The Call – poem by Audrey Ardern-Jones

The Call

Lately she’d promised not to paddle in the sea
or ride her bike, instead she stayed inside,
pill packets left in rows on the dressing table.

A stickler for no waste – pulverised left-overs,
stewed teabags squeezed to feed cuttings,
calendar pictures made into thank you cards.

She made collages from dried fish bones, tops
of poppy heads, toothpaste tops shaped
as rocks – green splintered glass as forest trees.

In summer months she’d drive down south;
whole mornings in her Morris Minor, driving
on A roads, B roads, sandwiches and flasks of tea.

She’d sit with grandchildren on her knee
playing games with words in a Collins Graphic
English Dictionary – spelling out the impossible.

I suppose we shouldn’t have been surprised,
a shrill voice enquiring ‘are you next of kin?’
We couldn’t find our map, like us, it was missing.

The Call by Audrey Ardern-Jones was commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (November 2017) judged by Abegail Morley.

The Return – poem by Lyn Thornton

The Return

She’d have known him anywhere
by his height, by his chest barrelled
like an ox, by his scars, by the way
he looked at her, by the way he kicked
the last suitor down the stairs.

She stood by the fire like a statue,
hoping to unfreeze her veins, warm
to welcome him; when she opened
her mouth nothing came, certainly
no sound he could recognize.

I am come, he said not looking at her
but at the mirror that hung above her head,
there he saw his face crumble as if the silvering
had slipped but not before it imperfectly caught
the shadow of birds she’d woven, take flight.

The Return by Lyn Thornton was commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (November 2017) judged by Abegail Morley.

Sometimes, in the snow, I think I see – poem by Gabriel Griffin

Sometimes, in the snow, I think I see

the white and silent day shatter
in sound, little men catch up
with the herd of beasts and run
at them, shouting and beating

bones on hide drums, separating
a young one from the rest that
grunts and bellows while they
drive it towards and then over

the edge of a gorge. Swiftly
they climb down the cliff, clamber
over rocks, slid through the dead
beast sharp stones that hiss

cutting into tough hide, then carve
crimson and squelching flesh
into hunks they can carry back
to their women in the caves.

Sated, they stretch their legs
by a fire lit with dried punk, found
in young forests of silver birch
sprung new from the snow after

the great cold abated from
the frozen wasteland of ice that
had been their world for as long
as any had memory. Mammoth meat,

a strong taste in their mouths, bright
flames to keep away auroch, tiger, wolf,
bear. They tell of ice gods whose names
fall as snowflakes, of the swollen goddess

of birth and of death; carve from stones
figurines in her semblance, fashion flutes
from mammoth and vulture bones
and sing with no words to the soft piping.

Some venture far into the mystery, dare
darkness, hidden pits and the cave bear,
to paint their world on rock walls and ceilings:
horses that gallop over frozen lands, bulls pursued

by stick figures with spears, the shaman dancing
with his headdress of horns. And we wonder:
did they know we would come? Did they
leave these for us? And, if so, why?

Sometimes, in the snow, I think I see by Gabriel Griffin was commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (November 2017) judged by Abegail Morley.

Grave Marker, Whitby Abbey – poem by Michael Brown

Grave Marker, Whitby Abbey

To touch a Saxon cross, make your hand
a star and arrange it to each rune with love.
Here was one who felt such slackened
feldspar through that world of stone —
eyes narrowed, intent to the fault line,
a seam of rock. Once it took such time
to score or scratch or deftly nick
these half-familiar marks where now
you strain to place your fingerprint
to fix a dream blade’s dance,
trace the grit and grain — how the will
to rough out lives or interlace
straight lines became.

Grave Marker, Whitby Abbey by Michael Brown was highly commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (November 2017) judged by Abegail Morley.

Of One Matter – poem by Derek Sellen

Of One Matter

         – after the painting La Sagrada Familia by Josefa de Óbidos.
           in which Joseph holds out a cross to the infant Christ

In Sevilla, in the first years of my life, not yet waist-
height among the crowds, I saw the Virgin borne up
out of candle-lit dark on the shoulders of twenty men,
step by juddering step into the full sun. Trumpets sounded
and a gypsy voice sang the saeta.
                                              The memories came with me
into my father’s country where I studied with the nuns;
for me, those effigies had breath and blood and sinew
more than the convent’s pale life. So when I painted
la Sagrada Familia, I gave Joseph the long-bridged nose
of a wooden saint with its triangle of shadow, Mary
a breast contoured by the run of a grain. My Christ-child
reached to the slender square-cut cross, gazing on it
as if he and it were of one matter, drawn to each other.
I thought of the novice who’d hidden a stillborn in her cell
and of trees that are felled for the supple strength of their heart.


Of One Matter by Derek Sellen was highly commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (November 2017) judged by Abegail Morley.

A Place to Call Home – poem by Jude Neale

A Place to Call Home
To Nettie Wild

Paint white-silled windows
on the rooms of the homeless.

Fill them with hollyhocks and sky.

Let the honeyed light filter in
flooding the room
like pale cream on milk,
laughter spilling over sorrow.

May they fall into the sweep of stars
glittering their hard-eyed promise
over the lintel and stoop.

There’s a path in front;
it wavers and crosses
a meandering stream,

where it falls and falls again
into gleaming rain bowed glory.

They say build your own house
from dignity and pride.

Yet they know nothing really

of disappearing into innuendo,
or the grey incomplete answer
that swings like twilight
through dusky memory.

Paint an open door to enter through.

For the feral cat
curls round the rug,
she dreams of fire
and the yielding warmth
of your lap,
as you settle deep
in the plain wooden chair.

Paint a small bed,

draw up the covers,

and rest

like a wild salmon
finding her singular way

A Place to Call Home by Jude Neale was highly commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (November 2017) judged by Abegail Morley.

splendid in its silence by Jude Neale
Splendid in its Silence is Jude Neale’s prizewinning poetry collection published by SPM Publications.

Negotiating slugs – a poem by A C Clarke

Negotiating slugs

I wanted to salt them away,
but couldn’t stomach orange meltdown:
thought I’d cope with poison,
their death in agony under the joists.

And yet …

there was that evening when I switched a light
on three of them, heads down at a saucepan
chummy as rootling hogs. By morning
only a glisten on the worktop
a memory of three grey bodies
hooked over a rim like stubby fingers.

And again…

there were three babies, thin as matchsticks,
not one as long as my little fingernail,
trekking the grownups’ trail in the lee of cupboards
even they couldn’t squeeze into; distracted
from food-quest by a poking paw
(what if the cat became furless and sticky?)
they curled up like kittens. I carried them
into the garden, close to the sorrel they love.

And then …

there were the two I kept in a jar –
lid tight shut, but air enough
though I was vowing pellets next time –
shook out next day behind the dustbins
where they lay still as peelings. I waited.
First one and then the other tendered
a cautious eye-stalk to the light,
muscled its way to shade, the breeze
shuffling a strip of white rag between us.

Negotiating slugs by A C Clarke won third prize in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (November 2017) judged by Abegail Morley

Extremities – a poem by Claire Williamson


The explorer on Radio Four describes how men
climb mountains because they can’t give birth

and be mothers, how time and heat
are crucial for Alpine adventurers.

I imagine a scattering of climbers
blurred like birds on a cliffside.

Caught alone in a blizzard
one has lost a leg below the knee,

frost has bitten off another’s fingers and toes
five days trapped in an avalanche.

I want to call them all home.
They shed extremities, while I gain

ten carabiner toes dabbed dry
in a white towel’s snowstorm,

looped arms slung around mine
in the crevasse between sleep and wakefulness,

thighs which gripped my waist in infancy
clamp on five years later

preparing for cols and peaks
on the ropes of my time and my heat.

Extremities by Claire Williamson won second prize in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (November 2017) judged by Abegail Morley

Dreamland – a poem by Mary Anne Smith


On Margate seafront, towards the Turner,
there’s a new wall in fake stone and granite,
grey as the sky on this January afternoon.
It looks out of place here at the seaside
where you expect to be leaning on
flakey blue railings, blotched with rust
like cigarette burns, but still as bright
as the memory of the summer skies
in all those glossy deckle-edged postcards,
and parallel lined with striated deckchairs,
puffing up in the wind like a row
of fancy pigeons ready to take off
towards that shelter where Eliot
looked out across the waves
from waste land, trying to find words
to connect nothing and nothing.
Here, you can still find railings – but painted green,
like the Green Shield stamps which we brought
in sticky books to redeem at the old showroom
just across the road, its plate glass still reflecting
the golden sands and a rumpled, eau-de-nil sea.

Later, as the winter sun slips to its descent,
it glows like a portal to some peripheral world,
and the pink clouds vanish just as quickly
as the candy floss always did,
at Dreamland.

Note: Dreamland is a recently-revived amusement park in the recently-revived seaside town of Margate.

Dreamland by Mary Anne Smith won First Prize, Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (November 2017) judged by Abegail Morley.

Judge’s Report and Results, Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (November 2017)

We are pleased to announce the results of the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (November 2017) judged by Abegail Morley.

The results

Special Mentions:
Answering Julia Copus – Sandra Galton (London)
Machine – Martin Wildman (Kingsteignton)

The Call – Audrey Ardern-Jones (Epsom)
The Return – Lyn Thornton (Oxford)
Sometimes, in the snow, I think I see – Gabriel Griffin (Orta, Italy)

Highly Commended:
Grave Marker, Whitby Abbey – Michael Brown (Middlesbrough)
Of One Matter – Derek Sellen (Canterbury)
A Place to Call Home – Jude Neale (Bowen Island, Canada)

Third Prize:
Negotiating slugs – A C Clarke (Glasgow)

Second Prize:
Extremities – Claire Williamson (Chepstow)

First Prize:
Dreamland – Mary Anne Smith (Canterbury)

Many thanks to Abegail for judging and selecting these poems from 308 entries this quarter. It is heart-warming to see some previous Sentinel Champions on this list including Derek Sellen whose poem Standing with Oliver in Oliver’s Garden won second prize in the Sentinel Annual Poetry Competition 2010. A C Clarke’s In the Walled Garden was highly commended in the Sentinel Annual Poetry Competition 2015, and Vanitas by Gabriel Griffin won third prize in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (August 2017). Jude Neale, one of the highly commended poets this quarter is the author of Splendid in its Silence – second prize winner in the SPM Publications Poetry Book Competition (2016) and A Blooming (SPM Publications – forthcoming May 2018).

These poems will be published in print and online on 31st January 2018 in Sentinel Literary Quarterly magazine.

Congratulations all.

Nnorom Azuonye