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Judge’s Report and Results, January 2022

We are pleased to announce the results of the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (January 2022) judged by Mark Totterdell.

Go to report>>

Bath Time by Neil Elder

Bath Time

When I’m in the bath, and hear you arriving home,
I’m often sorry that you don’t come in to talk
to tell me about your day, like people do in films.
I would hide my modesty and you would
look lovely sipping chilled pinot grigio from a glass.

Granted, the bathroom is small and we have no chair
in here, and the edge of the bath is too narrow
for you to perch on comfortably,
and I suppose if you did come in I’d only complain
about the heat escaping, and you’d distract me
from my book with inane minutiae of your journey home
and the dismal office politics you can never leave alone.

On reflection I am glad the bathroom is so small
and we are not characters in a film,
because if we were you would be having an affair
that I would discover by chance one afternoon,
when a restaurant I know nothing about calls
to check the reservation you have made, triggering my paranoia
and ending with one of us meeting a watery
and violent death in the bath,
just like in the film you are so fond of.

Bath Time by Neil Elder was highly commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (October 2021) judged by Rachel Long.


Neil Elder’s poetry concerns itself with the gap between what we think we know about people (and ourselves) and what we actually know. His collection The Space Between Us takes its title from this theme. His most recent book, Like This, is available from 4 Word Press. He occasionally blogs at Twitter @Eldersville

Previous works include: Codes of Conduct, shortlisted for a Saboteur Award, winner of the Cinnamon Press pamphlet competition, The Space Between Us, Being Present (BLER), And The House Watches On (Cicero Press), and Like This.

Melanie Banim – Knocking Shop

The first time I hear ‘knocking shop’, there is a wall
between us. My body bends origami-tight in the space
under the stairs. It is Friday, reserved for his visits

and fish; the skirting, the lino, the window ledges blanch
with Mum’s bleach. I finger a day-old biscuit in my blazer
pocket. Oh for Chrissakes, Dave. A cymbal-strike:

the rings of her left hand on the worktop. Tell me
they weren’t underage. I think, Knock: how my sister and I were
taught to ask for the paper – if the man isn’t there,

tap twice on the glass counter, smile without teeth,
take the right change; the Headmaster’s sign, knock to enter;
Mum’s quick knuckles at the doctor’s office.

I survive the stillness of Sundays in late August; ride
in shorts, one foot a rudder, on the trolley through aisles
at B&Q: Help me choose, love – a brass one for the front door?

Our street was still seven days more before he came; I crane
against the window in the box room at the front, to see.
A Lurcher-cross from two doors down, stretched in protest

from Mrs Var’s hand, hunts at a trot, grumbles into the hollow
of a packet of crisps. Next door’s baby crows until it is fed.
That’s why you didn’t turn up for weeks? I hear it first;

his rumble comes in throttled waves across the tarmac. I press
my nose into his leather jacket, slung across the stairs, bat-wing black.
She scrapes her acrylic nails in the steel basin, collects bacon rind,

slivers of onion; her other hand fills the kettle. I don’t know what
you expect me to tell the girls. I unfurl, from under-stairs,
cakey heat between the rolls under my shirt, rehearse a term

in one breath’s worth. Start with the As. I’ve been chosen
to play one of three witches, loads of lines. He snorts
a laugh that charms two grey snakes from his nose:

You’ll pick that up easy. His eyes on her hand, suspended
half of the way. He has to stand to reach the cup.
You’ll learn that from your Mother. How are your

others, she asks; his eldest, we’ve heard, is freshly-slit
from nine pounds seven ounces of her own. He laughs: You know
I never liked kids. Lights off, later, my sister meets me

on the tiles – two prawns in white nighties, slick with sweat.
Mum is there at once to hold back our long, black hair. With
ragged breath, we kneel at the bowl and curse his name.

‘Knocking Shop’ by Melanie Banim won first prize in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (October 2021) judged by Rachel Long.

Melanie grew up in Liverpool, granddaughter of a sprawling Irish Catholic family held together by steely matriarchs. She first published her poetry at university to spotlight the experience of her disabled sister, who is an enduring source of awe. Melanie has dedicated her career to improving education and mental health support for those facing barriers. In 2019, her poetry was selected for the City of Light exhibition. Melanie’s confidence to share her writing grew after a revelatory week of workshops guided by poets, Kate Clanchy and Luke Wright. In her work, she unpicks silences, magnifies marginalised voices, and explores how families can do – and undo – harm.