Hope springs eternal… and goes, in part, towards Finola Scott’s ‘Tell me’ emerging as Ink Sweat & Tears’ Pick of the Month for June 2020. ‘Stunning’, ‘beautiful’ and ‘wonderful’ were only a few of the adjectives it engendered and voters also praised the poem’s craft, intelligence, language, concision and subtlety.

Finola‘s poems are published by New Writing Scotland, Lighthouse, Fenland Reed and Gutter among others. In lock-down she feels landlocked and sighs for shores. Makar of the Federation of Writers, her pamphlet, Much Left Unsaid is published by Red Squirrel Press.

Finola has asked that her £30 ‘prize’ be donated to Action Aid.


Tell me

again in this ragged midnight
that intimacy will endure
waters aren’t rising and tomorrow
the fritillary butterfly will graze my garden

tell me that passion is not merely nocturnal
but a tsunami of connection    no stormy tea-cup but
the measured procession of those ants
round that tree following the one true scent

tell me that risk is worth it
the woods are indeed dark and
there are promises




Other voters’ comments included:

Tell me that risk is worth it .. that there are promises. Such a poem of hope in dark days.

I am very fond of poems that riff on established work to good effect and this succinct, concise, precise poem makes brilliant use of Frost’s poem.

The language of love translated to descriptions of weather – avoids cliché. The possibility of it surviving in spite of all the dangers, perfect.

It feels both intensely personal and at the same time universal.

Simply stunning!

For the beautiful imagery and emotions conveyed in her poem, Finola gets my vote…

It spoke to me, I could taste every word.

Finola is a wonderful poet. I feel, as a woman who has brought up children alone and only just getting back to creative self discovery, it is deeply inspirational and joyous to watch a talented poet who is a wee bit older (nae offence) find their brave lyrical feet.

I love the message of hope and continuance

The poem just hits you between the eyes I felt it took my breath away I felt every word written

‘ragged midnight’ – BEAUTIFUL

Finola’s poem is wonderful. It draws the reader into its mystery with well crafted lines that show true talent and intuition. The imagery is so rich and the pace and rhythm of the poem is perfectly balanced and fine tuned.

Memorable and accomplished.

A stunning poem, so concise in its language yet wonderfully expansive in its reading.

It’s intimacy and concision speaks directly to the experiences we share.

I love the images created. The repetition of ‘tell me’ indicating the need to hear that indeed life will get better and we should take risks.

In these dark times we need a bit of hope. Beautifully crafted and sensual use of imagery

It’s a beautiful poem, surprising in its imagery whilst being utterly and recognisably true.

Finola’s work is always beautifully constructed and tells stories that we all need to hear.

my reason = ‘tell me that risk is worth it’

the subtlety of purpose in its language

It’s a beautiful poem that captures what living in lockdown in Scotland feels like right now

A reflection of a glimmer of hope in a time of dark uncertainty





Country Train of My Country by Mbizo Chirasha

I see from a distance, its metal backbones disappearing into the blue haze of our day. It moans and vomit its human snort into the silent heat. Kacha kuchu ka……cha Kuchu……uuu Kachaaa Kuchuuu. Kweeeeeeeeee.
The sound steps resonates with the echo of daylight doves and sudden laughters of gossiping pigeons down the quiet river. Kacha …a. a…a. Kachaaaaaaaaa Kuchuuuuuuu…..u . Kweeeeeeeeeeeee.

Country Train of my Country reappears again beyond the red hills, dancing again on metal mats now the steps are fragile and hesitant. It moans again, now for the death of time, belching out deathly fogs and foul sweat into the silent air 
Kacha a Kacha …aaaaa Kacha Kuchu Kuchu Kuchuuuuu Kweeeeeeeeee

Country Train of my Country, disappears again into the fabrics of mist. It cracks and breaks with broken hearts and tired souls. Souls travelled the earth since times sands were granite. Hearts exploded with the pain of every season’s funeral. Summer comes with hot tongs of hell. Spring brings fragile promises and wingless hope. Winter undresses us into utter nudity in front of our Gods.

Country Train of my Country is weeping again.

The cry echoes into the valley of bones and ripples the blood river. It stops for a season ritual and then thunders a loud fart, farting remnants of sorrow and atoms of poverty.

Air stinks with corrupted oxygen. It sleeps over here and my father’s sister was buried here and my brother too.
It sleeps over here on the debris of a dying country. Poverty is the black fabric of our times.

Jigsaw sound of the country train of my country is no more. Country Train of my Country slept over here forever.

Mbizo Chirasha
 is the Poet in Residence at the Fictional Café: www.fictionalcafe. 2019 Sotambe Festival Live Literature Hub and Poetry Café Curator. 2019 African Fellow for the International Human Rights Art Festival( ihraf.org), Arts Features Writer at the International Cultural Weekly, Founder and Chief Editor of Womawords Literary Press. Founder and Curator of the Brave Voices Poetry Journal and co-editor of Street Voices Poetry triluangal collection. His latest 2019 collection of experimental poetry A Letter to the President was released by Mwanaka Media and Publishing and is featured at African Books Collective.


Unravelling by Jonah Corren

Fields like tapestry   Fields like patchwork quilt   Fields like
ripples over water    Fields like sunspots on lens
Fields floating clouds  shifting with wind   shapes always
changing   an old stone wall  diced onion in
a frying pan  ladders in a pair of tights   Fields
like computer monitors  sheep frantic screen-savers
Fields like squares on a chessboard  livestock pawns
slowly moving into battle   Fields like tablets  foil
pierced with nail end  take two every four hours
with water  do not exceed the stated dose   Fields like ridges
on a knife edge  teeth-marks in a stone  Fields like trap-doors
or unblinking eyes   Fields unmarked graves   Fields burning
torches   Fields burning red mosquito bites  growing and itching
and itching   Fields dismembered limbs   Fields scars over skin

Jonah Corren
‘s work has been published in Alter Egos: A Bad Betty Anthology and is forthcoming on the 84 Blog. He is also a UniSlam champion, and a BBC New Creative.


Birds by Gary Jude

Everyone held a bird, except you.
A policeman eyed you suspiciously.
You followed the crowd into the square.

When the clock struck noon, everyone
lifted their bird aloft. Some snapped necks
and wings, or let their bird fly.

A wife watched her swift until out
of sight, while her husband’s starling
drooped limply, no light left in its eyes.

Everyone had a bird. Only your hands
were voiceless. All you could do was fling
them uselessly into the sky.

Gary Jude
 is from London but has been living and working in Bern, Switzerland for many years. He has previously had poems published, including in Ink Sweat & Tears, The Interpreters House, Poetry Salzburg, Orbis and Dream Catcher.


how to lose your mind at the end of the world (an instruction manual) by Priya Subberwal

step one: stare out the window for hours on end. pretend you’re making eye contact with someone.
step two: envision a post-apocalyptic future,
where you only eat canned beans,
talk to faces drawn on walls,
read the great american novels,
and finish all the bourbon.
feel alright with it. finish the bourbon.
step three:
draw a hole big enough for the sky to fit it.
let the sky fall in.
abandon the multi-step program,
abandon notions of time,
it is four four four in the morning
it is the first day of human existence
it is your birthday
it is the day the asteroid hits.
let the sky turn purple-
shout at the moon –
pound fists on glass –
sleep too often.
(do not go to sleep).

forget your first language,
the way it shaped your
pale blue world, stuttered through
tv static,
rolled past you on subway ads.
find a new god —
the newscaster, the demagogue,
the martyr, the rebel,
build them a tower of cardboard boxes
and a paper crown.
notice where the sun is
when the room turns violet and drowsy.
notice where your body is
when it stops answering to
that noise of your name.

Priya Subberwal
 a student at New York University, an environmental activist, and an avid poetry reader. She hails from the mountain west, where people are quiet and mountains and trees are loud. She loves to write poetry but has never submitted anything to a publication before now. Her favorite poets are Allen Ginsberg, Olivia Gatwood, Sarah Kay, and Mary Oliver. Her favorite bird is a crow. Her Instagram handle is @priya_roo.


Smickling by Fiona Theokritoff

I am as useless as a coronet,
have lost a shoal of bloodied runts.
Who shall assist me?

Perhaps a ripe and red-faced
peasant with more brats
than she can raise.

I need her shoes,
I need a charm to stick
what quickens to its cage.

Perhaps the retching servant girl we
put away once her belly swelled.
Or you: with a brood already, lioness.

Your shoes, near my own in size and elegance –
not brutal things for labouring –
caress your white feet, so dainty.

Wearing them, I will know your shape,
that noble arch, feel the pink shells
of your toenails’ impressions.

I need just one mewling infant
to stride a man, to rule this jostle
of land and trade. Just one.

Fiona Theokritoff
 has recently completed her MA in Creative Writing at Nottingham Trent University, and works as a creative writing tutor. Her work has appeared in Mslexia, The Interpreter’s House and Under the Radar.