Vote for your July 2020 Pick of the Month

Time once more to choose from six excellent poems by six fine poets to decide who will be Pick of the Month for July 2020. Will you subscribe to Grant Tarbard‘s delightful ‘The New Testament of Dog’  or be moved by Bethany W Pope‘s very personal ‘Year of the Plague’? Do you sit at his desk with Gopal Lahiri as he magics haiku out of lockdown or on a flint wall with Joanna Nissel and her father watching the emergence of an ‘Eagle’? Does something ‘Sprout’ in you as you read Katherine Meehan or can you divine what is essential in Amit Shankar Saha‘s ‘Runes’?

All six of the shortlist have been chosen by Helen or Kate or received the most attention on social media. They can be found below or by clicking on ‘Vote for Your July 2020 Pick of the Month′ in the Categories list to your right on the screen.

Voting has now closed. July’s Pick will be announced on Monday 17th August.

For the lockdown period, our normal Pick ‘prize’ of £10 towards the UK charity of your choice or a National Book Token will rise to £30*. Charities and booksellers, both, have been hit hard by the shutdown and we wanted to make a (admittedly very small) gesture of support.


*Book tokens can only be used within the UK and will be divided between £20 for the winning writer and a £10 token for the person of their choice.

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Joanna Nissel




After Kathryn O’ Driscoll

Wasn’t my heart a finch bird?
Wasn’t it the yellow-joy chirp overheard
on the dawn walk to work

–a reminder of the things in this life
that are delicate and made of more
than the hollow-boned expanses
between their filaments of cartilage?

These days I break over a disapproving glance,
forgotten change, the endless endlessness
of doing a little better every day.
But I remember when,

before his heart stopped, my father
and I used to sit on the flint wall
in the garden and listen to the gurgle
of wood pigeons he swore were eagles.

I raised an eyebrow; he snorted, smiled,
and told me he pitied the man who married me,
this great, wise queen to whom he offered his arm.
I took it and rose, stood on the wall’s flinty precipice

and under the glow of moonlight
I could almost see the feathers sprouting,
their glint of gold so bright against the garden
and my legs, wings, ready to kick off, to dive.



Joanna Nissel is a Brighton-based poet. She was the runner up for the 2018 New Poets Prize and has been published widely, including Tears in the Fence, The Fenland Reed, Eyeflash, and Atrium.

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Gopal Lahiri





at work
on the skylight


laptops sending
from kitchen table


edges of dawn..
litter sidewalks


dooms day scrolling
in lockdown



Gopal Lahiri is a Kolkata- based bilingual poet, critic, editor, writer and translator with 20 books published mostly in English and a few in Bengali, including three joint books. His poetry is published in twelve countries and translated in eight languages. Twitter@gopallahiri

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Katherine Meehan





I confess I am an idiot
who believes in luck
and the mania
of new projects.
If you drive these up
to the mountains
for the weekend,
they may grow
a sprout, and you may
be allowed a tinfoil hat
and a bird familiar.
Seek vortices
in rural fields,
finger the limbs
of young trees;
select one for
an amputation.
Strip away the bark,
the lichen: here
is a fine walking stick.
It sprouts in your hands
like it wanted
to be the tree
with its unstoppable
blossoms. Now nothing
will get in the way
of your dreams.
If it does,
you’ve got a stick
and can beat it.



Katherine Meehan lives in Reading. She’s recently received her Master’s in Creative Writing from the University of Oxford. Her poetry has appeared in Brittle Star and she is working towards her first collection.

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Amit Shankar Saha





The water was everywhere
but not our awareness of it.

We only knew the ice —
the age of ice was when
we lived our mammoth lives,
sabre toothed towards extinction.

At the onset of the great thaw
we were reborn evolved,
undergone mutation.

The searing blast of a call back
touched the Mesozoic frost bite.

We never got out of the ark
or smelled the waves before,
never knew the texture
of the latent ripples.

We now know each other’s sin.
The age of ice is long past,
it has rained in the woods.

Each drop of water writes a rune
on the submerged bed of extinctions.



Amit Shankar Saha is a widely-published award-winning poet and short story writer. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Griffin Poetry Prize. He is the author of two collections of poems, Balconies of Time and Fugitive Words.  Twitter: @amit_shankar

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Bethany W Pope




Year of the Plague

There have been plagues, before. There has been death,
spreading like a blanket drawn across
the face of the world. There will always be fear,
of war, of famine, all of those abysmal
things which are too big for us to picture,
but when the world ends it’s always small,
unbearably personal — and just for us.
You told me, after my heart had stopped,
and I came back, that the loss of me
would be apocalyptic. And when I woke
your face seemed to glow. Certainly, you fed
me something good, and warm. My blood mattered
less. My spilled blood, replaced with drippings
from a plastic bag. And now you are cold,
sequestered — a plague curls its claws against
the windowpane and there is no shelter,
not for me, inside or out. I taste
blood in my throat. And I can’t see you.



Bethany W Pope has won many literary awards and published several novels and collections of poetry. Nicholas Lezard, writing for The Guardian, described Bethany’s latest book as ‘poetry as salvation’…..’This harrowing collection drawn from a youth spent in an orphanage delights in language as a place of private escape.’ She currently lives and works in China.

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Grant Tarbard




The New Testament of Dog

Dog, elemental creature delving in puddles,
fully formed in mud, this body earth, all love
without mechanism, he is the murmur that nestles
into these delightful sounds of apocalypse. Enemy fire
turns off the crickets chirping. Dog’s rolling papers
are crickets wings, he hunts them when they’re out
to dinner, when they’re as unsuspecting
as a box of kittens. Dog, din of hair, promises
stored in his nostrils, every time he sneezes
my luck gets better. When I’m at my naked self
my heels are to be regarded as mineral deposits,
when they’re wrapped in the rags of a bedfellow
it’s as if I have strange clothes, a lush coat, dog
whispers sawdust into the ears of my pockets,
after all, the ghosts that dog feared
were just children in mother’s best sheets.



Grant Tarbard is the author of Loneliness is the Machine that Drives the World (Platypus Press) and Rosary of Ghosts (Indigo Dreams). His new pamphlet This is the Carousel Mother Warned You About (Three Drops Press) and new collection dog (Gatehouse Press) will be out this year.

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