Tag Archives: Gabriel Griffin

Sometimes, in the snow, I think I see – poem by Gabriel Griffin

Sometimes, in the snow, I think I see

the white and silent day shatter
in sound, little men catch up
with the herd of beasts and run
at them, shouting and beating

bones on hide drums, separating
a young one from the rest that
grunts and bellows while they
drive it towards and then over

the edge of a gorge. Swiftly
they climb down the cliff, clamber
over rocks, slid through the dead
beast sharp stones that hiss

cutting into tough hide, then carve
crimson and squelching flesh
into hunks they can carry back
to their women in the caves.

Sated, they stretch their legs
by a fire lit with dried punk, found
in young forests of silver birch
sprung new from the snow after

the great cold abated from
the frozen wasteland of ice that
had been their world for as long
as any had memory. Mammoth meat,

a strong taste in their mouths, bright
flames to keep away auroch, tiger, wolf,
bear. They tell of ice gods whose names
fall as snowflakes, of the swollen goddess

of birth and of death; carve from stones
figurines in her semblance, fashion flutes
from mammoth and vulture bones
and sing with no words to the soft piping.

Some venture far into the mystery, dare
darkness, hidden pits and the cave bear,
to paint their world on rock walls and ceilings:
horses that gallop over frozen lands, bulls pursued

by stick figures with spears, the shaman dancing
with his headdress of horns. And we wonder:
did they know we would come? Did they
leave these for us? And, if so, why?

Sometimes, in the snow, I think I see by Gabriel Griffin was commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (November 2017) judged by Abegail Morley.


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 (isolasangiulio.it ). From 2001 she organises Poetry on the Lake events and competition www.poetryonthelake.org. Her poems have often been prized and published in journals & anthologies: Temenos Academy Review, Orbis, Scintilla, Aesthetica, Sentinel Literary Quarterly, et al.(poetgabrielgriffin.com). 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).


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




Special Mentions:

Labile – Sharon Phillips

Surrender – Kelly Nunnerley

Your windows – L Thompson


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

Young girl gazelle-eyed


When the ten-year old,
packed like a Macdonald’s
take-away, explodes

in chips and nuggets
over the market place
the question coils

in your mind like
a charred wire: just what
did they promise her?


‘Young girl gazelle-eyed’ was highly commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (May 2017)

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


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

This gallery contains 2 photos.

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