A tiny thing, an absolute punch to the gut though.

Ann Heath’s poem was a ‘devastating portrayal of grief’. It moved voters while also perplexing them. It was beautiful and spare but also ‘powerfully odd’ and complex, and it is for this myriad of sometimes contrary reasons that ‘A very small thing ‘is the IS&T Pick of the Month for November 2023.

Ann Heath lives in York. She has been published in Aesthetica and Dreamcatcher.  She previously won the local writer’s prize in the Yorkmix Poetry Competition.


A very small thing.

I found your fingernail
creased inside the poetry
I read to you.  A dry paring,
thin crescent, white
as a hospital tag, cut
when you could still fight me,
with your vowels and yelping,
with the stricture of your hands.

I thought you were all gone.
Now I am obsessed with eye lashes,
with sweat, with residue
of breath.

I keep your windows shut.
I do not dust.


Ann Heath lives in York.  She has been published in Aesthetica and Dreamcatcher.  She previously won the local writer’s prize in the Yorkmix Poetry Competition.


Voters comments included:

Beautiful, spare, subtle

Spare, precise, pared-down language with real emotional heft. I love the quiet poems, the still poems, the growers. This is one of those.

A tiny thing, an absolute punch to the gut though.

What this poem doesn’t quite say is almost unbearable. I also loved it because I find it very difficult to visualise (neurodivergent), but I was able to focus on the very specific details of a fingernail, the inner spine of a book and see with all my senses.

It gave me goose pimples.

It is an emotive and evocative poem implying much more than it says in such a few words. It immediately creates an atmosphere.

The enormous sadness expressed

It’s subtle yet powerful. Captures indescribable sadness with a few well-chosen words.

Pithy, succinct, mysterious

Paradoxical complexity and simplicity of the poem; adept use of words/language…

The poem speaks to me of what it feels to lose a loved one and the overwhelming desire to hang on to any reminder of them, no matter how small or insignificant

I like the way Ann addresses loss by highlighting the miniscule. The weight of feeling is contained in these small items that have meaning beyond their uses.

It’s such a moving, raw piece of writing which, I’m sure, many can relate to.

It speaks of the small findings that can just remind you of the past importances.

The emotion hidden behind the words, particularly the quiet nod towards the previous relationship.

I love the way this poem uses vivid, intimate imagery to convey the deep emotional impact of loss and the powerful hold that memories of loved ones have on us.

There is a lyric quality to this poem which adds to the imagery of a newborn child conjured by the poet. Sublime.

Mesmerising. So many meanings.

Truthful, gritty

Helen Ivory noted: This poem begins with the Proustian trigger of a fingernail clipping, which brings a person back to life. The line breaks work so well in this poem, to take us onwards, illustrating the obsessive behaviour of preserving this person in the physical world. The terseness of the final couplet somehow shows how closed the window is; how sealed the poem’s room.




Speaking in code

I once heard a man speak in tongues,
just sounds like words, but not words.
He told us he was filled with the spirit.

I once heard remuterations in the air,
cirvivulating on the breeze, uncanny
in their lisonulance; breathless joy.

I once heard a woman giving birth,
her screams paramittal on the ward,
frightening the grumonal new borns.

I once heard musicians limbering up,
phams bleating, grom, grom in time.
You knew they were good by the shoz.

I once heard children speak in code,
their frug, their bam, the pap, pap, pap
of their teeth grinding out sabitudes.

I once heard a man speak in tongues,
knew he was blistered by the gods of
sham sham; never to be understood.


Pat Edwards is a writer, reviewer and workshop leader from mid Wales. Pat hosts Verbatim open mic nights and curates Welshpool Poetry Festival. Her work has appeared in Prole, Magma, Atrium, IS&T, as well as in anthologies. Pat has three pamphlets: Only Blood (Yaffle 2019);Kissing in the Dark (Indigo Dreams 2020); Hail Marys (Infinity Books UK 2022).




Bear, you’re a mouth that breathes while it chews
and you spray your wisdom on bits of bread
Bear you’re a man who lives fast and loose
with a loneliness cavernous inside your head

Bear can I ask you to eat your own tongue
when you spy bought bargains in Waitrose?
Bear do you think you could take your own risks
and pair cigarettes and skins at the checkout?

Bear you’re an eye that rolls down the hill
to spook the wildlife of the valley;
an ear making holes as they sing; with a kiss
and a skip you will throw yourself in

Bear you’re a dad, but you were never a child;
bear you’re a man, but you did fuck all;
bear you’ve been running with time in the wilds
of my heart, where with Plato I’ve stared at the wall


Silas Gorin lives in Hereford where he continues to examine English on behalf of Empire’s attempt to both go gently, and rage, at the same time.




Arun Jeetoo is an English teacher from London. His debut pamphlet I Want to Be the One You Think About at Night was published by Waterloo Press (2020). @g2poetry.



Answering my father

You stopped the car in the lane just before our driveway.
I didn’t ask why. Chestnut trees leaned in on either side,

the damp air breathed. You sat there, looking straight ahead
and said there’s nothing worse than being queer.

Such a strange word from your mouth, a word
that said you’d tasted it in your mouth before:

your frozen face, something flat and final in your voice
like a blade coming down on a neck.

I sat paralysed. The moment ended there.
You’re thirty-five years dead and I’m still waiting

for an answer to rise in my throat,
knowing now what I didn’t know then,

that you’d loved a man who loved you,
how you cut it dead –

how you saw it in me,
wanted me to kill it too.


Sue Proffitt lives in Hallsands, South Devon, is a Hawthornden Fellow and has been published in a number of magazines, anthologies and poetry competitions. She has two poetry collections: Open After Dark (Oversteps, 2017) and The Lock-Picker (Palewell Press, 2021), and is currently working on her third collection.



Willow Woman
After ‘The Huntress of Skipton Castle Woods’ by Anna & the Willow

Pliant yet unyielding—there’s steel at my core—
I’m fixed in the flex of blown breeze, leaf ripple.
Hems besom discarded leaves, gathering them in as kin,
and I’m recognised by twittering tree-top tits. Behind me
in the shade of years lie groves of weeping sallows, withies
weaving the same patterns over and over, binding us
through time. When menaced, we women have always
become tree. But my fragile frame belies our strength. Now,
not-quite goddess, I assume this stance between the living
and the dead, torso twisted to counter the weight of ages,
legs braced against what’s to come. There’ll be no burnings
here, but I take aim at those who would sacrifice my woods
again and again. Call me aggressive if you will. But tell me this:
who else will go into bat for the trees, the trees, the trees?


Alice Stainer teaches English Literature and Creative Writing on a visiting student programme in Oxford. You can read her work in Atrium, Feral Poetry, Iamb and The Storms, amongst other places. She has recently received several prize nominations and submitted her debut pamphlet. She tweets poetically @AliceStainer.