Vote for your August 2020 Pick of the Month

It’s Pick of the Month time and the shortlist for August 2020 has a definite family feel about it. Are you drawn to either John Grey or Sam Hickford as they try to make connections in ‘To a Father I Never Knew’ and ‘Familiar Tissue’, or appreciate, and identify with, Sunyi Dean transforming into her mother in ‘Dust’. Is it Susie Wild with her husband ‘Nude, smoking, in the dawn doorway’ that captivates or Frank Dullaghan, his sister singing him to sleep (past, present and future merging) in ‘How to Escape and Other Theories’, deserving your interest? Or does Lucy Atkinson pull at every parental instinct as you watch Persephone emerge from Winter in ‘Sunspot’?

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 August 2020 Pick of the Month′ in the Categories list to your right on the screen.

Voting is now closed. August’s Pick will be announced on Friday 18th September

For the coronavirus 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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Lucy Atkinson





I watched her. Persephone.
Sunflowers on her dungarees. Breathing in
the blackened syrup. London air.
She’s trying not to talk about it
but she remembers. Winter.
There’s Parsley on the windowsill. Planted
in a little mug. The only spot in her fifth-floor flat
that ever gets some sun.
She doesn’t talk about him, either.
If there was a him. She asks me
if I would sing if they put on a karaoke night
down at our local pub.
She misses Karaoke. Good music and bad.
All at once and all around.
A tsunami for the thoughts.
On the radio they play “Wild Daffodils.”
A low budget song from an album
by a local artist. We both agree
he can really sing. There are no people singing
here. Karaoke or in the streets.
But she mouths the words to
the same song that the radio played an hour ago.
Winter is gone. She’s forgotten it.
She asks what song we can dance to next.



Lucy Atkinson is a North-East born writer studying a MA in creative writing at Durham University. She has published poetry in magazines such as Acumen, Agenda and Crossways. Her play ‘As It Was’ was recently published by lazy bee scripts.

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John Grey




To a Father I Never Knew

Go on, be mostly unexamined.
Excuse yourself from history.  Hang there
on the periphery of consciousness.
If you’re okay with that, then fine.

But I rate you more important
than you do yourself.  And I’ll
legitimize you yet. Come to an understanding,
an appreciation.  Make up for lost time.

That’s you, kept in the dark by a tombstone.
And here’s me, your approximation,
maybe even your appropriation.
Sorry, I didn’t bring flowers.

Six feet deep, your resistance runs.
All I can do is query the ones who knew you.
Or maybe just live my own life.
Count that as a narrative resuming.



John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Sin Fronteras, Dalhousie Review and Qwerty with work upcoming in Plainsongs, Willard and Maple and Connecticut River Review.

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Sunyi Dean





I have become my mother, always sweeping
through the corners of our corners, her broom
in search of imperfection to eviscerate.
Life is so untidy, but she has found ways
to be neat. She picks up all the scattered
things left lying, half-discarded, like
her job, my grades, our plates, the future,
all my father’s loose and tangled ends—
she puts the dust of all our footprints
in her pocket. Remember, now, to breathe.

Grace to the mother says the emphysemic,
but this is not the garden where all
loves end—this is just the house where all
doors close and journeys die. Death to the Rose.

I have become my mother, always praying
for a house without a garden, always fearing
that the gods she buries will not grow.
My bones and skin are sloughing into hers,
my eyes have creased along her lines. I will
live in stone-walled terraces and worship
alabaster lamps. Dust is war, and I
a soldier of defeat; all my strength
is in surrender, in endurance and
in breath that I remember now, to breathe.



Sunyi Dean is a mixed-race autistic writer who was born in America, grew up in East Asia, and now resides in England. She lives in a noisy little house on a quiet little street, with far too many books and probably too many children. Her short fiction has featured in numerous places, including Best of British Science Fiction (2018 Anthology) and BBC Radio Leeds.

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Sam Hickford




Familiar Tissue
“My father is given to me and I dissect his body. I study him carefully.
You ask me where I learn anatomy?” – Stanislaw Szukalski

As every sinew, tendon, lies apart
  I reflect that only, in these loving scrapes
will he be at all remembered, in the throes of art

where I will sew him up in wondrous shapes:
  a sculpture of a pair of disembodied feet.
A sculpture of a knee. A bronze of splayed

flesh. After this nightmare, I find my dad complete
  and undissectable, with an unsutured heart
and, in a sleepwalk, I cut up the sheet.



Sam Hickford lives in a church, although this doesn’t seem to be having any net effect on his holiness.

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Susie Wild




Nude, smoking, in the dawn doorway

he stands, or
leans against
the door frame, light spills
around him, haloing
as he moons me. The husband,
inhales smoke,
exhales smoke,
takes deep breaths
surveys his terraced territory:
newly-cut trees,
soil awaiting seeding.

Nude reclined,
I watch these in-between hours,
neither bed nor
morning. We reject time,
make our own
routines. Days and nights
punctuated by this: the flare
of a lighter, the nude
smoking, in the kitchen
doorway. The taking
of deep breaths:




Susie Wild is the author of Better Houses, The Art of Contraception, and Arrivals. She has recently published poems with Poetry Wales and The Atlanta Review. Her second collection of poetry, Windfalls is forthcoming from Parthian.

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Frank Dullaghan




How to Escape and Other Theories
For Mary

My sister sings me to sleep
from half a world beyond,
and I sink into the pool of night
with an earful of song.

Outside, this foreign city closes
and I travel to Dundalk –
the Green Church, Castletown Road –
to a time in the past.

This is how close everything is,
the street, the buildings taking on
their old known shapes
and I, my soft-faced skin.

My past is always beside me,
as in the Block Theory of Time,
and my future not a step away:
all my selves are the same.

I’m already gone from this place.
Somewhere my bones turn yellow
or are burned and ground to dust
for the gluttonous stars to swallow.



Frank Dullaghan is an Irish writer who, at the time of his submission, is locked down in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He has four collections published by Cinnamon Press, most recently Lifting the Latch (2018). His work features widely in international journals, including in Cyphers, London Magazine, Magma, Nimrod, Poetry Review and Rattle.  @frankdullaghan

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