Vote Vote Vote for your September 2020 Pick of the Month

Our shortlist for September 2020’s Pick of the Month has a distinctly international feel about it, as we take off from Josephine Lay‘s Gloucestershire and head for Ireland – K.S. Moore (via Wales) and DS Maolalai – and beyond to Tunisia’s Ilhem Issaoui,  Nwuguru Chidiebere Sullivan in the Ebonyi State of Nigeria and Sekhar Banerjee in Kolkata, India. It is an indication of just how far-reaching Ink Sweat & Tears has become and these are only a few of the countries that our featured poets have come from over the years.

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

Voting is now closed.

For the coronavirus period, our normal Pick ‘prize’ of £10 towards the 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. Sadly, despite our international shortlist this month, we are unable to find suitable cost-effective alternatives outside the UK.

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Josephine Lay




In a Home

When he sits in his chair by the window
my father’s head shines in the sun
like a hard-boiled egg.

There’s even a dip in his skull
where someone’s put a spoon
to open his cranium.

This was the surgeon who broke through
to the yolk
scooped out the soft mass
of the tumour.

When he sits in his chair by the window
my father’s head droops to his chest
as he snores after lunch
while he waits for me to visit.

When I arrive I see his pale pate through
glass, fine hairs knotted
into a silver halo.

I walk towards him, take his hand
from beneath an ill-fitting cardigan
that doesn’t belong to him,
and greet him with a kiss.

He raises his head,
looks at the clock on the wall,
lances me with a glance
as sharp as a spear,

and smiling, says
‘You’re eight minutes late.’



Josephine Lay is a published poet and writer; her most recent collection is Unravelling 2019.  She is editor for Black Eyes Publishing UK and heads the Gloucestershire Poetry Society. She also hosts the monthly poetry event ‘Squawkers’ in Cheltenham.

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Nwuguru Chidiebere Sullivan




The Anatomy of Boys

Boys are cold birds
Boys are carrying broken wings

Boys are burning oceans
Boys are drizzling ashes

Boys are not the thorny rose
Boys are petals of hibiscus

Boys are rainbow
Boys are not cloaks for a deluge

Boys are glass prisms
Boys are bends stifling grief

Boys are untapped palm trees
Boys are cask for unharvested tears

Boys are cameras
Boys are libraries of cracks

Boys are dustbin
Boys are cavity for filthy blames

Boys are suns
Boys are shining in isolation without stars.



Nwuguru Chidiebere Sullivan is a budding writer from the Ebonyi State of Nigeria. He writes autobiographically about life, the boy-child, and about multiple aspects of the ebbing African culture. He is a penultimate Medical Laboratory Science student with lots of unpublished works to his credit. His works have been published at Quills, Ace World, Trouvaille Review, Ducor Review, The Lake, LiteLitOne, Inverse Journal, The SprinNG, Journal Nine, e.t.c. and has also contributed to several anthologies. He was the winner of the 2018 FUNAI Crew Literary Contest.

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K. S. Moore





A jagged edge of sunset gold
cuts the hillside.

Was it folly to build
this land a tower,
that it might fold
its heavenly green
over and over,

peer through
a monocle of window
to meet
the curious
and fanciful?

Remember the night
we tested its magic,
walked in a snowflake
chain of bodies,
stopped before
getting too close?

Remember the shape
of a witch’s shadow,
hat like a dagger,
arms rising to curse
our wicked intrusion,

her figure exposed
before flight?



K. S. Moore’s poetry has recently appeared in Atlanta Review, Mookychick, The Honest Ulsterman, Fly Press Magazine, Boyne Berries and The Stinging Fly.  Work is upcoming in The Stony Thursday Book, Verity La and with Broken Sleep Books. Blog:

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DS Maolalai




Your body is small

as a folded receipt
in a pocket
and he clings to it
like drowning
in a downy nightgown.

he believes
he is wrapping you
in silk so smooth
you can forget
his rutting crotch
like a hog come to water. you
are impassive;
you look at the ceiling
and watch lines going over,
like a web in a crack.

spit dribbles on your neck
and he gets at your shoulder with his tongue
and your leg with his fingers
and you don’t like it
but are too
polite to say.
when he falls asleep
you get up quietly
and carefully piss without flushing.

you wash your small hands
and your teeth.
your blue glass feet
leaving heat
in blue patterns
on the tile.



DS Maolalai has been nominated four times for Best of the Net and three times for the Pushcart Prize. His poetry has been released in two collections, Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden (Encircle Press, 2016) and Sad Havoc Among the Birds (Turas Press, 2019)

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Sekhar Banerjee




Goethals Football field, Kurseong

I watch a lonesome Tibetan horse grazing
on the Goethals football field ; solitary clouds chew
sadness all morning here, as if, it is their staple food
at breakfast
The starving fog licks the whole body of the horse
like a swarm of blue fleas on a wound

Down the slope, rows of block- printed
white flags ponder over the psychology of the clouds,
and the flagpoles
offer Cartesian x-axis to the y-axis of the ground
to measure the winter sky’s elevation
Just before noon,
someone regularly yells at the sun here
for no reason
In the evening, I see a lonely human figure going
down the valley with the Tibetan horse with blue fog

In a strange language they converse



Sekhar Banerjee is a bilingual writer. He has four collections of poems and a monograph on an Indo-Nepal border tribe to his credit. He lives in Kolkata, India.

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Ilhem Issaoui




My unromantic poem for this unromantic time as the world is asleep like a spiral shell or like the maddening stairs

It takes time and effort to unfurl
It happens naturally though, for most,
Through nature’s imperative
Once we are old, though, we become acquainted with
How things shall happen
But we disdain repetitions
We rob a middle-aged man from his pseudosagacity
We teach ourselves the language of negation
Because unfurling never happened naturally
We bury the imperative’s hand with a heart divided
Between what it wants and what it mustn’t
And we walk like a carcass
A cephalopod with a shell to corroborate the theory
That all primitive cephalopods had shells, spiral ones
Like the maddening stairs



Ilhem Issaoui is a Tunisian researcher, poet, and translator. She has been published in many countries including the US, the UK, Canada, and India in print and online. She is in the process of publishing her second poetry collection.

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