Category Archives: Poetry

SENTINEL LITERARY QUARTERLY POETRY COMPETITION (AUGUST 2014) – ADJUDICATION REPORT

Administrator’s Note

Please note that this competition was judged blind and the adjudication report was sent in by the Judge with only the titles of the winning and commended poems. I have matched the winners and their poems to make for easier reading.

      Nnorom Azuonye (14/10/2014)

 

An adjudication report by WILL DAUNT

 

Adjudicating reminds me of how it feels to go through your wardrobe, looking for good companions to donate to the latest charity collection: you don’t want to say goodbye to any particular item, but as you do, the qualities of each garment/ poem stir a mixture of affection and regret. And you hope that your farewell will not be a final airing.

 

The great thing about adjudicating for Sentinel is that you can – as it were – leave so much good material in the wardrobe, convinced that, when it sees the light of day again, it will be genuinely worthy of public view.

 

Thanks to all those writers who contributed to a large number of entries, many of which made the long list. Of these, ‘The Sapphire’ by Dominic James and ‘Sibling Rivalries’ by Andy Hickmott came closest to inclusion, in the final analysis.

 

COMMENDED

 

‘Adlestrop Unwound’ by John Whitworth (Canterbury)

The irreverent humour of this exploration of (mainly) English place names begins with one of the most famous – poetically – happily mutating into a more surreal journey through unlikely locations: ‘Upper Slaughter, Lower Slaughter,/ Foggy Bottom, Devil’s Drop’,/ ‘Faintley-Furtive-in-the-Water’. The diction is as sharp and sure as the wordplay, the momentum well judged.

 

‘East’ by Terence Jones (New Barnet)

This evocative picture of a few hours spent at the eastern edge of England leads the narrator to a point of distilled isolation, which, while full of chilling imagery, condenses a compelling creative energy: ‘…It suits me now/ to look away from all my beautiful/ sunsets, and toward the dark quarter’.

 

‘Edwin’s Candle’ by Terence Brick (Newbury)

Referring to Bede’s History of the English people, this poem vividly reawakens the ways of life of the time. The imagery stirs the senses, while the language sings: ‘But that day the raven ǀ harkened to the dove./ And such was the debate ǀ swift as the sparrow,/ in at the window ǀ to the hourly chatter.’

 

Gravity’ by Oz Hardwick (York)

Here’s an example of a sonnet which easily could have been overlooked. There is great skill in the understated precision with which a budget airline flight is recreated. Subtly controlled (like the use of rhyme), a sense of longing emerges from the ordinariness: ‘But through the misting window I see nowhere,/ nothing: just turbulence, close as recycled air’.

 

‘Homecoming’ by Oz Hardwick (York)

The beauty of this piece lies simply in the degree to which the narrator recreates what was seen, heard and felt from within a home-bound car. No word has been lost, or misplaced: ‘Chains tick, wheels whisper,/ a smooth descent between trees/ whose fingers click to the rhythm of breathing’.

 

‘Ice Fisher’ by Jude Neale (Bowen Island, Canada)

‘I miss/ your clutch of amazement/ that untethered me here//to become a finger point/ a sky full of oranges’. From the poem’s conclusion, these lines capture its insistent yet restrained progression through stages of loss. The hints of the underlying tale are deftly spread throughout the piece.

 

‘Judging a Gap’ by Kieron Tufft (Ripon)

There’s a compelling originality about this piece: its form and its purpose tantalise and entice equally, with the ‘gap’ of the title implied through a succession of ambiguous but engaging images, such as: ‘…And we ponder what anything/ is worth these days// if pale, freckled faces still hold sway’.

 

‘The shipwrecked naturalist’ by Robert Archer (Valencia, Spain)

The love behind this sonnet is a scientist’s loss of a life’s work in a shipwreck. More telling, his possessions will survive him as he drifts into the open ocean: ‘ …his own crates,/ sealed and tarred, packed tight with journals, gorgeous moths,/ strange reptiles, seeds and bulbs for English soil..?’ The futile ironies of mortality are portrayed with a lucid assurance in these accomplished, imaginary snapshots of a death.

 

We’re all in the Book by Tessa Foley (Southsea)

The intrigues within this poem draw you in, repeatedly. Who is ‘My baby’? Why did she leave ‘shortly’ to ‘begin a new life’ and why could she ‘not take pills/ her throat was too narrow’?  How do the numbers spread through the poem, thread together? It’s a powerful invitation to explore familial fragmentation.

 

HIGHLY COMMENDED

 

‘Juggling’ by Angela Arnold (Oswestry)

This poem is rich in irony, beginning with a call to ‘turn down’ a media report on unemployment. Instead, the narrator’s focus shifts to the equally unfamiliar activity of distant ‘labouring manikins’ who ‘secure the land’ as they bring in the harvest. Seen, but not heard ‘from beyond double-glaze’, the workers are depicted adeptly. They fascinate as much as they alienate the writer, turning them back to the frustrations of their own, very different graft.

 

#OCCUPYNIGERIA by Aminu Abdullahi (Kano, Nigeria)

The wide-ranging collage of imagery in this striking piece draws the reader compellingly to a moment in time: the Occupy Nigeria protests. Its impact is built around the well-judged balancing of a strong evocation of place, against only a suggestion of partisanship: ‘as the lavender lies burning/ the smell is no estacode’. Change stands within ‘…liberty’s promised light// Gay until the colours/ Washed the labyrinth’.

 

‘Viewpoint’ by Mark Totterdell (Exeter)

The evocation of place is so often done well, so rarely done remarkably. Here, the combined panoramas of landscape and memory envelope the reader: ‘it’s like being given a decade of eyesight back’. No one and nowhere is named, and rightly so. Like a painter, the writer communicates through skill alone; no pretension or polemic: ‘warped squares of agriculture, fuzzy/ February-coloured woods, even the airport/ undeniably, all topped by a cut of sea.’

 

THIRD PRIZE:                 

 

‘The Thimble’ by Daniel Davies (London)

Here’s a poet who can construct a narrative. The implied horror of a rail suicide is set behind a failed attempt to make a day out memorable. There’s a carefully veiled sense of disappointment and ennui: ‘Snow on Good Friday’ when the ‘ridged earth looked white up ahead, black from behind,/two-toned by the angled blast’.

As the day fades during a forgettable return journey, the fatal collision happens without, at first, being understood. You can believe the scene, in the marooned train: ‘Those were bones we heard, you said. Not rocks’. The numbness of the travellers’ sensibilities is captured finally with the trivially tactile, as the narrator fiddles with a thimble ‘plucked from the One Pound Bucket’.  As if nothing had happened.

 

SECOND PRIZE:     

 

orange brain. flowered brain by Jen Campbell (London)

This poem innovates in form, thematic progression and in its accomplished use of dialect. ‘Abigail’s mind is aal ablaze’ from the outset, and the kaleidoscope of images which develops this theme leaves the reader able to imagine a number of traumas that might explain why ‘Abigail cups her brain like soft-shell crab’, or why the poem’s mood darkens: ‘In toon them talk of banishment. Ain’t much time for them what split themselves’.

At each stage of its development, this effervescent piece grabs the ear and shakes the imagination; not a comfortable read, but one that roots deeply in the consciousness.

 

FIRST PRIZE:          

 

‘Flood’ by Philip Burton (Bacup)

This is a poem which coolly brings this year’s British floods swelling back into the mind’s eye. Like a calm but irrepressible tide, the depiction of that saturation point seeps down the page; that force which ‘came as a dead thing’, that leveller which delivered a ‘super-cooled molten-mirror’.

Mankind’s tenuous tenure of the earth is everywhere: ‘the rustic oak sideboard which made you/ proud, grounded and secure, can’t navigate/ the narrow stairs’.

 

What makes the impact of ‘Flood’ particularly telling is the absence of any first person or self-pity. The tone is slightly detached, almost factual, with the use of the second person underlining powers which, while being beyond our control, are perhaps of our making

 

WILL DAUNT, 11 OCTOBER 2014

ONLY 12 DAYS LEFT TO ENTER THE SENTINEL ANNUAL POETRY & SHORT STORY COMPETITIONS 2013

Closing date: 30th November 2013

 

These competitions are for original, previously unpublished poems and short stories in English Language, in any style, up to 50 lines long (poems) or 2000 words long (stories). Writers of all nationalities living in any part of the world are eligible to enter.

 

Prizes in each category: £500 (First), £250 (Second), £125 (Third) and £25 x 5 (High Commendation)

 

Judges: Roger Elkin (Poetry), David Caddy (Fiction)

 

Have you written a winning poem or story that can take one of the prizes in the £2000 prize pot?  Enter it today online or download an Entry Form at www.sentinelpoetry.org.uk/sawc  

 

The Sentinel Annual Poetry Competition is now in its 4th year, the short story competition in its 2nd year. For information on fees, terms and conditions visit the web pages of the Sentinel Annual Writing Competitions (SAWC) www.sentinelpoetry.org.uk/sawc

 

Organised by Sentinel Poetry Movement – the international community of writers and artists…since December 2002

– a style of Sentinel Writing & Publishing Company Ltd

Judge’s Report & Results, Sentinel Literary Quarterly Short Story Competition (June 2013)

 

by Brindley Hallam Dennis

 

BHDThe first few stories I read, of the nearly one hundred that had been submitted to the competition, were not prizewinners. That was the luck of the draw. Of the following ninety, far too many were far too good to make a judge’s life comfortable.

            I discussed my criteria with a friend. How will you go about it? He asked. I answered that I’d pick the ones that had the greatest impact on me. He would have taken, he said, what he called the ‘bureaucratic’ route, by which he meant having half-a-dozen elements against which he would judge each story.

            I could see the logic in that. A story that ticked all the boxes would be the winning story: obvious. Most of the stories submitted to this competition would have ticked most of the boxes I would have devised: location, character, narrative voice, storyline, ambience, but I suspect I would have ended up with a ‘Ministry of Works’ (an archaic term that I hope still communicates its meaning!) story, ‘a horse designed by a committee.’  It would have been competent, reliable, worthy, politically correct, safe, and not too pungent. All the elements would have been in balance: nothing would have strained to pull the story in any particular direction. In short, it would have been without identity. 

            I don’t react to stories in that way, and I hope that you don’t either. Very many of these stories pleased me. Some made me laugh, one or two made me wince. A few seemed  more like reports of stories than actual stories. Several were marred by slips of the pen, or of the mind; some had poor punctuation that made them difficult to understand. Some gave me the impression that their narrators did not know why they were telling them, nor to whom. One or two seemed like authorial wishful thinking.

            Most were imaginative, exciting, told with passion and commitment. The worlds they envisioned were credible, compelling, often very like ours; sometimes quite different. The stories believed in themselves and, for a while, could be believed in. Reading through them all made me realise just how healthy the short story form, in English, is at the moment. But I had to pick out a mere six, for prizes, and High Commendation.

            Though not tick-boxes, I do have two fundamental questions that I believe must be asked of stories. The first is ‘what is it about?’ This is the question we are almost certain to ask, or think of asking, when somebody tells us they have read something. The second is ‘what is it like?’ This is a question that writers are more likely to ask, because we want to know how it has been done. They are the questions that point to content, and to form. All art tries to balance those two, and it is the tension between them that gives potency to the work.

            I’ve won prizes and commendations in the past, and I’ve also sunk without trace. In both circumstances I’ve reminded myself that it’s one person’s (or perhaps a small panel’s) opinion that has been swayed, for good or ill. It’s worth remembering that the success in writing is in the writing, it is only ‘recognition’ that anyone else can bring to you – and that is limited by their abilities as a reader as much as by yours as a writer!

            The winning story haunted me. From the moment I read it, it remained in the back of my mind. I knew it was a contender immediately, and none of the subsequent stories shifted it from my consciousness. From the title onwards it worked towards its ending. I like powerful endings: Ambrose Bierce, sending us forward into a disaster that we cannot help but foresee in the last two words of The Coup de Grace; Ernest Hemingway, sending us back into the story with fresh understanding after the shattering revelation in the last sentence of A Canary For One. Yet here, I choose a story that has what we might call an open ending. The Weight of Dunlins is a story that is most definitely over though. The narrator has finished telling it, leaving us to wonder: how long ago did it happen? Is he still on the island? Might he meet her again? And think about the qualities of those two ‘wows’ they have exchanged: metaphors for the relationship between them.

            The atmosphere of place, of people located in place and in time, is powerful. The relationship between the protagonists is uneven, and nuanced. That oblique title sets us off on a quest that the explanation of ‘machair’ only deepens, into a story that is at the same time both simple and ‘grounded’, yet also highly imaginative and ethereal.

            My Second prize story is in a totally different genre: The Cranes soon loses its contact with objective reality, before even a foot has been placed on the first rung. Yet, as the protagonist climbs higher the glimpses of reality that he gets become sharper and more powerful as he distances himself from them. The final scenes, the final words, are terrifyingly real.

            Third prize goes to Mah Sister, which I loved for the hutzpah of its language as much as for the neat twist in its tail. As this story progresses, a deft and light narrative thread gives way to a well-handled dialogue. If you havnae heard a Scottish accent before, get your ear in on the internet, and this story will sing to you! And if, like me, you laugh out loud, remember that it is your own assumptions (prejudices we might call them) that lead you to the comic surprise!

            My three Highly Commendeds are Ganesh, The Cosmological Constant, & The 5A to Hangleton.

            Ganesh is a simple story of human contact and communication in a moment of distress. The meeting, across class and culture, is credible and moving.

            The Cosmological Constant shows us the wonderful, obsessive focus of the ‘corporate’ mind on the task in hand, oblivious of the chaos going on around.

            The 5A to Hangleton takes us on a surreal journey, that seems entirely plausible, to the point of normality; but there is triangle of very real people behind it.

           

 

Results (June 2013)

 

Highly Commended, in no particular order:

 

Joy Clews – Ganesh

Rob Hawke – The 5A to Hangleton

Jason Hopps – The Cosmological Constant

 

Third Prize:

James McKenzie – Mah Sister

 

Second Prize:

Rhuar Dean – The Cranes

 

First Prize:  

Colin Watts – The Weight of Dunlins

 

Congratulations to the winners and highly commended authors. These stories will be published in Sentinel Literary Quarterly magazine on 31st January, 2014. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd prize winners automatically appear in print. The highly commended stories may also appear in print, subject to space, otherwise they will be published in the online and eBook versions of the magazine. If you are a winner or commended author and have any questions regarding the publication of your work, send enquiries to editor@sentinelquarterly.com

 


SLQ Competitions

 

SENTINEL LITERARY QUARTERLY POETRY COMPETITION

For original, previously unpublished poems in English language on any subject, in any style up to 50 lines long.

Closing Date: 30th September, 2013

Judge: Todd Swift

Prizes: £150 (1st), £75 (2nd), £50 (3rd), £10 x 3 (High Commendation)

Fees: £4/1, £7/2, £9/3, £11/4, £12/5, £16/7, £22/10

Enter online or by post here


SENTINEL LITERARY QUARTERLY SHORT STORY COMPETITION

For original, previously unpublished short stories in English language on any subject, in any style up to 1500 words long.

Closing Date: 30th September, 2013

Judge: Alex Keegan

Prizes: £150 (1st), £75 (2nd), £50 (3rd), £10 x 3 (High Commendation)

Fees: £5/1, £8/2, £10/3, £12/4

Enter online or by post here