Tag Archives: Sean Boustead

Judge’s Report and Results, SLQ Poetry Competition February 2019

SENTINEL LITERARY QUARTERLY POETRY COMPETITION (FEBRUARY 2019)
ADJUDICATOR’S REPORT By MANDY PANNETT

As always, this has been a hard task – very enjoyable but difficult to select from among so many outstanding poems. It was with reluctance that I had to limit my choices to twelve. Themes were plentiful and varied. Several poets, as the list of my winners will show, wrote about dementia and the care of the sick or elderly. There was rich array of poems about the seasons, weather, flora and fauna, eco concerns and climate change. Relationship poems were written with skill and there was an appreciable number of entries about art and artists, historical figures, books and the writing of poetry.

I enjoyed reading a number of prose poems and I was especially pleased to see several original pieces that experimented with typography, lineation and white space. An extra pleasure came from finding poems based on sound patterning.

Thank you to all entrants for letting me share your poems. It has been a moving experience.

1st Prize. Duty of Care

The theme of this outstanding poem, as the title suggests, is the sense of obligation underpinning the care needed for a partner suffering from advanced dementia. This is a case of love not altering when it alteration finds. Needs and duties become reciprocal. ‘I could get carers,’ says the husband, ‘but the woman cared for me.’ A sad, chilling line.

The tone of writing is laconic, understated and casual, the theme seemingly straightforward narrative But this is a poem based on incongruence. Snatches of conversation, as two old friends share their mutual hobby of swapping cigarette cards, are juxtaposed with details that highlight the dilemma and heartache of on-going care. And yet these details are handled with a light touch. The ‘unresponsive’ and ‘expressionless’ wife has to stay in the car because ‘Incontinence pads,/ apparently, are not infallible. He smilingly declines to put/our three-piece suite at risks.’ It’s the use of that word ‘smilingly’ that is so poignant. The outward show, the facade that shows the cracks beneath. Fragments of phrases, incomplete thoughts. The ‘bafflement’ of it all. The tenderness under the pain.

There is more to this winning poem, though, than a brilliantly handled narrative. Every word or phrase seems chosen for its nuances and undertones. The host’s wife is ‘dead-heading’ flowers, the cards are ‘weeded’, the wife is ‘unmoving’, the husband drives away with ‘the residue’ not only of left-over cards but, by implication, the scraps that remain of two lives.

2nd prize. Winter Morning visit to the sun king’s palace

The title caught my attention immediately followed by its sharpness of language and imagery. Everything here on this freezing, early morning is white, silent, icy and shimmering – painful too as winter light shatters, splinters, flashes. Hoarfrost has tossed ‘its crystal needles in the night.’

And then there is the gold. And the fire that the gold inspires in the couple whose relationship is secret, dangerous, burning.

This poem is brilliant in the way it conveys a sense of place. I love the movement in it , the way it begins outside the gate, then the couple step inside stamping their boots, wander through ‘the silent frozen halls’. Next they move into the freezing gardens, see ‘fountains,/statues, paths and sculptured trees’ shining ‘in a white and lunar light’. Here, for a moment, though cold and short of money, they are like monarchs with ‘courtiers of ice’ being spied on ‘by squinting frost’.

A stunning poem of place with a doomed relationship at the heart of it. This may be the sun-king’s palace but no sun reduces the ice while words that might mend are too frozen to melt.

3rd Prize You asked me

This is an enigmatic poem and it is the quality of strangeness that makes the writing special for me. That and the superb use of language.

There is an extraordinary tension in the writing. I don’t pretend to ‘understand’ the back story but I am totally gripped by the atmosphere of the piece, the sense of striving for perfection, for exactness and things that are ‘true’, for that moment when the axe splits the grain in wood and it is ‘white and honey/and scented, when each split piece sings,/that simple bright note.’

There is so much to admire in the poem – the effective use of anaphora, the three line stanza shape, the line endings, the simplicity and precision of language. If I had to choose just one thing I find memorable it would be the image of the dark hawk seen on a man’s wrist, outside the off-license ‘on a day of wet snow’. That image, the mood and feeling of something allegorical that it conveys, will haunt me for a very long time.

Highly Commended. Scrabble with Mother

This is a marvellous poem with its unique slant on the theme of dementia. There is compassion, tenderness and honesty in every line.

The opening is blunt. ‘Mother is lonely and daft. Her friends all died.’ But then begins the extended metaphor of the game of scrabble juxtaposed with memory’s loss. The tiles, like the mother’s mind, ‘are worn, almost blank.’

The poem, like memory, unravels slowly, beginning with the child in a high-chair and continuing for forty years. What doesn’t change is the bond between them, the love that endures even though ‘each day she/is less, but never removed.’

There are so many memorable lines. I won’t spoil the reader’s pleasure by quoting more. This is a rare poem.

Highly Commended. Between us

How cleverly the poet sets the scene and touches on the theme of leaving: ‘I will wash up for you before I leave/but, right now, the morning/can’t bear too much activity.’ After-the-party chaos is further detailed in the mashed-up remains of the birthday cake, the crisp packet that ‘blossoms’ out of a wine glass. Holding a cup of tea seems to be the only warmth between the couple, the only kind of physical contact. There is ‘space’ between them. We are given echoes of days when they talked, shared domestic issues to do with the flat such as how to protect woollen clothes from moths.

Here, with the reference to moths, we have the wonderful turn in the poem which I admire tremendously and which is the main reason I selected ‘Between Us’ for the winners’ list. The image of the brown moth is so immediate and striking – a quick ‘clap’, speedy as a sudden decision, and it’s ‘dead in my palm’ says the narrator. The moth’s body goes down the sink, is washed away. What remains, for the narrator, is the image of flight.

Highly Commended. The Wonder Years

This is a stunning stream of consciousness poem, both sensuous and sensual, that uses rapid associations, broken syntax and non-punctuation to achieve its effect. One can tease some sort of a narrative out of it – there is love, lust, sickness, heartache and death – but this is not writing that relies on a linear or logical approach.

Read it on the page, read it out loud. Both ways will reveal the richness of language. Let the repetitions of ‘limp-wristed boy’ and other phrases work on you, listen to the sound of lines such ‘how now/brown cow how now droopy-eyed droopy-/lipped limp-wristed boy my hand is on your/heartbeat feel me riding your waves’

A hypnotic, beautiful poem. One to read over and over again.

Commended. Leaves

There is horror in this poem but it is skilfully underplayed so enhancing the impact. I like the subtle way this poem is developed beginning with the alteration to colour caused by ‘June rain’, elaborating this idea with the example of ‘scribbles of green’, then the introduction of an imaginary naughty child – ‘as if’ a child had felt-penned some illustrations of the liberation of Bergen-Belsen. Then, in the second stanza, we have the wonderful turn which considers the almost impossibility of finding any leaves in such a setting but still manages to find some possibilities among weeds, barbed-wire and broken branches and twigs. The poem ends with the comparison of an owl crashed into a windscreen – something natural becoming a victim of the man-made.

Commended. Tinted Glasses

This poem strikes me as close to perfection. Like several entries in this competition it is one I wish I had written myself. I love the opening line ‘Today I follow Baudelaire’s advice and go out drunk on poetry’. The narrator is determined to hold on to this mood all day, even if (or maybe because) it distances him from tragedy and distress. He has a strategy for dealing with such things: ‘I spray denial from my can of verse’. Later, he finds ‘apt similes’ for ‘bitter acid rain’.

Details of incidents are noted with precision and detachment. There is the implication that a child has been killed but we all we see is a small hand and a sleeve ‘patterned with pussycats, or possibly rabbits.’ This is a poem that will stay with me.

Commended. Trees

An apparently simple poem about someone wishing he/she could identify individual trees and birds. Musing on this dilemma leads to an analogy with a family tree – which, in the end, seems to be of little help.

There are many superb images. Figs are ‘a poet’s orchard/ripe for the thief’, details in the family tree are ‘written in blood where anxious/kings dictate by might.’ The poet’s father is afraid that learning to name things might ‘misplace’ the narrator’s ‘awe of him’.

But the main reason I selected this poem is because of its form, the pattern of lines, the use of white space, the perfect delineation.

Special Mention. Rhinoceros

The rhino of the title, taken from its natural habitat to be electronically fitted with a tracking device, is being returned, doped up and is ‘out cold’, upside down in its harness below a helicopter. A short poem but brilliant in its use of language. The creature is lowered gently, ‘infinitely gently’ into the wilderness that is supposed to be ‘its promised land’. Later it will wake ‘unknowingly unwilded.’ I love the sound patterning of ‘rhinoceros’ with ‘preposterousness’ – clever and full of feeling.

Special Mention. Garden

This poem begins with a superb image ‘From the thistle’s mouth white/noise lifts’. The poet’s choice of the exactly right word continues. A caterpillar ‘erases’ a leaf, lice ‘taxi’, a grub ‘fingers’ in an apple, a hoverfly is a bead ‘on an invisible abacus’. My favourite image is of nettles that are ‘seedy and voluptuous.’

This is an original and very fine piece of writing.

Special Mention. The Guy

There is deception in this title. Certainly, we are given a detailed account of the Guy on the bonfire, how he is designed, what he is wearing, the stages of the fire as it flames through a ‘cold tickle, a blush-red whoosh, the burning in a ‘lit mess’.

Yet all this takes place in ‘One slow moment’ and it is in this moment of pause that the poem turns, shifts into the space of ‘a haunted silence’, a moment that feels uplifting and spiritual. And then there is the final ambiguous line with its hint of a back story: a love story ended, perhaps a broken home.

A clever and atmospheric poem. It continues to haunt me.

– Mandy

THE RESULTS

Special mentions

Mark Totterdell – Rhinoceros
Sean Boustead – The Guy
Giles Goodland – Garden

Commended

Wendy Klein – Leaves
Angelena Demaria – Tinted Glasses
Paul Fleckney – Trees

Highly commended

Giles Goodland – Scrabble with Mother
Iona May – Between Us
Neil Flynn – The Wonder Years

Third prize

John Foggin – You asked me

Second prize

Gabriel Griffin – Winter Morning visit to the sun king’s palace

First prize

Peter Wyton – Duty of Care

Many thanks to Mandy Pannett for a thorough and well done job. No doubt she will be looking forward to the results; to find out whose poems she has specially mentioned, commended or awarded a prize. For me, this is the most fun part of organising these competitions – matching the winning poems with their writers. My joy is fuller when I see previous winners of our competitions return to participate and place again among the prizewinners; Mark Totterdell, Gabriel Griffin, Sean Boustead, Angelena Demaria, and John Foggin – first time Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition prizewinner, but winner of the Sentinel Poetry Book prize with Gap Year (co-authored with Andy Blackford.)

Thank you for your continued support of Sentinel Literary Quarterly. Our competitions are independent, funded by your entry fees, and our own little chip ins. Not supported by any public funds whatsoever, we have counted on the support of our staunch friends who have stood by us through the rough and the smooth times. The Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition will be ten years old in July 2019, all I can say, on behalf of the entire Sentinel crew is thank you. Without you, we would never haver made it this far.

Mandy Pannett will return to judge our competition again in February 2020. Meanwhile, feel free to enter the May 2019 competition to be judged by Terry Jones.

Congratulations all.

Nnorom Azuonye
Administrator, Sentinel Poetry Movement

Manifest

SEAN BOUSTEAD

In fairness they were as surprised as I,
exhausting the manifest and finding
I was seated already on the short flight.
A cop set his hand on his white patent
leather holster – a father giving cold
consolation to a child, it seemed. But
this was just a dream and I dreamt the gate
opening to me, and if the cop called out
violently, if the cop said nothing,
it was lost in the assumed moment.
Instead a lightless corridor presented
and I spoke as I walked it:
I am only
dreaming.
And then I dreamt myself onboard
a soundless plane, and now I think of it
the silence was a strange, integral thing.
Or did I notice the silence at the time,
surprised out of remembering the thought
the instant I sighted my other, travelled self?
He was strapped in his seat, reading Alvaro
de Campos’ poem “So many gods”,
not that it matters. None of it matters –
that I sat to speak with him, nor what I meant
to say, nor what I now imagine meaning.
Read what you will into my reaching
to touch him, my leaning into his lips,
my watching as his lips began to open.
It was only a dream, and a dream drifts
moment to moment of desire and fear,
and I watched in the dream as the dream shifted.
Now I walked alone in a field of cow-
shit. Words I had intended for that man
I sent into an empty world, now.

 

Manifest by Sean Boustead was highly commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (November 2018) judged by Dominic James.

Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (November 2018)

Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (November 2018)

Adjudication Report by Dominic James

 

It’s a curious thing to make the close acquaintance of so many poems over a short time without choosing them or knowing who wrote them, only accepting they must be heard and, to a greater extent than usual, judging each on its own merits. I should approach more the same.  Before getting to the substance of the report, a few words on my own house style; spelling and grammar.  I am disposed to take a poem as it comes. Misspelled words are a distraction, misplaced or missing apostrophes wrinkle the surface and the reader must iron them out, but no matter.  I wouldn’t want to lose good spoken work for want of formal regulation on the page, and grammar can pretty much look after itself, so long as the meaning or impact is clear enough; we are dealing with poetry here.

 

After a first, slow read, trying out impressions, I gave the work a few days then returned to apply myself to each poem’s intentions, style and imagery. There were many arresting moments and kaleidoscopic impressions as my reactions were directed this way and that.  This was anticipated, a second reading is often required to open up a poem’s meanings. At this stage I began separating those I wouldn’t keep.  I was figuring the mechanics of the work, for instance, how a last line diminished the overall effect, just as sometimes it would redeem a poem that seemed to be losing its way, bringing it to a cogent end.  And inevitably my personal preferences had begun showing through.

 

At this point I would like to indicate some of my thoughts on poetry – nothing too surprising I hope –as applied to my criteria in approaching the competition.  Firstly, on content and delivery: a poem can be in the first person, declaring, I, I, me, so long as the effect allows the general to be placed over the particular.   That is to say, a poem should allow us to match it with our own thoughts, letting it give words to our perceptions, whether it is Milton’s Samson: “you’ll find me/Eyeless in Gaza at the mill with slaves,” blind among his enemies, or Owen, shelled by gas in the Great War: “Dim through the misty panes and thick green light/ As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.”  A poem should raise our common awareness: its sympathy is lost if the piece belongs too particularly to the writer.

 

Then, at least according to its own intentions, a poem should read well.  With that in mind I’m afraid that what are clearly typos, or unedited mistakes have damaged the impact of some entries. Again, I must take the work as it comes, it is not my place to apply even the simplest corrections. Further, tone must be considered, rhyme is not an end in itself and, allowing that the measure of a piece is beyond my understanding, I would still like to enjoy some fealty of sound, a well-turned phrase – and there have been plenty of those. This more or less reaches the limits of my office as a judge.  Of other qualities, not that it applies here: even if a poem is a fabrication from start to finish, as a reader I should still like to sense the truth of it. Otherwise, it’s hardly worth the trouble of its making.

 

If your poem failed to progress further, that is not say I didn’t respond to its heartfelt pride or grief, to the validity of its wry humour. With about 30 poems selected as I approached my shortlist, I would like to mention some poems which didn’t make the final selection. Outpatients, conjuring mortality with spicy food was dark indeed, the vehemence of Streetwise derailed as the urgency of its despair overtook the writer, as with several other poems received, I would suggest that it would gain from another work through. Finding the real Ireland was highly enjoyable but lost its thrust with a few lines I found out of place or unclear and Remembering You, which I liked very much, particularly for its figure of the wall flowers, could not quite find its own pace.  Biro from the Nymphe, I read three times before the penny finally dropped. Must we read a poem’s title as its first line?  Can a title be assumed an integral part of the whole?  I have my doubts, but in any case, I’m not sure the poet played fair: and quite right too.  My thanks to all entrants for sending in their work.

The results below, with the top 3 followed by the highly commended and then the commended listed in no particular order.

 

First Prize: 

Mooncalf – Catherine Rose

 

This poem succinctly measures out with great presence its compassion for the fading senses at a death bed scene. The arrangement of the verse carefully orders its pace and sense and the tone suits very well the accuracy and hardship of its thought.  A fine poem, the first stanza as follows:

She gazes or sleeps;
there is no between.
                          Her milk-glazed stare
                                        exists somewhere
                                                     in the space where a thumb was moistened,
                          the page turned.

 

Second Prize:  

We Lived in a Beautiful HouseHannah-Lee Osborn

 

I am a little bruised to have come across several poems where it appears men take a bashing, but, fair enough.  There is no stepping off point with this poem, it works very well.  There are shades of Goya’s awful gargoyle sitting on the sleeper’s chest, the very picture of mental distress. Even the first line has menace, it puts me in mind of Jane Eyre’s bedroom, though with a dangerous visitor of the same sex, also with recall to a once beautiful house.  Sometimes verging on the overblown, this poem supplies just enough self-confidence to level out its inner turbulence.

 

Third Prize:

Third Culture KidHarsh Ramchandani

 

Set in a modern fruit market with produce …Foreign yet/somehow familiar…  this poem reveals its nature obliquely among the pears – “How bland and miserable they are” – and in doing so suggests what has been stomached to achieve it.  As a proclamation it is not precisely understated, it even baulks against the language, still, its subtle balance of sharp and mild is well achieved and its metaphor well taken.

 

Highly Commended

 

Migratory – David Crann

 

It soars, troubles and settles lightly on the mind.  The necessary comparisons are timely, of course; I think the poem’s lasting impression, between flight and landing will be its reminder that we do right to consider the birds.  Home to roost always sounds right.

 

ManifestSean Boustead

 

Man is a rum animal.  It is fairly well established that we inform ourselves of ourselves in dreams and though we might resist their direct reportage in verse, still the tightening rhythm of this atmospheric and characterful poem nicely compacts its own meanings. Though the poet might not fully comprehend the material, we are directed to the sane understanding that we each consist of “So many gods”.  An engaging poem.

 

The Migraine – Lizzie Smith

 

This short verse ably supplies the condition, and certainly earns its high commendation.

 “…pounding left temple/Left temple…

Turns bowels to water,
Reduces me to a jellyfish
Craving cover in a cave.”

 

Commended

 

Bombardier to CaptainDavid Lohrey

A rendition of childhood from an older perspective.  This ranging poem focuses on Dad, “gone now, thank goodness” and touchingly maintains the affections of familiarity despite all.  And childhood is rich:

“How large the Pippin loomed over the police academy. German
shepherds lunged at padded arms as men in black set fires
with smoke as thick as cotton candy…”

 

Albedo Rob Sanders

 

“White,
like the implacable blankness of the page,
the mind,
with its need to be filled.

It’s snowing…”

A glacial mantle negates and re-establishes the world, and we are moved on a grand scale as human qualities merge with their global counterparts in freeze and thaw: great scope this poem.

 

GideonHarsh Ramchandani

 

A ballade.  It is easy indeed to read a rhyming poem.  The form suits well the subject; love here in its intimate affection of a shared life. To describe it as a poem of adoration wouldn’t be pitching it too high, and I judge it knows well enough what it purports to the outside world.  A well-crafted piece.