Category Archives: Competitions

SLQ Poetry Competition May 2018, Judge’s Report and Results

Judge’s report
By Derek Adams.

Judging a poetry competition is always tough, but always a delight too, and the over two hundred entries in Sentinel’s May competition proved no exception. When I opened the weighty parcel that the postman delivered I must admit I wondered how I would choose just twelve poems from the pile in front of me. Methodically is the only way, I read through all the poems once separating them in to two piles, a longlist that made instant impressions on me and a ‘Return to’ pile that were missing something. Then the next day I read through the ‘return-to’ pile again to make sure no gems had slipped through the net. The third day, because you need to put some time between each read-through to come at the poems fresh, is when it gets tough, cutting the long list of good poems to a shortlist.

Finally choosing 12 poems from a shortlist of 27, then trying to place them in order, when there’s hardly a cigarette paper between them, is the hardest part of all, but here they are with some words about my reasons for choosing them.

First prize: Crunching on bones
This poem grabbed my attention on the first reading and wouldn’t let go. On each re-reading I liked it more, by the time I got to the first shortlist, this poem was looking like the favourite. I liked how the repetition of words and the alliteration help build a sense of claustrophobia. There is an urgency about the poem with it’s single sentence stanzas. This is a chilling story of two women who share a house with a man, a man whose presence fills this poem; ‘he filled the room / With his oilskinned back and black, wet hair’, he is a man of few words, and the narrator would do anything for him, ‘eat the crunchy ends’ of bones ‘so nothing’s wasted’ if that’s what he wants, even kill for him if that’s what he wants. This poem is compact and image-filled, it tells a story too big to be contained in its eighteen lines. It spills over and gets into your head, which is what the poet ‘wants you see and I do. I do.’ I have probably read this poem at least thirty times now and it still grabs, chills and surprises me.

Second Prize: Love, The Name
This is a touching poem about a stillborn baby whose ‘rosebud lips never uttered a single sound.’ This poem is filled with flora, from the prospective names abandoned in favour of Amy (a name derived from the French verb aimer to love), through stages of pregnancy, to the ‘teardrop sprays’ of the funeral. Again this is a poem that stood out on first reading, and continued to reveal itself on consequent readings.

Third Prize: Doctor’s Bag
I enjoyed the way the title slightly wrongfooted me when the doctor’s bag revealed its contents, the ‘heavy projector’ and the ‘tangled reels loose with life’. I like the detail of this poem: its sounds and smells, the ‘Cheezels and green cordial’ and its ‘gold floral wallpaper’. The middle of this poem conjures a vision of happy families, only to wrongfoot us again with the mother leaving, and taking us back to the beginning with the bag hidden in the back of the wardrobe, the father ominously keeping the mother’s ‘soundless memories choked / into strips of film.’

Highly commended

How to make a Chough: an Origami poem
This is another poem that caught my attention straight away, fabulous idea, amazing images and a satisfying last line.

Moth
I loved reading this poem out loud with its use of alliteration and wonderful words, whose sound rolls around the tongue.

No Last Line
This prose poem is a paean to New York pre 9/11: to New Yorkers through history, and to what the future would bring. The unmentioned twin towers echo through the poem: ‘freedom and comfort’, ‘splendour and wealth’, ‘pain and experience’.

Commended

Inelastic Scattering
A clever every-line-rhymed poem about the seismic impact upon a young women’s life, of a sexual assault that has been hushed up by those around her, ‘…they said “over-dramatic”/ when they didn’t say lie…’

Harbour
A surreal poem about a different kind of traumatic event, a flood, and the resultant depersonalisation it has upon the narrator.

A Certain Kind of Death
I liked the rhythm and internal rhyming of this poem, this story of an execution of a woman has a great opening line.

Special Mentions

About Light
This is a touching poem about the mental and physical effects of Parkinson’s and love. It is full of great lines. It hooked from beginning to end.

Something Lurks
Great first line, and fabulous descriptions in this surreal poem about the sea, and our relationship with it.

Unknown Me
I am not a fan of villanelles, they have to be good to work and so often fall short of the target, this one however works. I was impressed by this tale of an affair with a married man told from the point of view of the mistress, who is not completely at ease with the situation; she fears ‘this unknown me’. It also contains some lovely double play on words ‘Our conscience lies, completely overthrown’.

The Results

Special Mentions

Jude Neale – About Light
Annest Gwilym – Something Lurks
Fiona Dye – Unknown Me

Commended

Robert Kibble – Inelastic Scattering
Amy Butler – Harbour
Anne Sheppard – A Certain Kind of Death

Highly commended

John Gallas – How to make a Chough: an Origami poem
Mark Stopforth – Moth
Julie Anne Gilligan – No Last Line

Third Prize
Lisa Reily – Doctor’s Bag

Second Prize
Therese Adams – Love, The Name

First prize
Robbie Frazer – Crunching on bones

The specially mentioned, commended, highly commended and prize-winning poems will be published in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Magazine on 31st July, 2018

To enter the current Sentinel Literary Quarterly Competition visit the competition page.

Gallery

Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (May 2018)

For original, previously unpublished poems in English language on any subject, in any style up to 50 lines long. Closing Date: 31st May 2018 Judge: Derek Adams Prizes: £250 (1st), £100 (2nd), £50 (3rd), £30 x 3 (High Commendation), £15 … Continue reading






Frozen Ringtone

MARIA ISAKOVA BENNETT

Only one thing fills me now

         the lit screen

                        that tells me you thought of me. I try to fix things –

                                                             everything goes wrong.

                                                             I close the door, drive north

                                                             open Spotify and listen to Hozier.

Lithium operates us in slow.

            This is what you know

                        and this is what you don’t:

                                                            in the light of which

                                                            I make a wish

                                                            I see your face

I love you.

            Shhh …some things you can’t say

                        even if they make you better.

                                                           This is the language of love:

                                                           touch and no words

                                                           out of our mouths.

I won’t speak because

             this is the language of love.

                          Can you stop loving me for a moment and speak to me?

                                                           I need you to stay away from me.

                                                           No. I need you to stay with me.

                                                           Steady me. Stay.

I love the scent of you.

            I won’t shake when I spend my last kiss.

                          I will wait one whole season –

                                                         I will try to wait too

                                                         and when the time is right

                                                         I’ll be with you and I won’t speak

because someone blessed us.

 

“Frozen Ringtone” by Maria Isakova Bennett was highly commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (August 2017) judged by Oz Hardwick.

Swinger

KATHLEEN STRAFFORD 

His flat nose pressed against his face, 

he slumps wearing his Sunday-go-to-meeting

tie      fed up   with yowsam bows   

he dreams to own his own 

bootlegging gig     kickin’ it up with some doodah.     

But for now he’s a tap dancer

He feels like nine foot tall when he’s five foot five

                 all the hepcats dig his jive

or they wouldn’t

                     let him in this speakeasy

                         this den of flapper

                                    flora-dora dizzy

                                            hoochie-coochers

Little does he know the dame             

                             with a silly name & crimson hair

            will lace her fingers      

                             into his     grooving

                             a sweet

                             boogie woogie beat

swaying with a swing

                    swinging with a sway      

 Later in the alley-way

                   he will find himself

                                 doing just            that.

 

“Swinger” by Kathleen Strafford was commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (August 2017) judged by Oz Hardwick.

RESULTS AND JUDGE’S REPORT – SLQ POETRY COMPETITION (AUGUST 2017)

Oz Hardwick SF Presidio  Library I have, over the past couple of years or so, been involved in a number of conversations in which someone has bemoaned the dearth of political poems. My response has invariably been a bemused What? From the lone poem in a regular journal, through individual collections, to issue-based anthologies and epic projects like 100 Thousand Poets for Change, poetry – like all the arts – is articulating local and global political concern, engagement, anger, fear etc. on paper, on-line, and on walls.

 

It is of course legitimate to ask what use such poems are against the often overwhelming insurmountable-seeming challenges we – regardless of race, religion, or any other differences – face, both politically and environmentally. To the despairing (and I occasionally fall into that category myself), I’d suggest that poetry can give voice to the voiceless, can distil the core of human experience into engines of visceral communication at the sharpest edge of language, and in doing so can remind us of the strength of our shared humanity. It can also do a lot more, of course, but these are perhaps the most pressing calls upon the arts at present.

 

I was heartened by the number of poems submitted for the competition that focused on issues from the wilful decimation of the British NHS by a self-interested government, to human displacement on a global scale: and, beyond this, they were very good poems indeed. Both ‘Lethal Theory’ and ‘In transit’ are excellent examples. The former employs military acronyms and the impersonal language of medicine, perfectly balanced around the human tragedy of those caught up in events within which they are barely acknowledged. Specific, yet chillingly universal, the poem’s strength lies as much in what is avoided as what is said, culminating in the blunt negative of that unforgettable final line. The latter is a very different poem, but no less powerful, the second-person address and controlled vagueness concerning detail places the reader uncomfortably into a limbo without full stops that continually stacks the odds against the shadow of hope that is desperately introduced mid-way through the final stanza.

 

            Lest all this imply a single-mindedness of approach to subject in my assessment of the range of poems submitted, the ekphrastic ‘Vanitas’ stood out as a beautifully tight response to a painting that – as with all the best poems of its type – goes way beyond its descriptive surface, tapping into questions of faith and very corporeal connections and absences, resolving into that rich image of the ‘thick and wrinkled’ wax. Additionally, of course, it vividly evokes the private, domestic space and the dangerous unknown without, as – in their own ways – do the previously discussed poems. And if there was one overriding theme that arose time and time again in the submitted poems, it was this idea of the home, with all of its connotations of security and fragility. Indeed, of those dozen poems that made my short-list, more than half directly addressed the theme in one way or another: an indication, perhaps, of a shared response to uncertain times in which we are more conscious of our need for the safe and the known – and, I hope, for a place in which to welcome and be welcomed.

 

            The pleasure in judging this competition was the difficulty of the task, and in the reaffirmation of poetry’s – and art’s more generally – importance.

 

Oz Hardwick

 

THE RESULTS

 

Special Mentions:

Labile – Sharon Phillips

Surrender – Kelly Nunnerley

Your windows – L Thompson

Commended:

Our Father – Michael Brown

Swinger – Kathleen Strafford

Some have entertained angels unawares – Inky

Highly Commended:

Frozen Ringtone – Maria Isakova Bennett

What does the heart mean in popular culture? – Sharon Phillips

The Softening – Diane Cook

Third Prize:

Vanitas – Gabriel Griffin

Second Prize:

In transit – Greta Ross

First Prize:

Lethal theory – Noel Williams

 

competitions@sentinelpoetry.org.uk  / office@sentinelwriting.com

Grapefruit Moon by Colin Watts

Grapefruit Moon, a short story by Colin Watts was commended in the Sentinel Annual Short Story Competition 2015 judged by Alex Keegan.

Read Grapefruit Moon

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Strix Aluco by Diane Cook

Strix Aluco*

No wonder they call you wise.

You have solved the swoop-grab ratio
of vole-shadow to deepening wingspan
as easy as Pi r2, and digested
the full philosophy of mouse
before the dark had a chance.
And now at 3am you screech your eureka moment to the world.

And the world is just you, and me.

From your urban revenant of forest
you tear a hole in my dream.
The one where I’m on the precipice of bird-flight
waking the dust off my feathers
in time for that wafer of air
to take me by surprise,
with your wings sprung like flick-knives,
your man-trap talons. This close,
I am no more than an idea of animal sinew
flexed behind the membrane of your eye.

Friday night by the wheelie bins.
I watch you stare wiper-eyed
above the acid glow of street life,
neck swivelling 270 degrees,
way a match for R2-D2.
Well, numbers are your game.
And tricks. Potion-maker, breaker of bones.
No wonder they called you Strix,
the Romans. They knew
a single lunule egg would check alcoholism,
long before the dawn-rakers
in circumferential sway around the ivy
mixed their random pukings
with your pellets’ perfect revisions.

But the irrational was God
when he put your ears on askew,
crowning you an unholy bird.
You’ve turned that round:
calculating where two angles cross
soft scamperings in leaf mould
down to the third claw, left paw.

Strix Aluco by Diane Cook won first prize in the Sentinel Annual Poetry Competition 2015 judged by Afam Akeh. *Strix Aluco – Latin for Tawny Owl

Garments by Philip Burton

Garments

I comb the Oxfam shop in Skipton
for trench coats lined with gabardine

a retro-fashionista with a croupier’s hand –
I screw my eyes, feel my blissful way:

liquorish leather, sandy camel hair
gap-year anorak, a maze of astrakhan

the mystic drip of gunmetal drop-waist,
the hot summer of trim Ottoman jersey

Egyptian gingham, spandex kimono,
the fresh cool finger-sift of chesca bead

Indonesian bolero, silver lace midi,
the backhand slap of gold sequin mesh

organdie, organza, spandex, tulle, velour,
the knuckle rap of beaded scallop

hint of chiffon, pale braided paisley lace,
the whoosh of louche vanilla blouse

ritzy, plain, plain ritzy and a glam encore –
a live rendition of democracy; love

how they pull together on the rail –
people should take a lead from clothes –

ah! the worsted pull of gabardine.
I pay. I should pay more. I go

philip

Philip Burton has a love for readings and performance, developed through life as an English and Drama teacher, Lancashire head teacher, folksinger, amateur actor, and as a poetry practitioner who, as Pip The Poet, has provided hundreds of poetry days for schools and for adult learners. His poems are widely published. Stir won the Teignmouth poetry festival poetry competition, 2015, judged by Penelope Shuttle. His collection titled His Usual Theft, Indigo Dreams (pub.), will be available in 2017.

Garments by Philip Burton won third prize in the Sentinel Annual Poetry Competition 2015 judged by Afam Akeh.

Austral by Catherine Faulds

Austral
Do not expect a rescue service

Cold invades the bones.
The ice in my gin is millennia old,
netted as it reached the sea’s surface.
It sits on the bar, clear as a mirror,
to be chipped into drinks
while the ship dances with ice floes in the channels.

Day and night, separated
only by gradations of light,
make sleep a conscious act
timetabled from the darker world;
I float among seals whose home is the sea
fly with birds who sleep in the sky
wake at the edge of the planet.

A mass of icebergs on the horizon:
as they calve, their offspring melt
into mythic forms – dragons, sphinxes, gryphons,
pleated like whaleskin.

While snoozing seals turn and sigh,
penguins marshall in waddling armies.
and at the edge of the black beach circling a crater
the sea is hot

Austral by Catherine Faulds was highly commended in the Sentinel Annual Poetry Competition 2015 judged by Afam Akeh

Toronto Girl by Oonah V Joslin

Toronto Girl

slender quick how you think no consonants no consequence no breaks events through the day like cup of coffee double shot no lid no lip you flit among high rise traffic fumes and sun-glint twenty four carat bank finger-sampling sushi mall-bites a fluttering cyber-walk mannequin ear-plugging louder to drown the surround sound long into the slim-line stream-line uniform casino Niagara night falls.

restful dawn
golden girl awakes
another gadget-day to go

Toronto Girl by Oonah V Joslin was highly commended in the Sentinel Annual Poetry Competition 2015 judged by Afam Akeh