Vote for your December 2017 Pick of the Month


Are you sitting comfortably?

There’s a storybook feel for most of the shortlist for our final Pick of the Month for 2017 but, being IS&T, we are always telling it slant!

Please make your choice from the poems below (or see the ‘Vote for your Pick of the Month for December 2017′ in the Categories list to your right on the screen.) These have either been chosen by Helen and Kate or received the most attention on social media.

Voting is now closed.

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 winning poetry Picks, provided they the meet the eligibility criteria, will be considered as IS&T submissions for the annual Forward Prize for Best Single Poem.

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Helen Harrison



Stood Here Like A Lemmin’

Rain drops fall like they used to, each one a wet train
into an adolescent’s bedroom.
Waiting for it to stop, wanting it to start.
Borrowed vynl and homemade compilation tapes,
listening to The Wonderstuff, chosen by you.
Songs to catcall together without tone or tune,
like gigger rabbits left out from a warm hearth.

To the wind; throw caution in its eye,
hedonism is teen rocket fuel.
Do you yearn for these times in dirt water skies?

Standing in piss pot rain for a ghost bus that haunts
empty roads; the mind’s apparition that doesn’t show up.
Scraping bus fare and nursing a pint like a midwife
as though incubated enough, lager will grow in the glass.
The little money for a chip frying job,
caught by the boss for reeking of last-night’s-swiped ale,
pyjamas and please-phone-in-sick-for-me crinkle voice days
for twenty-four-hour parole whilst owing out a full month’s wage.

Or, outside the headmaster’s room because you laughed-out-loud
at the banana-moustached army recruiter who could never
replace an estranged Scouse dad, we had Grolsch bottle tops
on Doc Martens, singing Stan Ridgeway’s Camouflage,
chanting; ‘you ain’t sending us to another jungle, no ‘Nam, Sir.’

Now the rain has stopped, everything inside is dry
motherhood has replaced you.
You hope we can relive it again in Minehead,
a lets-have-it-large 1990’s Butlins weekend
dressed in grunge clothes. Dance mental
from kitchens and small children with mortgage arrears
smuggled under good coats because it is us;
all fur coat and no knickers.

Helen Harrison is a new Liverpool contemporary poet. She has had poems published in Lancaster University’s Flash Journal, Bare Fiction and Prole Books. She is currently studying for a PhD in Creative writing at Lancaster University. She lives in Southport with her husband and two children.

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Harriet Worrell





Dawn. The sky a deep pink, mottled with clouds. Already it’s warm.

I roll over and up onto my elbows. Blackbird clucks a scolding and I apologise for intruding into her morning. We go through this daily ritual, as if it were the first time. As I nod my greeting to Robin, I see a jumble of tiny legs wriggling feebly from his beak. He cocks his head, then sets about his business. Hare lies low, her ears flat and nose twitching. Tucked against the stone, beautiful in profile.

My gaze follows a bumble bee bustling about the cowslips before it leaves the place I cannot. I think about what I am missing, but what I would have missed if I weren’t here.

Hare has begun her breakfast, her jaws busy with the occupation of chewing. She turns to look at me. Thick eyelashes frame her large brown eyes, whiskers pert and adrift. When she bobs down to nibble at the young grass, her ears lift and flicker at the bird song. We are at peace, Hare and I.

To my left is a pile of earth. I watched them yesterday – saw their pinched white faces, finally believing and lost in their grief. Robin is there now, prospecting for insects and worms to drop into the hungry beaks of his insatiable brood.

A shot rings out, followed by the angry retort of crows. Hare shrinks down. Her nostrils flare. Wren’s singing breaks into the stillness and Hare relaxes. But not for long. The bells ring out and she is gone. Where she was, the grass is flattened. Where I am, there is nothing.

In the afternoon, my stone will be warm. I shall rest my back against it and wait for Hare to return.



Harriet Worrell writes flash fiction, short stories and novels for children and grown-ups. She writes most evenings, on the sofa with an elderly cat at her side.

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Jessica E Brown




Locked Out

The sun burned orange and its touch
Deepened from a careless brush
To a firm hold
And only you
Could hear its groans
As it dragged its curtain down the sky

The red brick blocks
Lining your street
Darkened to red wine teeth
And you sat outside like a crack
On the lips of suburbia’s tired smile

Laughter Chinese-whispered
Through mews and lanes
Rolling rubber and crunching gravel
Swirled the petrol
Pooled on your tongue

With your shiny shoes side-lined
You shuffled your dirty socks up the curb
Like looking for the curves of last night’s sleep
In the bed that’s just a distant dream

Your suit corner tickled ground
Unfamiliar to you now
But that once grazed your skin
When evenings in the wilderness
Kept your young heart beating

You traced the pavement’s shrapnel with a stick
Earth’s bits, sent by silent wind
A ruler line of ants file past and
You wonder if you’ll ever slot back in

Doors opened and closed and
You heard the vacuum
(The clock-tick for vagrant ears)
Of someone else’s home
Meeting the feral breeze

Your hunger rolled
Through driveways and neighbours
Both dimpled with heavy loads
And through the dancing branches
Delicately lining the street
Hiding the windows
Blowing out synchronised meals
You watched the birds breathe
Drawn to their fragility
But a tiny twitch
And you’re alone again
Nature knows your alliance
Is only for one night





Jessica E Brown is a writer living in London. Her work can be found at

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Elisabeth Sennitt Clough reviews ‘Gaps’ by Jenny Danes





Gaps is the debut pamphlet from Jenny Danes, a winner of The Poetry Business New Poets Prize 2015/16. Comprised of 17 poems (23 pages of poetry), Danes’s pamphlet corresponds to the dictionary definition of ‘gaps’ as differences between views, situations, or ideas (Collins).

The following lines from the title poem encapsulate the self-conscious choreography of steps through each other’s language that the speaker of the poem and her German partner undertake. These lines serve as an abstraction for the entire pamphlet:


…What is this complete

chance that you and I were brought up in different tongues?

How is it that we would name the same object or feeling differently

and always have done?


There is an assuredness of voice and technique at work here, which results in many of the poems interrogating the world in which the poet finds herself – never more so than in the aptly titled ‘Moving to Another Country.’ The poem opens with an image of ‘rough beaches,’ where


From my sand-filled mouth

clauses trip and fall.


Dislocation is a key theme throughout: the reader is witness to the constant play between the insider and the outsider. As such, it is perhaps hard not to view these poems without the uncertainty of a post-Brexit Britain in mind (at the end of the pamphlet, the poet returns to England). It is no accident that the poems open up into white space – there are very few full-stops at the end of Danes’s poems.


Like many of the poems, ‘Moving to Another Country’ is full of surprising twists. The humour of lines such as these


I make three faux pas in a row

that are all to do with drinking


hints at the stereotype of the drunk British tourist abroad. Danes is keenly alert to the nuances and comedy of translation and cultural intersection. In the penultimate poem, ‘Things I Left in Germany,’ three of the items the poet lists are a ‘thicker skin,’ ‘a nostalgia for England’ and ‘a language I’ll slowly forget.’ There is a refreshing clarity and honesty at work here.

At the end of the pamphlet, the poet’s playfulness reaches its pinnacle in ‘Deutsch,’ a poem that riffs on untranslatable English idioms and sayings:


Oh but come and chat out of the little sewing box!

How deep is the sea? I am as happy as a snow king,

I’m on cloud seven, tousled and cosy with my tootle sack


Not only does Danes have a sharp ear and eye for detail, but her poems are what Helen Mort, judge of The Poetry Business 2015/16 New Poets Prize, describes as ‘anthropological.’ These are ‘elegantly-crafted poems that stand back and take a good, hard look around the room, finding a fresh language for what they see’ (Mort).

Gaps is a startlingly assured debut and is available to purchase now from The Poetry Business.




Order your copy of Gaps by Jenny Danes (Smith / Doorstop, 2017) here:



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On the Twelfth Day of Christmas we bring you Laura Davies, Marc Woodward and Debbie Strange



Spinning tops in Bethlehem

Pa was keen to be rid of me
gave me the little boat
just a board really
told me to enjoy myself.

Ma said I looked
like a walnut
all bundled up
on half a shell.

Me and the other kids
out on the lake
sliding on the ice
spinning tops.

Pa had to register us.
We came on the cart
it wasn’t far –
some came from across Judea.

Romans and their questions-
who we knew,
where we lived.
Who knew they cared?

Soldiers came
with the lists.
National security they said.
No spinning tops after that.



Laura Davis travels a lot. The people, landscapes and stories of the places she visits – and, in this case, as Bruegel imagined them -inspire her writing. Her poetry has previously appeared in Ink Sweat and Tears (November 2017). @LaDaBel




Winter Blues Club

Tonight I’ll play slide
in that pine floor
bar down town.
The sea will hurl pebbles
on the street outside
and the storm will
hit and swing
the hanging sign.

January darkness
wraps a reason
round the flatscreens,
fires and hot dinners
of front rooms,
and I know the crowd
will be slimmer
than a Mississippi chance
but, hey…
my fingers need the dance.

And it’s alright
for there are stories
to be sung,
and only a rough night –
   a night for Rojo
   at the crossroads,
   rain on tin shacks,
   engine house hobos;
   a night for black
   dog harp howls –
can stand witness
with any wink
of honesty.

So I’ll forsake the fire for
the pick and pull of strings,
the rattle of brass or glass
over rosewood board,
while pebbles clatter
at the shaking door.
Robin lifts his dobro,
Bill clears his throat,
no one plays Summertime
not even as a joke…



Marc Woodward is a musician and poet living in the rural West Country. He has been widely published and his chapbook A Fright Of Jays is available from Maquette Press.





Debbie Strange is an award-winning Canadian short form poet and haiga artist. Keibooks released her full-length poetry collection, Warp and Weft: Tanka Threads, in 2015. Folded Word released her haiku chapbook, A Year Unfolding, in 2017.

Note: This haiga received the World Haiku Association’s Haiga Award of Excellence in 2015


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