‘Deft, dark, brilliantly written’

This poem appealed on so many layers: A remembered experience of children’s parties, with either fondness or dismay. Childhood memories and an unsettling sense of being in limbo. A limbo that we all are unnerved by, a ‘what happens when the music stops?’ feeling. The game as metaphor for something dark and competitive, its sense of menace.

It is a poem that needs to be read and reread and a poem that reveals itself as you do, and for this reason ‘Limbo’ by Anna Mindel Crawford is the IS&T Pick of the Month for April 2024.

Anna Mindel Crawford won first prize at Clevedon Literary Festival 2023 Open Poetry Competition. Her recent work can be found in Propel Magazine, Visual Verse and Wildfire Words.

She has asked that her £20 ‘prize’ be donated to GOSH (Great Ormand Street Hospital).




We have our eyes on the chairs, ready
for when the music stops. Nobody wants
to be in the space where a seat had been

before. The limbo stick goes lower again.
Those left in, contort their spines to hover
in the gap, avoid collapse. I cover the cake

with a food umbrella, yet an ant squeezes
through. I rescue it, but guests are coming
this way. I squash it dead under my thumb.

In the sandpit the children fight to win
the only digger. Particles of sand slide
back down into the hole it leaves behind.



Other voters’ comments included:

I love the sense of quietness and pause within the chaos of a children’s party, with the double meaning of the word limbo, life and death co-existing, Mindel Crawford manages to contain so much of life such a spare snapshot of a party. Cleverly done.

A great sense of intrigue, something ready to fill the vacuum left by the children’s party. Unsettling and unexpected.

This is so much fun and so evocative of the stress of a kids’ party.

It’s an original slant on a children’s party, menacing and thought-provoking.

Beautiful words and really lovely poetry

Funny, relatable, perceptive and engaging

Clever and menacing

It captures the chaos of parties!

It’s like I can hear the authors voice in my head

The writing is spare but packs a punch – turns the everyday in to sinister effectively

Its energy

This poem is fast moving and concise. Anna has cleverly conjured up many memories of one’s childhood and various types of ‘limbo’.

It’s a beautiful poem, that turns a celebration into something more sinister. It has economy, precision, wit and wonderful images.

A poem that requires several readings and reveals more each time of the menace and loss concealed beneath the surface.

And all too familiar scene I could identify with.

It really captures the idea of ‘the space between’.

Love the imagery of kids battling at a kids party and the general darkness of this poem

We’ve all been there, afraid for when the music stops

Very effective simple yet vivid descriptions, I really felt like I was at that party!

Have possibly attended too many children’s parties…..

Eloquent writing with precision and emotion.

Can relate to the limbo feeling.

Highlighting those tiny details beneath the veneer of fun

Helen Ivory wrote: ‘Limbo’ reminds me a little of Vasko Popa’s Games sequence. The games are both themselves and metaphors revealing something dark and competitive about human nature.  ‘Limbo is a children’s party turned grotesque, where the only thing being protected is the cake.  I liked the control of language and the play on the idea of limbo as an inbetween state as well as a commonly recognised party activity.






Incomplete inventory of things I don’t allow myself to miss because after all they might come back

the riding of bikes
the rhythm of legs
the wind-driven tears
the wobbling turns
the handlebarred bags
the motion, the motion

the clatter of work
the Friday-night drinks
the richness of stout
the spread through the blood
the steady sweet drop
the people, the people

the twice-a-week swim
the shoulders like gears
the slices of air
the steadiest breaths
the counting of lengths
the echoes, the echoes

my grandparents’ house
the loom in the shed
the bugs in the berries
the steepest of stairs
the hard narrow beds
the family, the family

the babies the babies
the claims and the clamours
the hands down my t-shirt
the open-mouthed kisses
the chaos and comfort
the trusting, the trusting

the singing and dancing
the running and calling
the weightless exploring
the freedom and safety
the freedom and safety
the freedom, the safety


Erin Coppin is a disabled Canadian/British writer living in the UK. She has been published by Spelt Magazine, Popshot Quarterly, Boston Literary Magazine, Fenland Poetry Journal, and others. She was the winner of the Unpublished Poet’s Prize in the Mslexia and Poetry Book Society’s Women’s Poetry Competition 2019. You can find her on twitter at @coppin_erin, on instagram at @coppin_erin and on the web at www.erincoppin.co.uk.



It Starts Before Birth

Your tadpole-self, displayed to strangers for a thumbs-up.
Then childhood illnesses, faithfully documented.
Late-night rows, embalmed in messaging apps.
Missteps preserved for future employers.
Lost loves, transfigured into text.
The litter of old purchases –
94K emails
unread –

your digital dust pursues you to
the finishing line and beyond:
a cul-de-sac of tributes;
a smattering of


Lucy Dixcart is a Kent-based writer. Her first collection, Company of Ghosts, was winner of the 2023 Geoff Stevens Memorial Poetry Prize and was published by Indigo Dreams Publishing in 2024: https://indigodreamspublishing.com/lucy-dixcart



Keep Going

Aldgate had its usual smell of dirty metal and coffee. I jumped from platform to carriage. I squeezed beside a Tate Britain poster, clutched the grab-handle. When I chanced a glance, I saw I was the only one standing. Everyone else was wearing spacesuits.
I took a seat.
“Glad to have you on board,” my neighbour said. “Welcome to the new frontier.” I’d clearly been mistaken for an old friend at a stag party or member of an experimental drama group. The train was rocketing faster and faster – each station name more blurred than before.
How would I explain my stratospheric lateness to my new manager?
My security badge rattled against my drumbeat heart. My oyster card cartwheeled like space debris.  A fried-chicken bone struck the ceiling. Outside was as blue as a David Hockney pool.
We burst out of the tunnel. “Mind the atmospheric gap. Strap yourselves in.” said the driver over the tannoy. “My sat-urn nav is set for the sixth planet from the sun.” We all laughed through our visors at this astronaut in-joke.
“The buffet will serve rehydratable snacks for your enjoyment.”
My new friend handed me a menu, pointed to the Star Burger Special. We gave each other the thumbs up.


David Keyworth was born in West Bromwich but grew up in North Lincolnshire. His first published poem was on a beer mat . He was awarded a New Poets Bursary in 2013 by the Northern Writers’ Awards (New Writing North).  He is included in The Best Ever Book of Funny Poems (Pan Macmillan, 2021).  His debut pamphlet, The Twilight Shift, is published by Wild Pressed. 



mercury rising

we groan as the mercury hikes
climbing with the ball of fire
the Hot Weather Warning surrenders its flag
feels like 40 and it’s only May Day

we survive in gasps between
air-conditioned bubbles like goldfish
the elderly populate shopping centres
modern gangs of ageing mallrats

through the park even cicadas complain
a jogger plods by, human bag of perspiration
paced out with silhouettes of thick vegetation
fully occupied with insects seeking shadow

this concrete jungle radiates jazz
high-rise pressure cooks out caution
flowerheads droop, thirsting rain
afar: a brushstroke wisp of cloud

and I pity the pair of emigrated huskies
transplanted into tropical climes
panting their way
to no promised land


Winifred Mok is a Birmingham-based filmmaker/podcaster with a passion for stories, books and site-specific theatre. She likes exploring the spaces of language, culture and identity, and spends most of her time reading, learning, making, and wondering.




This curved town
exhales fishy breath
gusted in tons
from berthed trawlers
gashing the quay
the north hauled to land
groceries shopped into cars
with studded tyres grinding
their knuckles home
lit by Christmas lights
rigging a netted constellation
from boat to house


When did the slowness
of this afternoon
merge with the chugging
boat engine in the harbour?

Metallic hammering and
calls of feeding gulls
chime out spells of work.

An elderly man in
peaked cap throws
a plastic hoop
up the bank towards
the school
where no children
are playing.

The town held still
between lowering cloud
and rippling fjord.

we have
all the time
we need
all the time
we have


Daniel Rye is a poet and musician living in the Faroe Islands. His writing reflects the experience of living in a country where you are never more than 5 kilometres away from the sea.