SLQ POETRY & SHORT STORY COMPETITIONS, MARCH 2013 – RESULTS

Results of the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry & Short Story Competitions (March 2013) were both scheduled for announcement today, April 30th, however the short story results are not yet in. The judge, Kate Horsley, needs a further week to complete the adjudication process. Therefore the short story results will be announced on Thursday, 9th May. Find below the results of the Poetry Competition judged by Oz Hardwick.

 

SENTINEL LITERARY QUARTERLY POETRY COMPETITION (MARCH 2013) – RESULTS

 

COMMENDED POEMS

 

Rebecca Bilkau – A Blue Dancer Speaks

Nick Pemberton – Cage Wrestling for Dummies

Roger Elkin – Elemental

Andy Fawthrop – Hare

Eileen Carney Hulme – Impossible Now

Gill McEvoy -Revival Meeting, North Carolina

Mark Totterdell – Sidwell Street

David William Clemson -Theorists in Context

Simon Jackson –Unborn

 

HIGHLY COMMENDED

 

Rebecca Bilkau – At Sea

Julie Mellor – House of Thorns

Simon Collings – Four more ways of looking at a blackbird

 

WINNERS

 

3rd Prize: RICHARD ORMROD – Letter to the Grim Reaper

2nd Prize: BILL LYTHGOE – I Remember

1st Prize: JIM BENNETT – in the car park of the Ponderosa Café

 

JUDGE’S REPORT, SENTINEL LITERARY QUARTERLY POETRY COMPETITION (MARCH 2013)

 

By OZ HARDWICK

 

Judging a competition is always an education, revealing a unique cross-section of what is popular and what isn’t amongst poets. Perhaps it’s the omnipresence of Brian Cox on our television screens, but astronomy supplied by far the most popular source of metaphors amongst entries: there were galaxies and constellations everywhere, some of which spiralled into the final fifteen. On the other hand, if there’s one thing that seems to be losing popularity, it’s punctuation. I confess to being more than a little concerned about this. Whilst the winning poem manages to defy the page’s gravity and balance words perfectly on the page without the use of comma, full stop or safety net, so many entries seemed to be the product of either not understanding what punctuation does or simply not bothering. If words are the scaffolding upon which we support meaning, punctuation is the nuts and bolts, and it takes a very deft engineer to keep the scaffolding aloft without them. Too many of the entries collapsed into heaps of words and images, their relationships to each other poorly delineated.

            Rhyming verse is apparently still out of favour, and few of the rhymed entries were confident or adventurous. This said, the subtle rhythms of free verse was often a joy to experience. Unlike a song lyric, a poem has to contain its own music, and there was much to enjoy, not only in the short-list, but in a number of poems which didn’t quite make the final cut. And there were a number of strong poems which didn’t end up amongst the commendation – the long-list took a couple of weeks of jostling in the pack before the leaders started to separate themselves and pull ahead.

            So, what about those final six? ‘Four more ways of looking at a blackbird’ appeals because it engages with ‘the canon’ in a way that is witty and personal, particularly in the third stanza (although on my copy I have compulsively added a comma after the first line). A fresh exercise that punches slightly above its weight.

            First lines are important, and ‘House of Thorns’ had me from its opening phrase. Throughout, the prosaic scratches against the folkloric to create an uncomfortable thrill until it closes with that wonderful ‘sound like knuckles cracking’. Would I change anything? Well, the arrows are not as strong a simile as the sharks’ teeth, but it’s only a slight dip in this tight, spiky poem.

            ‘At sea’ is another tactile delight. Read it aloud and enjoy the taste of the words: ‘it ebbs from the quick, sharp sand while rock pools // spume with caught stars.’ In a poem that provides an object lesson in where to break lines, I particularly liked this extended breath between stanzas.

            In third place, ‘Letter to the Grim Reaper’ is another deceptively simple poem which is nonetheless beautifully controlled. This is one of those poems that at first glance seems like a prose passage chopped into neat lengths, but then the rhythms kick in, the long, stretching sentence pulling against the short line structure, while the rhymes bob to the surface, steer the sense onward, before it all comes to that flat, colloquial – and hopeless – utterance.

            ‘I Remember…’ is an altogether different poem of endings. The subject could be mawkish, but the first-person address and lack of pleading – even in that cold closing statement – render this intensely moving. The way thoughts lose their moorings, elide with reminiscences and asides, is utterly convincing. Yet, as with the third-place poem, the effect of plain speech is the result of carefully controlled rhythms, balanced lines and, in this case, quite disturbing patterns of repetition.

            To hark back to my opening remarks, ‘in the car park of the Ponderosa Café’ is a poem that doesn’t need punctuation, each word pinned with precision to the white field. It gives us just enough. There is nothing fussy, from the opening catalogue of hikers’ equipment to the ‘few trees’ of the final stanza, yet the action is all happening between these concrete details. The inevitability of abandonment makes us return immediately to the start of the poem to look for clues, and to sketch in our own details. It was, I admit, a close call, but this is the poem that has haunted me when I’ve turned my mind to other things, and for that reason it gets the first prize.

 

-       Oz Hardwick

 

Congratulations to the winners and commended poets. We shall be contacting all winners within 7 business days with their notifications of achievement and for publication permissions. If you are a winner or commended author in this competition and for any reason you have not received mail from us within 7 business days of this announcement kindly get in touch by writing to competitions@sentinelpoetry.org.uk

Spring, still cancelled

Yesterday was simply beautiful. God had changed his mind about the cancellation of Spring this year, I thought.

But this morning Wintry drafts mock the heatless sun and I think I can hear the music of clattering teeth from the streets come on the wings of those drafts.

Where is my peppersoup?

- Nnorom

Daniel King

St Teresa of Avila

 

The seven-roomed clear castle

My vision’s castle of the soul

Appears to be of diamond

But I suspect its crystal

Is really frozen Holy Water.

And I have spent hours contemplating water

Water as cold as convent stones beneath my discalced feet

Spent brief hours thinking of bright water flowing

Like two long lines of words

From the Two Fountains -

Especially the continuously bubbling one-source fountain:

God.

The water of that fountain never scatters into droplets

That freeze and spiral into hell

Like dying snowflakes -

Snowflakes that in my other vision

Are souls torn apart by rainbows

Of seven dark colours.

I pray my mother Beatriz never bowed her head

Beneath such rainbows

I pray the Counter-Reformation

Can assuage all souls

And I hope with all my words that I am not contradicting myself

For they are the expression of my thoughts

From the Beloved.

May others shape them like my perfect seven-roomed castle -

 

And though its walls are now foreshortened quartz

They still leave clear foundations in my mind;

The efflorescing crystal still exhorts

My soul and souls alive today to find

If it is like those others have defined.

And likest is vnto that heavenly towre

That God hath built for his own blessed bowre.

 

Álvaro Fierro

Why the Gold Passes Away

I don’t recall
why the gold passes away,

in what seesawing of the water it swoons

when the translucency pulls it down

from its airborne channels

and it lapses in a shiver,

 

why it decides to fade away

until the following light

without letting even this plea

past my lovesick lips,

 

why it abandons its ages,

its reasons

and sets off to beneath the surface

of the attentive gaze

 

just as if it desired to store up its glories

in ancient coffers

that everyone who has looked upon them

leaves at the doors of the inexpressible,

 

why it dreams in its tombs,

why it doesn’t stop resounding

when the painter finishes the canvas.

 

Translations (2013) Steve Cranfield and Claudio Tedesco from The Glance in the Water (La mirada en el agua) (2013)

Alvaro Fierro SLQ

Cortázar y varios modelos para a(r)mar/ Cortázar and various model kits

Claudio Tedesco

Checkerboard layout: read here city grid. Final Exam, the city, its streets. Hopscotch, another city, other streets, the metro, galleries and passages. A storyline walking, travelling. Time stops between metro stations. The tube. Itineraries. La Maga and Rocamadour. Coincidences. The Jardin des Plantes. The cemetery at Montparnasse. Cronopio.

Spanish Law of the Indies: conquerors had no idea of how to establish a city. How do you do it? DIY. This magical book will reveal everything to you, a grid, a square, the town hall, the fort and the cathedral. One hundred metres by one hundred. Corners and right angles. Kit. A Model Kit. Buenos Aires, Colonia, Montevideo, Santiago, Quito, Caracas, Bogotá, La Habana… ad infinitum.

Itineraries

When I was five or six my mother used to take me with her on the bus to another neighbourhood to buy shoes for herself. The problem was that I got travel sick easily and the whole journey was a nightmare. I just wanted to throw up. My mother managed to keep me distracted and would read to me the name of the streets and make me count the garden gnomes. Yes, those little terracotta gnomes painted in garish colours were poking out from the terraces and balconies we passed by. The trick worked. Sometimes. Sometimes not, and then she had to ask the driver to stop at the first corner or I would vomit all over the place …

Years later when I was in the final year of primary school we went to live in another neighbourhood, but I carried on going to the same school in my old quarter. That is, I had to take a bus every morning, a bus that crossed unknown boundaries, territories that slowly became part of myself. I was not dizzy anymore but I still followed unconsciously the ritual of reading one by one the names of the streets that we were crossing, the first names to enter my own private city map. Indelible.

City Grid

It’s been 17 years since I slept in you but I dream of you. Your checkerboard plan. Your streets. In my dreams everything gets distorted, bigger, smaller. You are a mirage. You were. I recall something that might have existed, that was, that lived. Frozen in time. Inside me you never grew up, you never changed.

But other grids appeared in my life. The one I have now is just an adoptive one, a step-grid, a hostile foster-grid. You are not mine. You belong to others. I never dream of you. Your streets still seem alien to me. Even after all this time. I don’t love you. My heart belongs to another. You are not by election but by destiny. I’ll set myself up to dream of Avenida Corrientes on the corner with Paraná on a Saturday night. Is it possible? Which Saturday? The one in my memory.

Sometimes when I wake up I am able to say: I dreamt this. An avenue going down to the river, my own and personal street map.

Coincidences

We live near Rivadavia Park which has a second hand book fair on Sundays. I used to go there to sell old books and magazines I had read. One day my cousin gave me a pile of books she wanted to get rid of. I had a look at the covers and there was one that struck me: one with a map of Paris in black and white. I started to read it. I got hooked. At the beginning I didn’t understand the title. Why ‘62’? What ‘model’? A ‘kit’? What for? Answers came with time. Now it just seems strange that I started reading a book by its sequel and remained so connected visually to its storyline. I read without stopping. That’s a lie. Sometimes I made it last longer so it would never come to an end. ´Never’ does not exist. Never came one morning when I finished reading it and I felt sad and empty and almost at the same time I heard on TV that Julio Cortázar had just died in Paris.

Years and many Cortázars later, I am in Madrid rummaging among second-hand books of a stall in the Retiro Park when I bump into a book of his that I feel I have to buy. Another selection of short stories. Even when I have already read them all.

Leaving the park I start to read the inside cover, the biography: ‘Died in Paris, 12 February 1984’.

Today is the 12th of February 1997.

claudio

Moon in the Southern Hemisphere

J. BARRETT WOLF

Divination is always, and never, a failure.
The arch of ocher sun sinks well before
True evening has offered up its veil.
Sorpresas en el mundo
En el oscuridad…

Land of Southern Cross y Tierra del Fuego
Standing on cobbled streets, or near the famous mountains
Desperate fireworks of red and green disappear into colour-blind night.

Is there someone waiting there,
Where an empty sky delights in darkness
And mortal things that fly are ill-advised
To travel?

The night is Argentine.
Wrought with soft elegance -
Wedded to dancing in a plaza
Beneath the crimson flowers of the Ceibo
And her crooked trunk,
Until rum and dawn and hearts are exhausted.
Until the bright, wild day grows new,
And every step has spoken
Una historia muy misteriosa.

It is that day, that place, that time,
I would court the wise, pale cherry
Hung low in dusk, brushed deep with pink and cinnamon
Turning, like a kiss, to gold.

We have travelled together.
Shared a world.
“I am this beach,” you said.
“This lighthouse, these streets, these people.

Now, you are a distant glow.
Now, you are Argentina.

 

J.Barrett Wolf (PC)

J. Barrett Wolf has been a writer for over forty years. He won first prize at the
Stamford Festival of the arts for his poem ‘Old North Field’ in 1993.

His work has been chosen for eleven anthologies including ‘Passing’,
from Poetworks Press,   ‘Rubber Side Down: The Biker Poet Anthology’
from Archer Press,  and Long Island Sounds 2009 and 2010, published by
the North Sea Poetry Scene Press. His work has appeared the Portland
Review of the Arts, Black Bear Review, The Underwood Review and
online in  Ragazine.cc, Poetry Super Highway: 11th annual Holocaust
Remembrance Day, Motorgedichten.punt.nl (Holland), and Not Just Air.

He lives in upstate New York, where he was commissioned  by the Broome
Country Library to compose a poem for their tenth anniversary in 2011.
Wolf is also the recipient of a United Cultural Fund Grant from the
Broome County Arts Council to produce “Here & There: Poets from near
and far” poetry reading series.

 

His first volume of poetry, “Stark Raving Calm,” was published in June
of 2011 by Boone’s Dock Press.

Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (December 2012), Judges Report & Results

 

Judge’s Report by Noel Williams

 

I thought it was going to be easy. One poem jumped out at me early on, clearly making a claim as a winner. It stayed close to the top of the pile pretty much throughout the exercise. “Just two more like that”, I thought, “and my job here is done.”

 

No such luck.

 

The problem with judging poetry is that you’re comparing apples with chairs. On the one hand here is a heartfelt, confessional lyric which the poet has clearly agonised over writing but paid little attention to the music of language. On the other here is a deftly crafted villanelle, perfectly formed, exquisitely structured but pretty much lacking any real emotion. Then there’s a witty piece of absurdism that makes me smile each time I read it, though no-one’s going to claim it has any serious purpose. Whereas this delicate lyric drawn straight from natural observation is accurate, intense, particular, yet entirely descriptive.

 

Some things make better poetry, some worse. A surprising number of entries have small weaknesses. Let’s remove those that have clear defects: forced rhymes, unnecessary syllables introduced to pad rhythms, archaic vocabulary, clichéd expressions or ideas, images so extreme they’re merely intended to shock, even errors of grammar, punctuation, spelling – I’m quite surprised by the lack of proofreading in some cases, though I know mistakes can happen (I once submitted a poem about oranges that had the word “peal” instead of “peel” in three different lines. It didn’t win.)

 

By being brutally unfair to some poems I pare the total down to around 60. Each of these has something in it that works for me, something I’m attracted by. Now let me simply focus on the poems I especially like. Why do I like them? What is the particular attraction? Do they sustain it completely from beginning to end? This one starts well, but loses its way. That one has some wonderful imagery then stumbles with a vague ending. This one over here has some lovely lines within it, but the poem doesn’t seem to have any overall direction. Here’s one of the most powerful images I’ve seen in a long time, but does the rest of the poem really offer much more?

This is not easy at all. But, eventually, after nearly two weeks of going round in circles, finding different virtues, putting poems aside then reconsidering them, I’m finally, down to fifteen contenders.

 

Of these, the poems I’d like to commend are these:

 

“Night Waves” creates a soft pattern of gentle images and gentle sounds. I like the way the poem breaks a relatively conventional rhythm with unusual, even awkward, line breaks (on “the” and “at”, for example) which, for me, creates an echo of the arrhythmia of the sea.

 

In “The Window” we’ve a relationship very frequently found in poetry, that of patient and carer. Usually the poet’s voice is that of the carer observing the decline of their loved one. In this poem, this is inverted, with the voice of a patient contemplating her or his exit, in a voice that is tentative, barely heard and almost entirely dependent on the kindness of others.

 

“Singing” seems at first like another sad carer and patient poem, as it begins that way, but it makes a clever sideways move a third of the way in, using the idea of reading an alternative lifeline in the patient’s palm to imagine a happier life, with rather different seminal moments: “this time you open/the letter he sent after the argument”. I enjoy the way this poem simultaneously is upbeat, in the imagined life it relates, and yet full of regret, because that positive tale concerns the life that got away.

 

“Lumber Room at the Twilight Hotel” uses the sustained imagery of old furniture for people in their latter days. The sustained imagery is wonderful in its concreteness and detail, though the parallels perhaps could be more fully drawn out.

 

“Grandmothers in the Garden” focuses on an unusual vision of “dark-clothed grandmothers/performing tai chi” in a Beijing street. We get glimpses of a lively, happy, city, where the idea of dance seems to permeate the air. I particularly liked here “The grandmothers look up and wave/and I want wings” because of the ambiguity of “want”. It simultaneously seems to mean both “I lack” and “I desire”, at one and the same time both setting the observer apart and offering them an aspiration.

 

“An Exercise for a Writing Group” seems a perfectly ordinary poem – in fact,  it is almost prosaic – until an unexpected ending leaps out of nowhere: “tendrils/rise from cloud/south of the A66/and I dream/I can see the kraken.” I couldn’t shake that surprising image, so had to have this poem in my list.

 

“Rise and Fall” attracted me with its opening: “We listen to Debussy all afternoon/and to the yawn of saws in the shop downstairs”. The setup of a mini-story in these two lines is succinct, and the combination of Debussy’s music and the interference of the saw-noise, conveyed through the musicality of the lines themselves, was one of those openings that stayed in my mind through all the readings. The poem conveys a particular Sunday afternoon very well, and manages also to suggest something deeper in its account of balloons which eventually “drift away from each other”. I think this poem might have been even higher in my estimation if it hadn’t opted for a rough and ready rhyme scheme which seems rather oddly applied.

 

“Things you should be able to talk about without politics intruding” is arguably not even a poem. Can a simple list be a poem? (Poets do like to debate the most peculiar things). I like it because it is simply wonderfully absurd and, along the way, the oddity of the collisions of the items in its list prompts the occasional equally surprising thought, as in “Peanuts: dry roasted versus salted/Grief, gallstones”. Here triviality and profundity rub shoulders. One thing that poetry can do which few other art forms can match is to jostle ideas together in a way which prompts thoughts you might never otherwise have had (or perhaps wanted!)

 

 “Pay Attention” is also a strange little poem, a quirky love poem, I think. I’m not sure that I quite understand it, but that’s actually one of the things I like about it. A poem which somehow works on you without you quite knowing why can be something of a find. Clearly at its heart is a series of wonderfully odd and tender images: “I will set loose my memories of you/on the wind. No one will hear them pass.”

 

Of the Highly Commended poems, “This need of foxes” is starkly pessimistic in the way it combines closely observed fox imagery with the more apocalyptic ideas the fox-cry brings to mind: “a need, a moaning desire”, seemingly animal and human in “this need of foxes coming together”. This poem is peppered with excellent effects, such as the dynamic movement of the creatures reflected in the shifts of language and sometimes wonderful phonic effects, as in “their terracotta pelt with welted black/ on their backs”. This might have been a prizewinner, except for my feeling that it somewhat overeggs the pudding in the very last line.

“Journeys” is evocative, clever, lyrical, very well crafted, witty, with each word precisely selected for its purpose but slightly spoiled in my mind by the need for a footnote. I’d rather poems stood on their own two feet, and this one could have, I think.

 

 “The Rescue” offers images of struggle and survival, getting through “the month/of the hunger”. This poem is particularly good at choosing images which in themselves are ordinary but have been transformed to express struggle. For example, “ice in huddled puddles” (I enjoyed the internal rhyme here, too) or “The veins are obvious on everything”, where “veins” are at once a symbol of life, of blood, of healthy leaves, and yet, in being so “obvious” are unnaturally prominent, pronounced, as if tense, tight, fighting.

 

I found the hardest part of judging I found was to decide which of the poems jostling in the Highly Commended category really deserved second or third place. (First place, I realised, had been settled very early on, almost without me realising it.)

 

Third place eventually fell to “Scaling the Mountain” a poem in terza rima. I was partly attracted by the deft way this form is handled, particularly in rhymes such as “helter-skelter/Delta/swelter” and “upsetting’s/spaghetti/confetti”. However, it’s the overall movement of the poem that I found most compelling, as it builds detail and story to a climactic image of swallows enslaved by freedom. I’m not sure it works quite as perfectly as it might at the end, because it seems to overplay its hand a little, but the core conceit of tourists themselves being the instruments of the misery they come to witness is a powerful one, and the final ambiguities of smiles that might be forced, serene, happy, sardonic, hypercritical or much more seemed rich with undercurrents of meaning to me.

 

“Listen” achieved second place because it was the best example of a tight, pared-down lyrical poem among the one hundred and sixty eight poems submitted. But what particularly lodged it in my mind were the lines “place my fingers/in the memory of yours” a beautifully elegant summary of both the physical and metaphorical, which at the same time tells us something about a relationship and something about loss. The intimacy of the moment captured here is excellently conveyed through suggestion rather than statement – the poem works as much due to what is left out as what is included, which is a difficult trick to get right.

 

“Late May” was pretty much top of my list from first reading. It’s a sonnet, which makes it a risk in a competition – some judges hate traditional forms, and it is difficult to pull off such a well known form in a way which offers something new or is otherwise interesting. Sonnets tend towards the “safe”, the rounded sentiment, the pre-packaged idea. But this poem has sensitivity and subtlety, as well as a poet willing to take a bit of a risk (perhaps to grab the judge’s attention – if so, it worked) – how many times have you seen “wisteria” set up for a rhyme, for example (it’s rhymed here with “hysteria”) or compared with “an ex-wife’s compliment”? There’s much subtlety in this poem. This link of the wisteria, for example, as an image of middle-class contentment, with hysteria, and both together with the “ex-wife” is an instance of how several threads are wound together, yet none of them in an obvious or heavy-handed way. We get the sense of a depressed middle-aged speaker, of a failed relationship, a marriage gone sour, of a poet who, both desires and dreads to be alone, isolated, perhaps, by her or his own comforts who has perhaps even driven her or his partner way. Yet this is all done in pretty simple language, as in the final couplet:

 

“The ice-cream tune of someone else’s phone
chimes bleakly out, cuts off, leaves me alone.”

 

The ice-cream tune is at once a snide note which tells us the speaker is perhaps a little snobbish, a little “above” such things, and also a hearkening to a lost life, ice-cream being an innocent, perhaps lost, pleasure, a childhood gratification. The phonecall is necessarily someone else’s: the speaker knows it’s not for them, because the speaker knows there’s no-one who will bother to ring, suggesting people lost, one way or another. The chimes are bleak, almost oxymoronically, with their false brightness and optimism. The phone cuts off as the speaker is cut off. And then, the speaker is left alone. He wants to be left alone. He gets his wish. He seems to deserve all he gets.

The succinctness and suggestiveness of such devices is little short of brilliant. A superb piece of work and very worthy winner.

 

The results

 

Commended

Bryan Marshall -  Night Waves

Alyn Fenn – The Window

Maeve Henry – Singing

Linda Burnett – Lumber Room at the Twilight Hotel

Idore Anschell – Grandmothers in the Garden

Alan Nolan – An Exercise for a Writing Group

Victoria Kennefick – Rise and Fall

Richard Schwartz – Things you should be able to talk about without politics intruding.

Frank Dullaghan – Pay Attention

 

Highly Commended

 

Roger Elkin – This Need of Foxes

Daniel Knibb – Journeys

Victoria Kennefick – The Rescue

 

Third Prize:

Tim Ellis – Scaling the Mountain

 

Second Prize:

 

Celia Baines – Listen

 

First Prize:

 

Daniel Knibb – Late May

 

SENTINEL LITERARY QUARTERLY SHORT STORY COMPETITION (DECEMBER 2012) – JUDGE’S REPORT

There are many ways of writing a short story, but whatever its form, ideally there should be a journey and a change for your chosen protagonist.  Good writing is a given, but I like a story to have Character, Plot, Conflict and Conclusion and not be just a mood piece or an incident.  There are, of course, many excellent short stories that don’t include all these elements, but personally, I look for an opening that grabs me from the start, characters I can empathise with and a storyline that carries me through to a satisfying conclusion. I also like an unusual subject that can take me into a different world and show me something new.  There’s nothing wrong with stories about families and broken relationships, but competitions get a lot of them and a story that’s a bit different can go a long way.

 

I enjoyed reading these stories very much and deciding on winners wasn’t easy.  When judging previous competitions, I have been able to set some aside immediately as being of very poor quality, but I was pleased to find that these stories were thoughtfully-written, literate and obviously cared-for.  I hesitate to mention that they were also of a high standard of grammar and spelling, but rightly or wrongly, bad presentation can put a judge off.

 

However, there were a few errors that could have been avoided with careful vetting – it’s always good to get someone else to read it first.

 

First of all, the mood pieces.  Beautifully written, in many cases, but without incident, characterisation, conflict or conclusion.  I would get to the end and think, ‘What has this writer told me?’ Perhaps a turn in the events or a conflict would have provided the force to drive it along.

 

Next, there were the ones that wouldn’t get off the ground and spent the first page on exposition and flashback, instead of getting on with the story.  You only have a limited number of words, so use them wisely.  Short stories happen in the here and now.  Life histories are for the novel.

 

Far too many had no dialogue.  Even some of the winners didn’t.  For me, dialogue is essential.  A short story is a little drama and characters should speak to each other.  Dialogue can do so much to convey the nature of characters and the interaction between them, and speech enlivens the page.

 

Finally, although I didn’t penalise for this, I would like to have seen more writers indenting their paragraphs.  White space is important for the look of a page and denseness gives a stodgy appearance to what might otherwise be an excellent story.

 

The pieces I eventually chose were relatively ‘simple’.  They were well-written, they didn’t obfuscate with over-flowery language, they told the story, and in a couple of cases they raised a little smile.

 

All three main prize winners had strong characters, conflict and conclusion.

 

First prize went to ‘The Butcher’, a great piece of Grand Guignol, slightly reminiscent of ‘Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistle Stop Cafe’.  The writer got straight into the story and held my attention throughout with terse and characterful language right to the grisly, yet satisfying, conclusion.

 

Second prize:  The writer of the very entertaining ‘The War of the Apricots’ chose an original subject, and followed it through with gusto.  I slightly lost sympathy for a man who, even if he was under extreme pressure, could batter squirrels, but it was strongly written with a pleasingly ironic end.

 

Third prize: ‘The Last Revolution’, a tense post-apocalypse story of betrayal.  This was a very visual, cinematic story which got straight into the situation, leaving explanations till later.

 

Highly commended. 

 

For the final three, I chose ‘The Trapper’ for its interesting subject, very real sense of being there, and an ending that took me by surprise, ‘Iceman’ for its arresting opening and sense of other-ness, and ‘A Funeral’ for its delicate surgery on a relationship and oblique finale.

 

All the writers are to be congratulated on a very high standard of work.

 

-       Clare Girvan

 

SENTINEL LITERARY QUARTERLY SHORT STORY COMPETITION (DECEMBER 2012) RESULTS

 

1st Prize – The Butcher by Daniel Knibb

2nd Prize – The War of the Apricots by Marie Gethins

3rd Prize – The Last Revolution by Daniel Knibb

 

Highly Commended -

 

The Trapper by James Collett

Iceman by Paul Saville

A Funeral by Brindley Hallam Dennis

 

Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé

I Remember Little Portugal After All: A Noh Poem

 

When the sun goes down, the shadow grows long.

~ Yukio Mishima

 

It was a collective voice that we demanded of ourselves.

Something resonant, that echoed against the cave walls.

We made a den of our bedrooms, all four of them dimly lit.

We brought in fans, and tiled our walls with brick and crepe.

Plato’s Cave networked, like sea caves, so we always knew

what each of us was thinking or feeling, each an evensong.

“Eventually, the ravine is never deep enough,” Donovan said.

Or we were standing too far from the outcrop or ridge.

Or we had shouted over each other, adopting all the wrong angles.

 

Or the wind was selfish, just carried our voices, far away from us.

The romantic swirl of last year is no longer heady.

These days seem more daunting, with your impending arrival.

The past remained like an afterthought, even in its embellishments.

It remained like some astrological forewarning, aloof,

against a star and its movement across a constellation.

About how today will bring about a decision of dilemmas,

about tomorrow being more forgiving and chancy, more efforted.

About us accommodating ourselves to every whim of fate.

 

About the month to come, and how I should think about love.

And moving to the borough, and sticking to the plan, and giving

something back as if life were a series of gifted moments.

Do I know what my father thinks of himself, or a child’s death,

even if it was so long ago? Does memory have the same resilience

as history? Does a love letter have the same transparency

as the memory it echoes? What is the measure of my empathy?

There is not the intrusion in the small things, the noticing glance

or irreverent stare. Nor is there the tedious recollection.

 

Of an empty playground, the living room looking unoccupied,

its airless space recognizable in every room these days.

The lounge in the library, the corridor with its doorless thresholds.

The row of pews in the hilltop chapel, the dug-out cave.

Its right side facing the setting sun, the sun a shiver of light.

We pulled our leftovers from Evan’s rucksack, four egg tarts

squashed into one corner, pastry collapsed into the custard,

like a bread pudding. My hand pried open one side of the box,

soggy cardboard, as the rest of the box caved in like a house.

 

 

* The epigraph is a line of dialogue excerpted from the Noh play, Sotoba Komachi, written by Yukio Mishima.

‘I Remember Little Portugal After All: A Noh Poem’ was commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (July 2012)


The Bridge Selection by Nnorom Azuonye

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Poem by Declan Kolakowski

Declan Kolakowski

Suspicious Benches

Thirty-four and blister trees – “That’s feet,

Mind you.” – Pamper septic cotton concrete

Blush below scratch wrapper dishwash leaves

When walking Crampton Common;                               

Remind me again, it’s thought                             

After leaving Gordon’s pitch barrel shed

Universe – under the kettle baked black

Sky ceiling, shivering six nebula roof boards

And glimmering in light of dull half-price stars             

That one might mistake for shingle tooth nails             

Holding his whole world together –

Where metres stammer their rumour

And we live,

                   “Honourably! In the great                           

London borough of Streatham,” Royal once,                           

If you didn’t know… “And I, statesmen

And gardener, don’t forget, to this –

Gladstone said – the common.”

 

Or what was left of it after Lambeth                              

Annexed the broken oakwoods, each                                     

Grappled caducity chambers pickling

The fallen council for the once richest inner states;

They poured tomb stone cement sheets

Across the grass, leaving a few bleeding sockets          

Of earth, stalk primed… choking, fall                           

Where the trees arch, scratch, bending

Claustrophobic roots and putrefying

Despite his cracking gentle whispers to

                                                    “Grow nice                 

For the public. No stinking fertilizer,                            

It kills, I’ve given you sweet water,”

                                                  And plastic ash

Weeps across it, the ledge breathes cripple

By cellophane ponds, the scar snarling bark                           

Or whistling trash lettering with consonants                          

Of abandoned syringes and vowels of Chinese card,

How forgotten, plain sighted and outside,

The city has migrated.

 

In his own way he admits the past,                                                   

With withering bone meal on clock hands,                    

Sticky, in unaccustomed soot – rushing out

As they abandoned Gordon’s past (And present)

For glass, smoke and metal apathy –

Always busy. Always working. Always. Always.              

 

 

So when I walk on Crampton’s skin                     

And see Gordon’s mythical public – Right there!?

– On a fevered peeling bench,

He reminds me;

              “Suspicious. What’re they doing here?

Just sitting.”         

 

 

‘Suspicious Benches’ was commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (July 2012)    

 


The Bridge Selection by Nnorom Azuonye

Get it from amazon.com | amazon.co.uk | The Sentinel Shop