Category Archives: Competitions

Empty Houses of the Fled – a poem by John Gallas

John Gallas

Empty Houses of the Fled
(after the Revolution, Havana)

Dying of ennui and rum
the housemaids of Miramar drift
from shut room
                           to shuttered room
held up by vacuum-cleaners,

tidying amongst the loomed and florid shades
of furniture, whose hot,
unsteady varnish swims
                                         like melting glass, hopelessing
under a red sky.

Outside, in someone’s dark garage,
a peppermint Pontiac crackles its finish;
a giant bonbon, still-wrappered,
                                                          spat out
in sweating flits of petrol.

* ‘Empty Houses of the Fled’ by John Gallas was commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (November 2015) judged by Oz Hardwick

A Breton Girl Spinning – a poem by MJ Whistler

MJ Whistler

                                  after Paul Gauguin, 1889

She came out of the breadfruit tree,
a breadfruit body,
fruit of the bread, the wine, a Breton girl.

She stands spinning a path to the sky,
calls her angel to send her wings -
wings to match her rose apron,

wings like the russet sails of fishing boats.
She calls for cinnamon wings to fly her away
into the phthalo sky of her dress,

to fly from the cowly dog and the dogged cow,
the thatched roof and the narrow fields
with their orange and brown, their creams, their greens,
to fly until she can rest in the indigo shadow of her breadfruit tree.

‘A Breton Girl Spinning’ by MJ Whistler was highly commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (November 2015) judged by Oz Hardwick.

Ordinary Love – a poem by Noel Williams

Noel Williams

Ordinary love

I kiss your elbow but you don’t wake.
I kiss your eyelids. Still

the ceremony of not waking you continues.
Certain parts of you remain the same.

Your shoulder, for example, reminds my tongue
of forty-three years. Your hair, however,

unthreads like the blanket, though faint
with that scent of strawberry leaf.

I don’t yearn for what has sanded away
but don’t want to lose it. Sometimes

I think we’re a fiction, barely credible,
our narrator slow to let us leave

although it’s the ordinariness of love
that keeps the reader here.

© Noel Williams 2016

‘Ordinary Love’ by Noel Williams was highly commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (November 2015) judged by Oz Hardwick.

Two Poems by Dominic James

Dominic James
The Follower

He limps along on no blanched foot,
no dab of pitch to mar his looks
nor feverish rapacity,
no pimp, plays more the cool, card sharp

dealing out the negatives
from the bottom of his pack:
a bag of nails for everyone.
The copy of a man well-met

who first appears, to men in war,
a follower. A character
sometimes seen around the fire
he passes by, familiar

barely noticed at first sight -
or greets each man in his own tongue,
easy with the right inflection,
as though he took them all for fools

but men must parlay, as a rule
nights are long when fears enclose
the spine engrafted on to sleep.
He seldom is the first to speak.

Between the hiss and glow of fires
considered then, more than a spy
more one of their own company,
a stranger from on down the line.

Beside this timeless flickering
he casts about the counsel flames’
barbed shadows in the smoky air
of orange, in the bloody cold

has leave to pass without a word,
taken for another soldier
duty bound, left undisturbed
and proved no man to talk to.

Wednesday’s Child

The same lawn toys are still outside
for downstairs boy is now too ill;
the paper’s peeled away in strips,
the kettle: broken weeks ago.
Isolation is a bag of tricks
now Tallulah’s come, since when
my time is hers, and love
unwinds in increments.

At my sill, blue-painted poles
stand on guard in the gardens,
bounded by silent houses.
Season by season, they seem
to swell, press even harder-in.

No easy path this time of year,
on the empties weeds grow over.
The lift’s carriage doors run-to;
its ageing pulleys grind to start
iron gates slide shut, shut fast.

My fingers on the chair arm drum,
I am waiting on my final cue
and at the crucial moment, flag.
The stage was set months ago.

My heart hooked on the last
high note of Miles’s gallows horn,
time drags on his dying blast -
the wait has been too long.
A weary patience plays me out.

©2016 – Dominic James
‘The Follower’ and ‘Wednesday’s Child’ were commended and highly commended respectively in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (November 2015) judged by Oz Hardwick.

The Eel Men and Women – a poem by Ewan Park

Ewan Park

The Eel Men and Women

The eel men and women live in cul-de-sacs, cathedrals, mossy gazebos.
Issuing placebos, the chemist dabs slime from her neck
thinking of her neighbours – call centre
agents who gulp worms and fen water before taking your call
which is important to them.
Certain shopkeepers grow their hair to cover a gill.

The eel men and women seduce unblinking,
caress with fins and slink into car parks.
Swap hard, stabbing kisses with
mouths smelling of fishes,
avocets’ flesh,
the grins of drowned dogs.
But consummate nothing.

Till it starts. One no-mooned night in autumn,
the ripening assemble and slide into the Ouse.
Sargasso song pounding in their heads.

In the morning, the lonely man’s dog, her lead still attached,
shivers on the doorstep. He kept himself to himself they said.
The butcher‘s gone too.
He was so full of life (I wonder if he’s dead?)
The post office is short-staffed, the cows unmilked,
the court house half-empty, the lawyers unsilked.

And someone says something – something
assuaging – then comments on the height of the cirrus,
and the possibility of rain.

In the Atlantic’s dark mass
the eel men and women surge onwards,
faster and deeper and closer.
Their eyes widening.
Their bones hardening.

©2016 The Eel Men and Women by Ewan Park was commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (November 2015) judged by Oz Hardwick.

Emily Dickinson’s Indian Pipe – a poem by Gabriel Griffin

Gabriel Griffin

Emily Dickinson’s Indian Pipe

Stuck in the ground like that and smoking black if you pluck it,
it grows white as a ghost in the shade of the forest near home.
Heaven knows why she stayed in all the time, if she so much loved it –
and when did she last go into the woods to see if it’d grown?

Untouchable – noli me tangere – just like our Emily,
shining pale through the house like a candle, a toadstool, or – worse –
a corpse in a dark room; no chlorophyll, white as the paper
she stained with quick dashes of ink, bruised with her verse.

And we all wonder why – was it perhaps agoraphobia
that drove her to lock herself up in the house in which she would die?
Or was it perhaps something else, a secret much darker and gloomier
she dared not reveal to the world – but nor would she lie?

A convulsion of roots underground, yet it blooms opaline, unsullied, clear;
a flower that can’t be transplanted – one that turns black if you get too near.

Indian pipe, Emily Dickinson’s favourite flower, is found in the deep shade of North American woods. Its white stem and flower turn black when bruised and it is also called ghost flower, corpse plant or fairy smoke.

©2016 Emily Dickinson’s Indian Pipe by Gabriel Griffin won third prize in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (November 2015) judged by Oz Hardwick

a riddle – poem by Peter Oram

a riddle

He’s a smuggler, bearing certain small
but heavy packages across the borders.
No one knows the powers from whom his orders
come or what authority he’d call
upon, should he be spotted as he drags
himself through brambles or goes burrowing through
the undergrowth. He carries with him few
possessions and his clothes are all in rags –
he doesn’t care: his sole concern is for
the things he carries and the consequence,
should frontier guards discover and inspect them.
He leaves them in left luggage lockers or
on supermarket shelves or under stones,
and no one ever turns up to collect them.

©2016 Peter Oram

a riddle by Peter Oram won second prize in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (November 2015) judged by Oz Hardwick.

The shipwrecked naturalist – a poem by Robert Archer

The shipwrecked naturalist

The breakers knock a yard-arm into sight,
then heave it just within his fevered reach.
He clambers on and grasps at trailing ropes
to ride each plunge into the troughs of swell.

With every crest he glimpses glinting sands—
a beach! If only he could cross the reef,
defy the currents pulling him away,
then all his work will not have been in vain.

And — there! — what else could all that flotsam be,
flung wide across the shore, but his own crates,
sealed and tarred, packed tight with journals, gorgeous moths,
strange reptiles, seeds and bulbs for English soil…?

From open sea, he watches as they fade
to distant specks, then shimmer, and are gone.

©Robert Archer 2014

The shipwrecked naturalist by Robert Archer was commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (August 2014) judged by Will Daunt


Results and Judge’s Report – Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (November 2015)

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Judge’s Report By Oz Hardwick   I didn’t think to count the number of poems with which I started – it was the sort of pile I’d be more inclined to weigh than count, anyway – but after careful and … Continue reading

Sentinel Annual Poetry Competition 2015

For original poems in English Language on any subject, in any style up to 60 lines long.
Prizes: £700, £350, £175 and 5 x £55
Judge: Afam Akeh
Learn more and enter now here:
Sentinel Annual Poetry Competition.