Category Archives: General

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.

Results and Judge’s Report, SLQ Poetry Competition October 2021

We are pleased to announce the results of the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (October 2021) judged by Rachel Long.

Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (October 2021)
Judge’s report by RACHEL LONG

This has been such a rich experience. I have so enjoyed reading each entry. All were so varied. I feel like I’ve been on an extraordinary journey through the universe of each poem.

Here are my ‘winners’ and my comments on each below:

1st prize: Knocking Shop

This is a poem of empathy and exquisite range. It succeeds at being an intimate portrait of a specific experience, a childhood, a family life and history as well as absolutely achieving scope and range; the universality of growing up and understanding a complicated world, a poem, a whole lifetime rendered onto the page.

2nd prize: Maybe one day I will love you

A surreal and very real poem. A poem that gets to the grit of love.

3rd prize: Like you know Bolognese is slang for funny

What a brilliant meditation on the end of love/a relationship — unflinchingly and originally captured, so closely.

Highly Commended:

Bath Time: An immediate, active, present and heart-wrenching poem! A film in and of itself.

An Absent Father: The language in this poem is bright and fresh, ‘telephone box red’. The relationship rendered so stark and stunning. I was blown away by this!

Home Sweet Home: A real/surreal brilliant poem, that moves between realms and feeling to explore the home, the heart.


Night Talk: this poem remembers and knows what it is to fall and be in/under the state of love. Brilliantly, sensitively and surreally.

Perspectives: A masterclass in metaphoring noticing, the poetic eye.

Who Shall Wall/ Self from myself: A stunning poem, in premise, language, voice.

Special Mentions:

Pokemon in the Cemetery: A unique look at death/grief, and set against our relationship to gaming and ‘play’ — genius!

The Certainty of your Goodness: What a beautiful and otherworldly poem. A night boat of a poem into the mist of knowing.

Losing Tattoos like the Final Minutes of Twilight: A subline link and exploration made between inked skin, the nature of leaving, and the surreal.


1st Prize Knocking Shop by Melanie Banim (Liverpool, UK)
2nd Prize Maybe one day I will love you
by Mary Mulholland (London, UK)
3rd Prize Like you know Bolognese is slang for funny
by Mary Mulholland (London, UK)
Highly Commended Bath Time by Neil Elder (Middlesex, UK)
Highly Commended An Absent Father by Melanie Banim(Liverpool, UK)
Highly Commended Home Sweet Home 
by Eve Chancellor (Manchester, UK)
Commended Night Talk by Roberta Bassetti
(Summer Hill, Australia)
Commended Perspectives by D’Angelo (London, UK)
Commended Who Shall Wall/ Self from myself 
by Klara Hughes (Nicosia, Cyprus)
Special Mention: Pokemon in the Cemetery
by Clare Starling (London, UK)
Special Mention: The Certainty of your Goodness
by Hugo Jeudy (Paris, France)
Special Mention Losing Tattoos like the Final Minutes of
Twilight by D’Angelo(London, UK)

23rd October 2021

The nature of monstrosity and how scientific invention can be used for good or ill; the humiliation of women, loss and betrayal, the need for refuge and the urge for flight – these are all explored in the sequence of poems that make up ‘The Daedalus Files‘. But who was Daedalus? In the Greek myth he was a heart-broken father, creating wings that led to the drowning of his son, Icarus. But he was also a designer of statues that seemed lifelike and a labyrinth for the minotaur, a hybrid beast. Twists inside your soul/are well concealed. Was Daedalus inventor or villain? The Daedalus Files is a new book of poetry by Mandy Pannett – author of All the Invisibles, Bee Purple, Frost Hollow and Jongleur in the Courtyard.

By from SPM Publications | Buy from

Sentinel Champions Stories #2 – Mandy Pannett

The first time Mandy Pannett and Sentinel Literary Quarterly met was in July 2009. She entered our maiden competition judged by Bob Beagrie (author of Civil Insolences and Leasungspell) and Andy Willoughby (author of Tough and Between Stations). Mandy’s “The God of Allotments” won third prize in that competition. Andy and Bob wrote in their adjudication report that the choice of this poem as third prize winner was because of “…its capacity to be intensely personal but to touch a universal chord with its mixture of rhetorical examination of the love affair, its restrained language that makes the sense of mourning much more powerful and its judicious inclusion and editing of specific concrete detail with a well judged movement between mundanity and deep pathos.”

Mandy placing in that competition has led to a beautiful relationship which has seen her serve as Poetry Editor of Sentinel Literary Quarterly for five years, and editor of two anthologies published by SPM Publications, namely; Bridgewatcher and Other Poems (2013) in aid of the Psychiatry Research Trust and Poems for a Liminal Age (2015) in aid of Médecins Sans Frontières. Over the years, she has judged many of our competitions and likes to enter some herself when she is not judging. In October 2020 her poem “Enjoying Sunlight with John Donne in Derek Jarman’s Garden” was highly commended in the SLQ competition judged by Roger Elkin.


We were lovers for forty years.
Now you are dead.

Here on the allotment, others
will grow the scarlet runners, loving their blossom,
like you.

Why did we keep it a secret?
Guilt at reneging on vows?

Someone is threading up silver CDs in a bid to frighten the birds.
“mirrors for pigeons,” you’d say.

I don’t even know if they scattered your ashes or when.

Remember our shed – how we’d pretend
to be sorting out seeds and the door would casually

At times I thought the walls themselves would collapse.

Shall I go down to our pond?
That very last time it was covered in scum.
You said it was hot, kept coughing-

Were you dying and I didn’t know?

There’s no-one to talk to now, about you.
Only the god of allotments,
if he is in.

We always thought there’d be time for us –
at least for mingling our dust together,
as lovers do.

“The God of Allotments” was also published in Champion Poems #1