This poem is pure enchantment. The captivating vocabulary intensely immersive imagery had the hairs on the back of my neck prickled from the outset.

Voters loved the imagery, the descriptive power of this poem. They found it evocative, eerie, heart-wrenching. And for all these reasons and more Lynn Valentine’s ‘A Bad Spell’ is the IS&T Pick of the Month for March 2024.

Lynn Valentine lives in the Black Isle. Her debut poetry collection, Life’s Stink and Honey, was published by Cinnamon Press in 2022 after winning their literature award. Her Scots pamphlet, A Glimmer o Stars, was published by Hedgehog Poetry in 2021, She is working on her next collection for Cinnamon Press.



A Bad Spell

The rowan by the house is cracked in two,
her bark ragged, grown good-for-nothing old.

Fungi feed haphazardly and once, a treecreeper,
his heart of white running like love on her trunk.

A calligraphy of twigs marks wind-spun air,
frail small artwork against massing rain.

I would climb inside the gap where the rowan
arches and parts, quench my mouth with sap

meld myself into her sex, bear blossom
and berries, a curse against storms.


Voters’ comments included:

Each and every word is necessary and working hard in the poem. We know almost immediately with ‘cracked in two’ and ‘heart of white’ that this poem is about much more than a tree. It takes a surprising turn with the ‘climb inside’. It’s angry and sensual and a delight to read.

Beautiful imagery, a seemingly simple description but layered with meanings.

I love the simplicity of the couplets, their sensuality, and how the poet identifies with the rowan, her compassion

Mother Nature can be both beautiful and cruel. Lynn captures these elements in her work and with her words perfectly.

I love A Bad Spell, it’s a poem filled with imagery and transports me there. As someone once quoted of Lynn ‘a fearless writer who tackles unspeakables head on’

The words create an image in my mind of the tree, the branches and blending with its nature as one. The words spark my imagination.

The strength of the descriptions and the unexpected positivity of the ending.

love the way it reads and I also love Rowan trees

I love how Lynn Valentine’s piece combines eco-poem and witchy/folklore.

The poem held an essence of defiant hope and great imagery which made me think beyond the immediate.

Clear and unpretentious verse. Evocative imagery

Highly original, invocative and sensual

This poem is pure enchantment. The captivating vocabulary intensely immersive imagery had the hairs on the back of my neck prickled from the outset.

Its compact brilliance speaks boldly and brightly. So much said n so few words. I live the imagery of it.

Eerie, magical, spell-binding.

The quiet confidence of it

Packs a real punch, though short; beautiful observed detail with unusual imagery and metaphor.

The images are strong and it makes me feel that even I could get inside that tree. And that tree creeper!

Beautiful, visual and powerful,. Stunning work, so assured and mesmerising.

Its brevity in conveying so much in an effective way, indicate the poet is a mistress of language.

Such a good idea, a ‘bad spell’. Had me at the title, then such a surprising, visceral poem that earned its strange, strong last lines.

Words, rhythm, imagery, a spell murmured, a feeling right in the heart

It’s a beautiful heart wrenching poem, a sore subject so delicately and deftly worded. Killed me





Stour springs from greensand into lakes marbled with lily-pads
hosts to hazes of dragonflies & pseudo-Roman reflections
glides sixty-one miles seaward past the rare Black Poplar
meanders through chalk      clay      heathland
overtakes railways      trailways      bridges      pylons      rookeries
otters      pipistrelles      the Blandford Fly
applies names      East & West Stour      Stourpaine      Stourton Caundle
Stour Row & Stour Provost      Sturminsters Newton & Marshall
hovers at turn of tide      deep      still      mirror-smooth
where contraband echoes a Norman twang
sneaking upstream past the Avon merge
from Stanpit Marsh to Fiddleford Mill
Avon hits town where mediaeval cutwaters       slice divisions
tongue it various      from burr to babel      swish to swirl

rushes between buttresses      plaits threads of currents
where swans lord-and-lady-it along the centre
trips over own flow      with
fish-out-of-water flash      salmon’s silver high-jump
mallards dabble in shallows      shadowed by willows
until mill race powers beyond the Domesday Book
grinding monks’ corn & fulling mercers’ cloth      until
the Stour merge
then slide as one to Mudeford
beneath dinghies moored on buoys in the harbour      portus      port
& children dip lines from the Quay to collect crabs beside The Haven Inn
site of Smuggler Coombes’ gibbeted corpse
opposite the Spit where Saxons watch for invaders
and barbecues smoke into blue-and-green beach-huts
while chatter is new traffic      traders      drownings      plagues
tales of tall white cruise liners stranded in the bay
water reflects light above tangled fishing lines & plastic debris
its surface always movement textured by the colour of sky


Lesley Burt’s poetry has appeared in various print & online magazines over the years. Her pamphlet, Mr & Mrs Andrews Reframed, was published by Templar Poetry in 2023. She is based in Dorset.



the feminine urge

to murder a lover over breakfast
because he talked over you at last night’s dinner party.
swallowing remarks like dripping yolk,
whilst he sips his tea brewed with love—
and arsenic.

the feminine urge to wash his whites
with the red lace lingerie
you wore on his last birthday.

the feminine urge to bleed
all over the bedsheets, to refuse
to grow his babies, to abandon your
responsibilities, to forget to buy his toothpaste,
to move everything on his desk an inch to the left,
to cry only when the door closes,
to hug the sheets when the lights are off,
to daydream about your teenage love,
to fuck him like all of it is enough.


Chloe Hanks is a poet currently based in York, UK. She won the V Press Prize for Poetry in 2020 with her pamphlet May We All Be Artefacts and holds an MA with Distinction in Creative Writing from the University of Birmingham. She is a PhD candidate with York St John and a board member for the York Literature Festival 2024.



On My Evening Walk Down Walworth Rd
For anyone considering going on T

I’m ready for your future self to walk right up to me.

I am certain that I will recognize you
because I’ve been practicing!

As night falls like a slow curtain onto evening
I scan features

What am I looking for?

Well    You won’t have the same face
in a year or three—

I am looking for a time machine menagerie.

I spot what could be the full bow of your lips,
stubbly, from above, inhaling smoke
before the 68 takes you home.

Your soon to be cheekbones more prominent —
hills to run down when summer comes —
on a radiant parent
surprising their kid with bubble tea.

Your focused eyes on a box of plantain.
Deep concentration making them filled
more brown than white.
A different mouth asks if they sell iru.

I spot what could be your hair, longer now,
zig-zagging in rows or freshly retwisted
waiting outside the barbershop for their boys to get niced up too.

Your very specific nose
rushes into Morrisons —
its rounded square tip,
your nostrils broader now
fulfilling a wish for a nose closer to your mother’s side.

So when you stride up to me

your stride.
your stride!

You will stop
just short and say:

This face still fits
in the palms of your hands.


Rhian Parker (they/them) is a black dyke poet from the Deep South. They received a dual-degree M.A/M.F.A in Creative Writing at UNC Charlotte and Kingston University. When they aren’t writing; they’re baking gluten-free treats or going on long walks around their borough.



Wander around the Barren Mountain from Afternoon till Evening
on the Sunny World Poetry Day Leaving the Dull Books Behind
Helen Pletts translates work by Ma Yongbo 马永波

When you enter mountains, afternoons stretch
and lengthen like days; mesmerise.

You rub together your cold red palms,
look over valleys, where a crane spreads its wings,
glides along the brook below; follows the formless airflow.

At high altitude,
only the infrequent chirrup of cicadas
breaks the solitude.

Wild roses of last year are still in bud.
The grass flowers wither; small-button-sized
they appear on the peaks of uncharted silence.

Pathways abandon the earthly world
—journey to oblivion.

The grass is thick with grasshopper legs,
all cutting as countless saws; to dismember imaginary locks.

If poetry is pointless—unable to bridge souls,
rediscover its origin
Why then, can I hear someone sing?
Sing at an invisible altitude?
—in the depths of woods—sing—
as a blue skirt flutters against the wind.

Grounded thoughts return back to the trees,
rocks and brooks; the substance of mountain.

The mineral veins of each hidden peak, form in silence
—silence may be the only path
where unresolved past coexists with peace.


诗歌日阳光明媚的下午,抛开厌倦的书本,去荒山里游逛至晚 作者  马永波





Originally written on National Poetry Day in 2016


Ma Yongbo 马永波 Ph.D. was born in 1964. He has published over seventy original works and translations since 1986. He is a leading scholar in Anglo-American postmodernist poetry, the Chinese translator of Dickinson, Whitman, Stevens, Pound, Williams, Ashbery and Moby Dick. Currently, he is a professor at the Faculty of Arts and Literature at Nanjing University of Science and Technology in China.


Helen Pletts: ( Word & Image with graphic artist Romit Berger exclusively on Shortlisted for Bridport Poetry Prize 2018, 2019, 2022 and 2023, twice longlisted for The Rialto Nature & Place 2018 and 2022, longlisted for the Ginkgo Prize 2019, longlisted for The National Poetry Competition 2022.  2nd prize Plaza Prose Poetry 2022-23.



Queen Conch

My spirit animal is a sovereign sea snail. A part-time anchoress,
anchored to her cell. Mindful custodian of the tender parts.
Chapel of the heart, where fragility is treasured.

I distil to flesh and shell. A starfish clambers aboard
my roof hewn from the waves. A dipping tide uncovers
my mollusc symptom as a blessing. The sun laps down.

Shadows basking below fishing boats explode in the outboard
motor. I tuck my entire delicate self in between my own legs.
O portable cool economy, part holiday-car-boot / part

autumn-chest-freezer. I orbit a very occasional pearl.
Work it out like a puzzle, bead the inaccessible irritation,
wring out value from a bit of grit. I hand-build my bony spiral.

Heavy as a lump hammer, a Pyrex-durable spire,
harbour of coiled spine, see: vertebrate precursor, a prelude,
a thought on the tip of my tongue, and I’m really all tongue,

an evolutionary prototype like Leonardo’s experiments
with helicopter. Of course you’ll stub your toe, yell
selfish shellfish into the shallows. Retreat is a muscular

conviction. Sharks circle, the grazing herd run invertebrate
protocol – eyestalks and snout retract, play dead, go off grid,
kick a labial soft flip, tin lid clicks, fuck you – engaged tone.


Jane Wilkinson a British-Irish writer living in Norwich. Her first collection Eve Said (Live Canon 2023) explores multiple facets of womanhood and experiences of infertility. She won 1 st place in  Live Canon’s Collection Prize, Aesthetica Prize and Poetry Society’s Hamish Canham Prize and is widely published in magazines and anthologies.