For Mental Health Awareness Week: Catherine M Brennan reviews ‘Caldbeck’ by Jenny Pagdin





Pagdin’s pamphlet, Caldbeck presents poems which are unflinching in focus, and confidently varied in form, as she explores her experience of sudden postnatal psychosis. The poems are thoughtfully arranged to trace the emotional and physical demands of her experiences from early concerns for the health of her unborn child, through to her time in, and beyond Caldbeck psychiatric ward.

The pamphlet begins with a ‘Definition of Love’. Compressed meaning is introduced in the opening poem through a reference to related Old English words for ‘leave’ and ‘lief’, and notions of what is left, abandoned or desired run through the collection. This is followed by the first definition of the ‘Verbal Noun:  something known by its actions’: a significant first definition, given the lack of agency and control Pagdin later recounts.  Within a few lines we have: ‘the press of breath against a diver’s chest…’. The image is unexpected, and Pagdin moves deftly from lighter, airier images to concluding lines of love like ‘bulbs at night…warm and sure; /rubbed roots which intertwine in earth.’  After this earthy reassurance, she concludes with a sharp caesura and ‘Anonym: heartache.’  The controlled lineation and language keep the poem clear of sentimentality, and this sets the tone for the pamphlet.

Pagdin presents the dislocating nature of her experience through imagery, but also through the lens she offers in the centrally placed ‘The Radio Times’, where she presents a series of distortions, a world in which sounds ‘Cannot be switched off’, and ‘wedding rings are 50p’: everything is too intense; nothing has real value.  The facing page contains two assured, tautly one-line poems which mirror each other, conveying the alienating, disabling nature of the psychosis.

Pagdin emerges from her journey with a haiku in praise of Japanese pots which are ‘more valuable cracked.’ The concluding ‘A Definition of Hope’ contrasts earlier images: from the heavier, brutal sense of hopelessness in ‘Crista’, where she states that by the fourth week she was ‘Finally broken – as a horse is broken in—‘ to the fragile birth of a butterfly with ‘ its wings still budded and moist’. The details are raw and precise, and hope shimmers uncertain, juxtaposed against ‘Antonym: nothing.’ It is a fitting, sober end-note for a pamphlet which explores a devastating experience with grace, and with tempered, spare diction.



On Whom the Rain Comes Down
Title from Thomas Hardy’s ‘An Autumn Rain-Scene’

People do say never to touch a tent
that’s heavy with water;
I barely even knew a woman could
get ill and hurt her child.

They said our baby could have Downs,
for six months our odds were penciled on the wardrobe,
while my auntie, cousins, friends,
succumbed to cancers, fraud or death.

They said our baby might have infantile hypotonia,
then he fainted and wouldn’t come round,
I was sick and fainted and was sick, sick, sick
and still it rained down, crosshatching the sky.



Jenny Pagdin studied BA English at Oxford University and MA Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia. She lives with her husband and son in Norfolk where she works as a charity fundraiser. Her first pamphlet, Caldbeck, with Eyewear Publishing, was shortlisted for the Mslexia pamphlet competition (2017) and selected by the Poetry Book Society (2018). She won the Café Writers Norfolk prize 2018.

You can order your copy of Caldbeck by Jenny Padgin, published by Eyewear, here:

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And the April 2018 Pick of the Month is ‘Wildlings’ by Marie-Françoise de Saint-Quirin

Perhaps it was the long hot days of the bank holiday weekend and beyond when most of you placed your votes, and many ran free with their own ‘Wildlings’, but Marie-Françoise de Saint-Quirin’s poem is the IS&T Pick of the Month for April. This ‘beautiful’ ‘warm’ and ‘clever’ work resonated.

Marie-Françoise is a London based poet who was born in South Wales. Often using her mixed heritage and unconventional childhood as inspiration, she particularly enjoys writing about the mundane things that make up the fabric of who we are. Her work has previously been published by Message in a Bottle and Reach Poetry.



My wildlings
leave tokens of love scattered
like breadcrumbs,
then shriek and howl
to scare away the birds.
He offers me bouquets of broccoli –
fistfuls of Brassica from a moss flecked giant.
She wraps me in sapling limbs and
sings me songs of answerless questions.
I am just a breeze, a whisper on a wishbone,
yet, snail trails glisten across
the sag of my skin and grant me substance.




Voters comments included:

… I picked Wildlings because it wouldn’t let me go. I wanted to have snail glitter on my aging skin. I wanted to have answers to the questions my son sings to me.

A truly amazing and insightful work from one so obviously gifted. A piece so full of warmth and love that expresses the existence of a close bond between the poet and the Wildlings. The very thoughtful and thought provoking use of drawing parallels between the fleeting appearances of Nature’s little winged creatures and the Wildlings while illustrating the close bond that exists hints also at the acknowledgement ( albeit fleetingly that like Nature’s little fledglings ) of the poets transitory role in the life of her Wildlings “I am just a breeze a whisper on a wishbone “. But then just as quickly comes also the acknowledgement that however fleetingly their connection her strength is renewed in the affirmation ” yet snail trails glisten across the sag of my skin and grant me substance “. A permanent reminder of the legacy of her Wildlings’ love.

Brings it home how sweet it is to be with the ones you love

Evokes memories, reads beautifully

Resonates mothering

A beautifully written poem that made me smile and feel warm inside.

Very deep. Made me think.

Thought provoking and uses words to lull the reader in a false security. Very intelligent.

The style of writing speaks to my soul

I like the emotive use of language

Very well presented the poet uses playful language. I feel a sense of warmth when I read this poem.

I can relate, I have two wildlings of my own and here is poem that speaks their truths.

A fantastic poem that truly captures the wonderful feeling of being a parent

The imagery reminds me of my wildling.

Powerful imagery and thought provoking


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Carolyn Martin




late autumn places
a universe in my hands
a cup of hot tea


last night’s brown-crisped leaves
scudding down the cul-de-sac
autumn’s dry rain stick


the right to silence
after hectic winds disrupt
the first daffodils


through a telescope
the ragged mountain range shrinks –
twin peaks, scrub pine, shade


robins stethoscope
the lawn, earthworms hold their breath
spring battles begin


a hummingbird dines
on orange Crocosmia
I close my notebook




Carolyn Martin is blissfully retired in Clackamas, OR, where she gardens, writes, and plays with creative friends. Her poems appear in publications throughout North America and the UK including Stirring,  CALYX, Persimmon TreeHow Higher Education Feels, and Antiphon. Her third poetry collection, Thin Places, was released by Kelsay Books in 2017.


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john sweet



trajectory, reversed

or january sunlight on
cinderblock buildings

lives wasted but not yours
and maybe not mine and it’s a long
road from kandinsky to lydon and
after that
you’re on your own

just water dripping into
a stained kitchen sink

a view of empty parking lots
and dirty snow

not suicide but absolute
hatred turned inward

bare walls stained with grease and
a long useless history and
jesus christ
wouldn’t you kill for just a
mouthful of broken glass?





john sweet, b 1968, still numbered among the living.  A believer in writing as catharsis.  An optimistic pessimist.  His latest collections include  Bastard Faith (2017 Scars Publications) and the limited edition Heathen Tongue (Kendra Steiner Editions).  All pertinent facts about his life are buried somewhere in his writing.

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Martin Hayes



Friday afternoons

the joy of Friday afternoons knowing that
it will only be 3 or 4 more hours
before our shifts finish
and we can walk out of there
with our minds tingling
and all of the wild blood

the sudden buzz
that ignites at around 3 or 4 o’clock every Friday afternoon
like somebody has just flicked on a switch

the laughter and jokes
that get a little bit louder, a little bit
as we can smell the weekend
now marching uncontrollably forwards
just on the other side of that little hill

the beauty we start to feel inside ourselves proud
that our minds
and the fingertips that are a part of our hands
have driven a sword through another one of their weeks
without this body they are attached to
losing its job

those Friday afternoons
when the jobs that kept pouring down onto our screens all day
suddenly become a trickle,
when the buzz of having to double-up and treble-up
and weave jobs into patterns that work
is replaced by the buzz of the upcoming weekend
leaving a control room full of men so heated up by anticipation
that all of the atoms inside us start to move about faster
until they get so close to boiling point
that we can see for the first time
that the Earth is now round again
that we can see for the first time
why the apple fell onto Newton’s lap
that we can see Mark Anthony’s face
while he was giving it to Cleopatra
feel the fingers of Beethoven
moving over those keys
until it all comes so perfectly together
the moment we put our foot outside that door
and walk up that road
feeling like Beowulfs
out looking for our Grendels







Martin Hayes was born in London in 1966 and has lived in the Edgware Road area all of his life. He has worked in the courier industry for over 30 years. He has had two collections of poems published, When We Were Almost Like Me, and, The Things Our Hands Once Stood For.

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Nadia Whiston



You eat me at

So they claim you left for health and safety
But you left your boxers on my floor and some innocuous noodle box
Tail between your legs eh
You eat meat but flesh makes you blush
They say the same about my father but he is a better man
My nerve endings cluster and writhe  but I’m better for it
The body was made to sweat darling
I’ll take my showers alone





Nadia Whiston is an English Literature graduate from the University of Manchester. She was born in Dublin, Ireland. Nadia likes horses, drum&bass music and poetry.

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