Category Archives: Competitions

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

Homing Bird by Ruth Calway

Homing Bird

Called at your door again today. Last time
it was April; now it is September.
The path is still the same in leaf and stone,
being forever written; thirty years
of bearing and breaking. Knocked softly,
once for the present, once for the past.
My heart, remembering, opened like an old book
that through long use has lost full hold, let pages fall.

Yet that thrill on the threshold; reunion
with a place known to hold and set you free
as a poem becomes the mind’s own motion.
Inside out, outside in – tree, rock and fell
breathe here as in their ancient forms; the house
holds steadfast, and speaks as a hidden spring
beneath bids, forbids, carries you home. To hear this
is to know the weight and livingness of the word.

Footsteps resound the rooms above like rain,
the staircase beats with the wings and echo
of a thousand inspirations. As though
memory had gone before I follow,
turn to see them as though watching behind
their waterfall of light. William’s
bowed reflection; Samuel’s far star-bound sea.
Dorothy, eternally making up the fire.

Homing Bird by Ruth Calway was commended in the Sentinel Annual Poetry Competition 2015 judged by Afam Akeh.

De Motu Cordis (On the Motion of the Heart) by Heather Combe

We have yet to explain, however, in what manner the blood finds its way back to the heart from the extremities by the veins, and how and in what way these are the only vessels that convey the blood from the external to the central parts.
– William Harvey (1578–1657). On the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals. The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

Her slender arm is clasped in his hand.
One finger softly brushes translucent skin,
feeling her fluttering pulse quicken.
Tracing fragile veins, from elbow to wrist.

Part of him longs to take a scalpel,
and part her skin, like stage curtains.
Hungering to explore her circulation;
to reveal the intricacies of her anatomy.

She shudders. Picturing again the animals,
still breathing, splayed in his study.
The mewling cries, the scalpel’s glint;
his notebooks full of precise sketches.

An intense stare and narrowed eyes,
her husband, pathologically curious.
Enslaved to the pursuit of Knowledge,
that most insatiable mistress.

Despite herself, she craves these moments.
The unexpected thrill of his gentle touch,
the novelty of his breath on her neck,
and the subtle warmth of his skin on hers.

Too soon, he will return to his research.
Immersed again, in miniature anatomical worlds.
And with heavy heart she will wait, hopeful,
that one day he will find his way home.

De Motu Cordis (On the Motion of the Heart) by Heather Combe was commended in the Sentinel Annual Poetry Competition 2015 judged by Afam Akeh.