Tag Archives: oz hardwick


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

Ordinary Love – a poem by Noel Williams

Noel Williams

Ordinary love

I kiss your elbow but you don’t wake.
I kiss your eyelids. Still

the ceremony of not waking you continues.
Certain parts of you remain the same.

Your shoulder, for example, reminds my tongue
of forty-three years. Your hair, however,

unthreads like the blanket, though faint
with that scent of strawberry leaf.

I don’t yearn for what has sanded away
but don’t want to lose it. Sometimes

I think we’re a fiction, barely credible,
our narrator slow to let us leave

although it’s the ordinariness of love
that keeps the reader here.

© Noel Williams 2016

‘Ordinary Love’ by Noel Williams was highly commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (November 2015) judged by Oz Hardwick.

a riddle – poem by Peter Oram

a riddle

He’s a smuggler, bearing certain small
but heavy packages across the borders.
No one knows the powers from whom his orders
come or what authority he’d call
upon, should he be spotted as he drags
himself through brambles or goes burrowing through
the undergrowth. He carries with him few
possessions and his clothes are all in rags –
he doesn’t care: his sole concern is for
the things he carries and the consequence,
should frontier guards discover and inspect them.
He leaves them in left luggage lockers or
on supermarket shelves or under stones,
and no one ever turns up to collect them.

©2016 Peter Oram

a riddle by Peter Oram won second prize in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (November 2015) judged by Oz Hardwick.

Svay Pak Mathematics by Andrea Holland

Svay Pak Mathematics

Jasmine and gasoline settle
at the back of your throat.
The red German leaves a fake
watch, man’s coat and seven dollars.

Three green budgerigars peck and push on the perch,
they love the attention, but they’re left in the lurch.

You forget when you fed them
one rattles a bell,
there’s shit in the corner,
a familiar black smell.

Fourteen dollars in the post

Keep things in place
get struck at the bone,
they hold on like a baby,
you’re never alone

in the heat in the fabric, the stain of what’s shared,
your bra in the bathtub, nobody stares; what’s normal

is fluorescent – the blank
of the wall, the tittle and tattle
the half of the whole.
The birds nod like teachers.

Eleven dollars in the post

Sunrise, the fat lollipop.
Keep things clean
keep things quick,
he pukes up in the sink

and tells you to fix it. Your hair black as spiders
knotted up, pulled and torn, your knuckles scraped out

by cement from the wall,
honey honey honey
he reminds you to call
boom-boom or yummy?

Twelve dollars in the post

You ask for a radio
to cover the cries;
there’s a girl in the next room
the shaky new prize

and not yet thirteen. You see blood in the lies
he tells all the punters: the bullies, the scared

the careless as smoke,
the scarred and the self-made
millionaires: a pair of losers
to divide you between them.

Fourteen dollars in the post

to your mother,
who cannot add it up.

(2016) Andrea Holland

Svay Pak Mathematics by Andrea Holland won the first 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

Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (March 2013)

Oz HardwickClosing Date: 31-March-2013

For original, previously unpublished poems in English Language on any subject, in any style, up to 50 lines long (excluding title). Poems entered should also not be entered into another competition running at the same time. Poets of all nationalities living in any part of the world are eligible to enter.

Prizes: £150 (First), £75 (Second), £50 (Third), £10 x 3 (High Commendation).

Publication: The winners and commended poems will receive first publication in Sentinel Literary Quarterly magazine.

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

Judge: Oz Hardwick

Enter online and pay securely by PayPal or download an Entry Form for postal entry at:


Send Cheques/Postal orders payable to SENTINEL POETRY MOVEMENT with poems, Entry Form or Cover Note to Sentinel Poetry Movement, Unit 136, 113-115 George Lane, South Woodford, London E18 1AB, United Kingdom.