrounded:
flushed, hard-bodied hordes.

Paul ordered us ‘Pare!’ Lay down our sticks.
We dragged our boats to the
ocean edge and as we waited
for the moon tide and staved
off hunger, we sang songs to
the fickle creatures, who now
danced in lines across the sand.

When midnight came, we loaded up
And set sail


Amanda Holiday has read poems from her first chapbook at the PCA ACA annual conference in San Diego as well as Herstory4 Feminist Theatre, Nasty Women and FiliArt festivals in London – The Art Poems is published as part of New Generation African Poets chapbox set (Tano, Akashic Books (US) 2018).



There are so many different ways to be alive
that time those boys threw a donut at us
we were still alive then
busy stepping down the side of the highway
collecting in a plastic bag all the things we might find useful in adult life
how best to hold your body while alone on the street at night
how best to feel the sandy shape of words on your tongue and how to make
them pointed
when they need to be
how to paint a face on top of your less nice face
how to make that face a cold river without a single ripple
how to lie
how to use this cold placid face to project a promise into the world
a promise that says a sharp thought has never risen and pricked the thin layer of
pink skin drawn gently across your mind
how to scramble up yourself and be nothing but soft things piled up on other softer

I am only soft and agreeable things.
I found that thing so dull and blank but useful amongst the thin yellow grass and
cigarette butts and rusted cans of Sprite
on the side of the highway that day,
seconds before their sprinkles hit me
right between the eyes.

I boil these discoveries down like sweets
and push them through the pink mess deep into another pinker part of myself.

I am only soft and agreeable things.
I lie.
I move through the day like slime,
like green slick slime from Nickelodeon.

And I’m here to say
you’ve all just been slimed,
by me.


Kirstie Millar is a writer and poet based in Norwich. She edits Ache, a magazine by women exploring illness, health and pain. You can find her on Twitter @KirstieMillar.

Read More