READ and HEAR their poem here.

‘Beautiful… and provoking’

Add memories of ‘long lost summers, childhood curiosity and innocence’ to that as well as an excellent metre, rhythms, imagery and wordplay and you get the reasons why “Little boy dream’ by Celestine Stilwell has been voted the IS&T Pick of the Month for April 2021.

Celestine (he/they) is a transgender poet and visual artist based in Durham, who has previously won the Langaland Spoken Word Competition 2019, and the John Gurney Creative Writing Award 2019.


Little boy dream 

My brother used to burn ants with a magnifying glass.
I blamed the sun for tempting his half-talking, grazed
knees to kneel on hot tarmac. He’d run his
pink-licked fingers through the slab’s trenches, collecting
worm eggs beneath thumb-nails.
Once they were out and open,
a four-year-old angles the sun.

On hot days like this, his thin skin would
glaze like baked egg-wash. Big hands to bathe scabbed knees
in holy water, and he’d dream that the ants’ bodies
were washed back to trenches by mourning.






Other voters comments include:

I love how sensory it is. The atmosphere of the poem is hot and oppressive and characteristic of that age group.

Beautiful vivid writing, paints pictures directly into my imagination, portraits with words that you can see and feel

Enigmatic, insightful on children, excellent word play

Strong narrative tone, disturbing imagery

The rhythms and the use of language is both evocative and unusual, making this poem sing.

Their poem brings a nostalgia quite like no other. I am no poet and therefore cannot analysis this poem the way other poets might be able to, but this poem resonates the most out of all six

Cute and short like a little dream

I can feel the burn

A great use of metre, simple but deep. And so relatable

It reminded me of me x

Beautiful words !! The opening line and the last line just tied it all together.

Because it was highly evocative of

Deeply moving and touching; the imagery was beautiful and so immersive2-4

Beautiful and honest

Lovely metaphors and creative description that really brings you to that place in a young boys life2-22

On hot days like this, his thin skin would | glaze like baked egg-wash. Big hands to bathe scabbed knees !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The love for Celestine’s brother shines through.

I enjoyed the imagery of washed in holy water

Down its pure emotivness

Love Cel’s work & understanding of all natures

I felt it was written from the soul.

Beautifully descriptive and playful with words.

Their words resonate with me so incredibly, to the point of tears

The poem was very touching and articulate.

The depth of it

Fabulous last lines and quietly resonant imagery.




Shadowtime by Josephine Balmer
Romney Marsh, Kent, February, 1287

That night a slice of moon rose, mottled red
like a scratched wound. The sea was torched, wind-charged.
We heard the tide roar twice across the Marsh
and knew it was here, the hour of the dead.

Hulls creaked. Roofs lifted. Churches sunk. Great oaks
were wrenched from roots. Rivers swelled in ferment
until they became our streets. While we dreamt
the earth shifted in shadowtime. We woke

to find oceans where we’d once farmed. Islands
landlocked. Hamlets now great ports. And our town
lost to us, buried like some secret shame
beneath a crookbacked bank of bone-packed sand.

From beneath I smooth your prints, pay the debt.
And I whisper. I warn you. Watch. Your. Step.

Note: In ecology, shadowtime is a sense of living in two distinctly different temporal scales simultaneously; an acute consciousness of the possibility  that the near future will be drastically different than the present.

Josephine Balmer’s collections include The Paths of Survival (Shearsman, 2017), The Word for Sorrow (Salt, 2009) and Chasing Catullus (Bloodaxe, 2004). She has also translated Catullus, Sappho and other classical women poets (Bloodaxe). Further information can be found here.


West Beach, Berneray by Jon Miller

You want your days to spread
along the bay, a coat of gold light
wind harvesting machair

tuned to a sky littered with geese,
sanderlings skittering in every direction
a ferry waltzing the low tides

of the Sound where you walk
on sand that gives
adding your footprints to the sea

and watch days fall out of a wind
blowing each thought clean
your bones a whistle

an ocarina Aeolian
scoured white as a shell
holding emptiness in its lips

to the beach where you dragged
a branch of kelp from the waves
and whirled it about your head

this your banner,
your rallying cry, your flag:
Here is where I make my stand.

Jon Miller has had poetry published in a range of literary magazines – Chapman, Dark Horse, Strix, Northwords Now, Dreich, New Writing Scotland – as well as book and exhibition reviews, literary journalism and a poetry pamphlet ‘Still Life’ (Sandstone Press). Twitter: @jmjon6


Bake yourself some unicorns by Louise McStravick
After Rishi Dastidar

Start your day with a cheese board; wear lycra to work; decorate your eyelids with glitter made from
reclaimed rainbow tears; slay your greetings — wink with both eyes — say goodbye instead of hello;
only consume things that are the yellow of the midday sun; defy winter, wear a bikini, manifest
warmth; yoga yourself to a luxury holiday at least 8 times a day —the more you do it the more the
universe receives; eat squirty cream for lunch straight from the can and inhale the gas after; go on a
24 hour lunch break —if your boss asks why tell her to read your daily horoscope; stop your thoughts
at the click of a notification; order yourself a slice of knowledge; you’re owning it babes you’re
shitting out that deposit with every reusable cup. You can do this! Start a petition to ban white bread;
teach the bacteria in your stomach to recycle plastic; don’t eat anything that could look sound or feel
like it could have been crawled on by anything that can be named. Keep going! You know you’re
winning when you wake up and it isn’t raining.

Louise McStravick is a writer, performer and educator from Birmingham. Recent work has appeared in Lacuna Lit, Dear Damsels, Clover and White journal and is currently featured as part of UN Women UK’s virtual exhibition. Her first collection, How to Make Curry Goat is out now with Fly on the Wall Press. She can be found on Twitter @louloudoodoo and Instagram @hyperbolou.


After the world ended by Josie Moon
from Ache

A rain of fire woke the night.
Under blazing umbrellas
a rat-like scurry ensued.

Dawn rose bleak;
the sun eclipsed
by a black ring,
a circle of surprise.

From the sky came a red mare
riding the clouds,
descending on steps of air.

The ink-stain sea crept inland
to lap at doors rotting
in the onslaught of salt.

We saw the stars fall,
opened our hearts and wept.

Josie Moon is a poet, performer and community arts practitioner based in NE Lincolnshire. She loves the sea, gardens and  the big skies of the east coast.


Voicemail by Paul Stephenson

Sarah is away next week so would like to speak to me
today if it’s convenient and not too much trouble.
She wants to go over some of the finer details
and explain how things will generally go from here.

Sarah needs to check she’s understood correctly
and revisit a few points so we can move the process on.
She’d like us to consider the options together and
ensure I’m fully informed re: decisions to be made.

Sarah says a number of procedures must be got underway,
that she should be in touch asap with the necessary parties.
Sarah tells me one or two loose ends need tying up
before she leaves the office for a fortnight’s holiday.

Sarah has written me an email to this effect on Monday.
She is thankful and looks forward to talking with me.
Sarah hopes to hear from me, this afternoon, preferably,
and would be very grateful if I’d return her call.

Paul Stephenson has three pamphlets: Those People (Smith/Doorstop, 2015), The Days that Followed Paris (HappenStance, 2016) and Selfie with Waterlilies (Paper Swans Press, 2017) / / twitter: @stephenson_pj / instagram: paulstep456