‘this poem is of a few words but very deep feelings’

Voters loved its beauty, its simplicity and its truth and this is why, from a superb group of shortlisted poems, Mariam Saidan’s ‘Lies’ is the Ink Sweat & Tears Pick of the Month for November 2020.

Mariam is Iranian/British and has worked in the Human Rights field, studied Public International Law in Tehran, Human Rights Law at University of Nottingham, and Creative Writing at Kent University.


From my window
I watch leaves flutter.

Seagulls stamping their feet,
I play with my loneliness.

I write stories,
I tell lies like:
“My heart leaps
at the thought of love.”

Other voters’ responses to the question ‘Why does this get your vote?’ include:

This poem didn’t try to explain itself or its narrator – it simply sits there. But under the unexcited mood, it expresses a great shock, a great loss of hope.

Mariam’s piece is so honest and beautiful. It evokes a sense of familiar sadness which ends with love and hope.

How beautifully simple it is. It gives the sense of place, time, sense, emotion and thoughts, with many interpretations for a poem so short. Beautiful

I loved how playful it is and powerful and how honest it is.

Beautifully written, a stand out.

Heartwarming poem

All the more powerful for its concision.

Tender poem, with nostalgic lucidity. Short but impactful

the poem is poignant and succinct, and well reflects our desire for love and for deep true feeling

Because I can relate to it and I play with my loneliness too

I can relate to this song and like the simplicity

The lies we tell ourselves to get through…so true…

The energy and honesty of the composition.

I walk and the images stay with me

Clarity and potency of the idea.

I’ve known Mariam since our childhood and I always thought that she has a unique and touching way of writing

Mariam encapsulated feelings and truth in so few words! Perfect

Instantly arresting and moving, it encapsulates despair.

The mixture of the everyday and the dream-world overlapping

The poem resonance with the year where the theme of loneliness longing and lies about seeming to be OK seem to be more relevant than ever.

I love the simplicity, and conveys the loneliness feeling to me

I relate to its loneliness

Mariam’s voice is so unique, haunting yet soothing

Her work really touched me, how she describes loneliness, really resonates with the reader

Because it tells a recognisable truth, simply and clearly and poetically, under the title ‘Lies’

I love the simplicity of this poem and the sardonic twist at the end.




Conversation with the Doctor by Sophie Fenella

You hold my breath before me,
pickled in a jar, it looks like veins
when held up to the light;
this could be life, this could be
the future of reproduction.

You bring me back, back in the room,
back to tweezers, and pills, and diagrams.
Look alive, look alive.

I click my fingers
like some kind
of anxious Mum.

My breath does not erode glass,
you’ve got the wrong girl Doc.
I would never call you Doc,
not to your face.

I want to talk about
my jaw grinding at night.

You smile in that way
people smile when a stranger
needs comforting, like I care but
I don’t care because
I don’t know you.

The unfamiliar familiarity
of feeling another human’s
pulse, drawing blood
in long, thick, tubes.

You have seen my tongue
first thing in the morning,
if that’s not love then
what the hell is intimacy?

Then comes the checklist:

Tick A if you see concrete
on a summer’s day.

Tick B if you see a heart
beating in a pickle jar,
a hand in the blender or
a knife in your eye.
Tick C if you see yourself
flying -belly up- with a
stupid grin on your face-
this could be a sign
of insecure sexuality.

What should I tick
when I put my stomach
in the oven?

I want to make life.
I want a tiny hand to clutch
my thumb.

Doctor- my therapist told me
I shouldn’t have children.

The sky is still concrete,
but I’ve got pretty good
at managing the waves.

Sophie Fenella
 is a poet and a teacher from London. Her first pamphlet was published by Invisible Hand Press and her poems have been published in a range of magazines such as Magma, The Rialto, and The Morning Star.


To those who don’t want poetry in GCSE by Amlanjyoti Goswami

It would be nice
If you didn’t spend all that time
Writing poetry.He could be blunt
When he wanted to.
All that time.What about reading it?
Yes, reading too.
Why read something you can’t use?

I sipped my tea slowly.
It was the late afternoon light.
Autumnal, the kind you like on your bare back.

What about watching it?
Watching poetry.

You look out and watch the light turn.
Birds slide in like meaning.
A little light changes as you watch.

That’s a poem, he said, and added, for sure.
It would qualify.
What about us? I almost asked.

Amlanjyoti Goswami
‘s recent collection of poems River Wedding (Poetrywala) has been widely reviewed. His poetry has been published in journals and anthologies around the world. His poems have also appeared on street walls in Christchurch, exhibitions in Johannesburg, an e-gallery in Brighton and buses in Philadelphia. He has read in various places, including New York, Delhi and Boston. He grew up in Guwahati, Assam and lives in Delhi.


Refurbishment by Niamh Haran

mum says there’s that generation
that covered everything up
floorboards fireplaces and now
it’s like anti-clockwork
searching for original décor
I am moulding wet clay
into figurines in an unofficial
online art class in an unofficial
living room I underestimate
an old match box now
they are running down
the fire escape I am left
putting on my communion dress
and waiting

Niamh Haran
 is a queer non-binary poet based in London. They are an English Undergraduate at King’s College London and are a Roundhouse Poetry Collective member. Some of their poems appear in Perverse, The Interpreter’s House, Babel Tower Notice Board and Abridged.


When this is all over… by Hanne Larsson

We will hug. There’re two types. A proper one starts off gentle, a soft caress as two people’s arms find a way through each other’s limbs, as chests start to touch, as each pulls the other tighter to them, as you inhale deeply. You learn to rest and recover in those. The other is a quick flash in, two thumps kind of thing. Those are for uncomfortable friends, or boys not wanting their emotions, or a victory over a game.

We eye each other up from across the room, threading ourselves gingerly between the few others there. And then here we are, in front of each other, staring into each other’s eyes. Wondering.

I wonder if he remembers how I used to nibble his left earlobe. If he knows that I remember how we met – both reaching for some packets of ketchup at a bar counter – but neither really looking at what we were doing. Our first touch was one of recoil and apology, then shy smiles and stilted conversation, before I dragged my big girl pants on and asked if he wanted to grab a drink. For our first hug I inhaled his scent – hint of lemon, crushed garlic and wool sweater – but it was gone too quickly, one for awkward friends. We got better at them: lingering cuddles where we moulded to each other, his chin resting on my head or my nose in his neck. We grew into the two of us. We taught our friends those hugs; we embraced our parents and siblings. We leaned in, like two timber-framed houses holding each other across an alley.

He glances around at the others in this room, doubting. I see it scatter across his face and my heart cracks. Of course we must dare to stand closer than two metres.

I reach for him first, hands outstretched, as if I’m calming one of the nervous dogs in my examination room. My fingers graze his jumper – wool – and I can’t help it but my heart bounds in hope.

Our arms reach round each other’s waists, I lean in for a sniff.

Sharp and medicinal.

Pulling away, I glance up into his eyes and see the hurt reflected before he pulls me tighter. I pat him lightly on the back and extract myself.

We will start slow.

Hanne Larsson
 is a permanently-abroad Swede, using her many-cultured upbringing as story fodder. Her stories have been published in anthologies by Hammond House and Green Stories, with most success on long/shortlists. She tweets at @hannelarsson


Please accept our apologies by John Rogers

as we stand with a basket of light,
brighter than its weight in gold.
Cherry-picked too. The old lady
pledged that it could withstand

quite the storm. Perhaps she was right,
but the painted sign says in bold:
Sadly, The Woodlands are closed
due to the weather – no finite pause

amidst felled trees, and our contrite hearts
go back along the narrow road
past tied-up watering cans. The story’s told
a hundred times. Sweet baskets of light

arrive, then thresh about in the wind.

John Rogers
 is a Nottingham-based writer and tutor. He has studied for an MA in Creative Writing and was recently awarded the NTU Prize in the Dial-a-Poem competition. He gives his two cents on Twitter @JohnR692.