Category Archives: Sentinel Champions

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.

Lethal theory



The IDF in Nablus walk through walls

eviscerating living rooms, inverting geometry.

Where streets prickle with barricades

walls become the easy street, mapped

by laser, admitted by C4.


Terror strides through bricks,

tramples floors, metastasises

house to house, performing its laparotomy

under the civil skin.


Our home is theoretical, a thoroughfare

for RPGs, bedroom Ops Centre for an hour.

For our wellbeing, mother and child trussed

under the camo of convenience.


That’s not mud on the carpet.


“Lethal theory” by Noel Williams won first prize in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (August 2017) judged by Oz Hardwick


Noel Williams publishes internationally in magazines such as Envoi, San Pedro River Review, Wasafiri, Iota, The North and The Rialto. He’s won several prizes, with four nominations for the Forward Prize and one for the Pushcart. He was the first Poet in Residence at Sheffield’s Bank Street Arts Centre, where he’s also exhibited several times. He’s co-editor of Antiphon magazine (, Reviews Editor for Orbis (, a mentor for other writers and Professor Emeritus at Sheffield Hallam University. His first collection was Out of Breath in 2014. A pamphlet, Point Me at the Stars, is due in 2018. Website:

In transit



with a trunkful of history inside you  

readied for the always questions of why

and what and how while the guard sits

like a checkpoint at the locked gate

to the hard-fenced field of words


as you struggle to blacken

the blanks on the dotted line,

fearing the shadow behind his

“where you from?” smile and touch

while his mates eye gender and dress


and judge your way of saying “I”

as if origin lies in the curve of face

or faults of the tongue and eye

before opening a hand, an ear or heart

or instead some knuckle-fisted rant,


yet you unlock the skin you hide in

to lay yourself out for their vetting

with the always hope of maybe

just maybe this time

your feet will root in another place



“In transit” by Greta Ross won second price in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (August 2017) judged by Oz Hardwick.


A retired doctor, Greta has been writing poems as long as she can remember. Born in Australia, she now lives in England and is a member of the Canterbury writing group SaveAs. Greta has published a first collection ‘Facts of Life’ as well as poems online and in anthologies. Her poems incline towards the political, but she tries to avoid being judgmental. She is married, and both she and her husband continue to enjoy exploring different cultures. Perhaps if science enables humans to live to 150 she might succeed in getting through all the still unread books on her bookshelf.






after ‘The Penitent Magdalen’ by Georges de La Tour


Nothing like a skull
to keep you company
on a night with no
clients; wolves
howling in the wind,
the window slammed
tight to stop the flame
from dancing
and nothing left
of Him
but your thoughts
like all the years
dropping with the wax
thick and wrinkled.

“Vanitas” by Gabriel Griffin won third prize in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (August 2017) judged by Oz Hardwick.

Gabriel Griffin lives on Isola St Giulio, Lake Orta, Italy ( ). From 2001 she organises Poetry on the Lake events and competition Her poems have often been prized and published in journals & anthologies: Temenos Academy Review, Orbis, Scintilla, Aesthetica, Sentinel Literary Quarterly, et al.( Author of Along the old way: a pilgrimage from Orta to Varallo in the company of Samuel Butler (Wyvern Works 2010); St Giulio’s Isle, (Wyvern Works 2015), L’uomo verde nel Cusio (Le Rive 2001), Videomanual (Hoepli 1980). Her novel The Monastery of the Nine Doors won 2nd in Yeovil this year (2017).

The Softening


How my lover became less elemental is hard to say.
The day the fire melted from his bones and the sweat
on his brow turned to sugar, fell beyond calendars.
I noticed it when we stopped talking of dragons
and the sex on TV made him cry.
I would hold on to him, hold him by the shoulders, narrower now,
hold him by the hand in case he thought
he would whirl away like a bewildered leaf.

And in nightmares spent fumbling off the sheets
to the crêpey curl of his moaning,
I loved him more,
folding him twice at first, then later three times to me
in remembrance of how it used to be.

On evenings of fierce moonlight
he was calm, when the garden reflected
his similar insubstantial shadow.
All was the same then.
Even the trees looked familiar.

“The Softening” by Diane Cook was highly commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (August 2017) judged by Oz Hardwick

Diane Cook is a poet, playwright, short story writer and a founding member of Congleton Writers’ Forum, a Cheshire-based group which has just celebrated 25 years of productive writing. She has gained awards for plays, short stories and poetry, including First Prize in the Sentinel Annual Poetry Competition 2015. As well as co-writing and editing a poetic narrative Slaughter by the Water based on the true story of the Congleton Cannibal, she has also directed her own psychological drama Splinter; and her tragi-comedy We Would Have Noticed The Moon has been filmed as a black box TV play was screened in 2016.

Frozen Ringtone


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.



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


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.

Your Windows


Your windows are not like my windows;
your windows care nothing about public opinion.

Your windows are high-born and sashed,
flung up wide, spurning net and blind,

silly little louvres and prissy gold keys,
and small sad stickers saying I Check ID,

and every cringing and conscripted and servile
curtsey to respectability. Your windows stretch

and arch, greet the seasons like cats,
quiver for spring, shimmy for summer,

bristle for autumn. Your windows
wear the rain like goose pimples

on skin rubbed at odds to the grain,
and smell cold and sooty as snow.

Your windows are single-glazed, Georgian,
lethally dangerous, clear-eyed.

They admit the sun to rows of books,
they yield a field of wit and knowing.

My windows are glass in name only;
they are deaf and nearly mute. They muffle,

bend light, repel glances with a plastic glare.
My windows are swagged with drapery,

and yours are shamelessly, brazenly bare.
I display some nylon flowers in a vase,

craving approval from all quarters,
and your window laughs and laughs and laughs.

“Your Windows” by L Thompson received a special mention in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (August 2017) judged by Oz Hardwick.

Thompson lives in Belfast and has been writing for a number of years. She has had poems published in Cannon’s Mouth and Ware poets.

Our Father


I pad about the house from room to room, a sullen ghost
doing its damnedest to bed down for the night.

Noise follows me like dust. The kids have multiplied.
In the kitchen I skulk through walls, softly become obsolete.

A radio is turned-up too loud. In my head I tune it out.
The dog catches my eye, seems to empathise.

A sudden shriek from the living room —
on TV someone is howling life at such a pitch

it seems grown men no longer compromise
or find the place to hide inside their skin.

“our Father” by Michael Brown was commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (August 2017) judged by Oz Hardwick

Michael writes from Middlesbrough.



is a word you should not confuse
with labial, which describes parts
of the vagina commonly called lips
and in effect means lippy, taking
you back to your teenage strops
and to the first lipstick you bought,
its plastic tube labelled ‘rose wine’,
a pink that suited your skin so well
you still look in vain to find its match,
though at your age its formula might
be liable to seep from your mouth
in runnels, slippery as eyeshadow
melted by the tears you can’t control.

“Labile” received a special mention in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (August 2017) judged by Oz Hardwick.

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