Category Archives: Poetry

SLQ Daily 09 August 2020

On Mr Covid, Dragons and Ghosts

Our read of the day on the 9th of August 2020 is Mandy Pannett’s review of Jocelyn Simms’ Tickling the Dragon. Featured in this book is the poem ‘Les Fleurs d’Azur’ with which Simms won the first prize in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition in May 2016.

Our blast from the past today is ‘Ghosts’ – a poem by Durlabh Singh, author of Poems of Excellence. ‘Ghosts’ first appeared in Sentinel Poetry (Online) in May 2003.

Today, I have also chosen to give you a break from seeing a plug of the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition closing on 31st October to be judged by Roger Elkin. This does not in any way at all mean that if you have been thinking of entering this weekend you should not do so. Chuckle! Sip coffee! Go on then, click on this link and do something about prizing your poem.

Finally, if today’s weather is great where you live, enjoy it to the max, responsibly, in safety. Please, please, don’t play chicken with that fellow Mr Covid. He does not play fair. Have a brilliant Sunday and be ready for a productive and blessed week ahead.

– Nnorom Azuonye.


Read of the day

Title: TICKLING THE DRAGON
Author: Jocelyn Simms
Publisher: Circaidy Gregory Press
Price: £8.99
Reviewer: MANDY PANNETT

Tickling the Dragon by Jocelyn Simms is a stunningly original and moving compilation of poetry, factual information, photographs and individual testimonies about the agony inflicted on the people of Hiroshima, Nagasaki and elsewhere. Tragedy on a massive scale.

The book, which the author describes as her ‘journey of discovery’ begins with sixteen of her own poems followed by historical notes. In the second part, ironically called ‘Island in the Sun’ we are confronted by the chilling impact of photographs taken and postcards with cheerful messages written at the time.

First, the poems. A kaleidoscope of grief though skilfully pared down and understated. Syntax shifts from poem to poem, voices speak in the first person, third person, as witnesses, survivors, as suffering animals. There is a wide range of tones – conversational, colloquial, detached and starkly factual, poignant and wonderfully lyrical. Throughout, there are undertones of irony – codenames, military terms, endearing nicknames for bombs juxtaposed with appalling, barbarous details.

There is an emphasis on time in the poems. The first poem in the sequence, ‘Cutie’ begins in 1918 at an apparently innocuous camp on Lake Ontario where a ‘brilliant boy’ is staying. A boy, they say, who is ‘brighter than a thousand suns.’ An optimistic beginning but the tone turns ominous as we are presented with shocking details about the boy being bullied and tied up as his genitals are covered with green paint. A clever twist in the last lines reveals the fourteen year old victim is the young Oppenheimer. ‘It must have been hell,’ is the author’s ironic comment.

The poem ‘Enola Gay’ continues the focus on time for this was the title of an anti-war song in 1980 with lyrics that contain the phrase about the fatal moment when the first atomic bomb was dropped: ‘it’s eight-fifteen, that’s the time it’s always been’. There are colours too: after the bomb the sky is ‘the prettiest blues and pinks’ while the carcass of Hiroshima leaves ‘a boiling rainbow’.

Jocelyn Simms has written a superb set of poems for Tickling the Dragon. The one that stands out for me for poignancy and sheer quality of writing is ‘Les Fleurs d’Azur’. The setting is Hiroshima, 6th- 8th August 1945. Horrors are depicted – clearly but without comment: ‘The undead, open-mouthed,/gulp as globules of black rain fall.’ When the mother discovers her daughter ‘A white liquid oozes from her. Maggots/spawn in yellow wounds.’ Horrors in abundance, almost too painful to read. But there is beauty as well, and compassion. The theme of this poem, in spite of everything, is love.

Following on from the remarkable set of poems in Tickling the Dragon we are given brief notes on the historical background – the facts, the statements, the evidence of secrecy, connivance, betrayal, the dreadful emphasis on measuring, testing, experimenting with no responsibility taken for actions but only a total indifference to life.

A skilfully presented section but then we have the impact of original photographs lovingly preserved by families – the young men on a burnt beach smiling into the camera, the postcards sent home with messages of hope saying that all will be well.

And as a backcloth to the images, the notes, the poems, we have all the     un-written words, the un-heard voices of the dead and dying.

Tickling the Dragon is outspoken, brave and superbly written. An important book. Read it for yourselves and you’ll see.

It seems appropriate to end this review with Jocelyn Simms’ own comment and the quotation she has chosen:

“Until we take responsibility for our actions, maybe heed the Navajo chant ‘Remember what you have seen, because everything forgotten returns to the circling winds,’ the cycle of war, tyranny and vengeance will continue.” SLQ

**********
Mandy Pannett is the author of All the Invisibles
Web page https://sentinelquarterly.com/mandy-pannett/
**********



Blast from the past

DURLABH SINGH
Ghosts

So many ghosts in wandering nights
Clutching at the strings of the heart
A song of dissonance in progress
Sweeping away with long bony fingers
The partial parchments of the syntax.

So many motions in wandering nights
Striking the moon , thundering clouds
Onslaughting mind with sharp edges
Raising voices in apostles of whispers.

Starry nights in the processes of culling
The ghosts resident of the skies
The winds scratching at windowed pane
There is a turbulence in the heavens
Perhaps constructing protections
Against the shadows of the driven.

**********

‘Ghosts’ by Durlabh Singh was published in Sentinel Poetry (Online) Magazine, May 2003. Singh is the author of Poems of Excellence.

**********

SLQ Daily 08 August 2020

Read of the day

David Lohrey

DAVID LOHREY
Bombardier to Captain

First the sky, black or blue, depending on the time.
By day, Memphis blazes, 100 degrees in the shade;
the sky, robin blue. At night, there are lightning bugs galore
and stars, eerie, dazzling and quiet, as from the Mississippi,
slaves once dragged bales across cobblestones.

The bridge was too far so we stayed where we were, stuck
forever between the Overton Zoo and Beale. We played
in the yard with daggers. We burned each other’s toes.
The bull dog Prime Minister humped our legs
while the Afghans ran in circles chasing dust. We ate potato
chips at midnight and cried in our sleep: let’s go back tomorrow.

Color of my eyes? Mother’s? It was morning glories we beheld,
not roses. Roses come in black, not in blue. I did see father
many times but I don’t remember his eyes. White and black
photographs show us in our pajamas with little bows
and arrows scrawled across the tops.
Bugles and drums decorated our blue bottoms.

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. The elevators
at the Century Building were open by day. We ran in
hoping for a ride to the top of the world;
secretaries chased us out into the bright sun.
.
The horizon was on the other side of the river, but nobody dared
cross that bridge. We were stay-at-home types, little chickens.
Everything was thought the best. I believed the art gallery in
Overton Park was bigger and better than the Met.
Second rate was not only good enough.
“Who the hell do you think you are?”

The Pink Palace was dad’s fortress of art and power, in costumes
he designed himself: a clown, some whimsy, a melancholic
smile, despair, or an oriental stare; in make-up and girdles,
a sword, a pistol, a tunic or robe, tights and sandals,
shaped from plastic or leather. Father directed:
Give them some cleavage. Show ‘em your tits.

Not wanting to stay—please no longer. Not one more hour, not
another minute, not five measly seconds more. Mother couldn’t
get out of town fast enough. Father could ruin a dinner over
a lousy buck. Kool-Aid or pudding? Take one or the other.
The grand master had little to give;
it was all show but no tell. I’ll have another martini.

This December, the trees in our yard will come down,
felled by an ice storm. It feels right that the old man is dead.
His heart was black and blue. He beat himself up and beat me,
too. When I think of Memphis I think of death, but not
from long ago. Brother Martin was first to go
and then Vernon Presley’s loving son.

Dad’s gone now, thank goodness; there’s only mother.
The dogwoods stand silent, as her eyes watch, laughing.
There’s much comfort knowing how much she loves the bluff.
All the memories are gone. The Old Forest full of heavy growth
lures us back but all we find is an empty lot,
a ghost town called invention.

**********

David Lohrey’s plays have been produced in Switzerland, Croatia, and Lithuania. His poetry can be found in Otoliths (AUS), Tuck Magazine (UK), Terror House (Hungary), Sentinel Literary Quarterly (UK) and the Cardiff Review (Wales). His fiction can be read online at Dodging the Rain, Storgy Magazine, and Literally Stories. David’s collection of poetry,  Machiavelli’s Backyard, was published by Sudden Denouement Publishers (Houston, 2017). He lives in Tokyo. ‘Bombardier to Captain’ was commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (November 2018) judged by Dominic James. 
*********

Vishishta

VISHISHTA
Family Problems

My brother is killing again
He left the house
early this morning
a red gleam
in his eye
his gun swinging
from his hip
No one could stop him.

My four AM darkness
is full of children
screaming
Their mothers frantic
to protect them
My brother
lifting his gun
again.

We huddle sadly
in the house
the neighbors murmur
against us
no flowers grow
this Spring
no drugs to blunt
the pain
our dreams replaced
by cash
our fine house haunted.

**********
‘Family Problems’ by Vishishta was published in Sentinel Poetry (Online) Magazine, May 2003. Native to Southern California, Vishishta grew up in the tumultuous and inspiring 60s. Starting out writing short stories, she published short surreal epiphanies in underground newspapers. Gradually, she changed to writing songs, then poems, then back to short stories and now back to poems. She is the author of Eros – a collection of poems.
**********

Competition

Roger Elkin

Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition
Closing date: 31 October 2020
You are invited to enter your poem or suite of poems in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (October 2020) to be judged by Roger Elkin. This competition is for original, previously unpublished poems in English language, on any subject, in any style up to 50 lines long.
Prizes: £250 (1st), £100 (2nd), £50 (3rd), £30 x 3 (High Commendation), £15 x 3 (Commendation), 3 x SLQ magazine paperback (Special Mentions.)
Entry Fees: £5/1, £8/2, £10/3, £12/4, £14/5, £16/7, £22/10
For full terms and conditions, to enter online or by post, the address is
https://sentinelquarterly.com/competitions/poetry
Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition
Prizing poetry…since July 2009

SLQ Daily  |  Like & Follow us on Twitter and Facebook

Mark Totterdell – Jersey Tiger Moth

It’s settled boldly on our white front door,
an emblem with the look of something rare;
soft arrowhead in simple origami,
printed with patterns not quite black and white,
but pale vanilla, bitter chocolate,
in glam rock zigzags, like a dazzle ship.
It flies, and its flashed underskirts are gaudy,
the perfect shade of tinned tomato soup.

Their home is Portugal, is Greece, is Russia.
There’s one famed island valley where they swarm.
It’s only natural for them to come
into this land of high unnatural pressure.
Their shtick is to bear whole wide bright worlds here,
enrich thin lives, exoticise plain air.

‘Jersey Tiger Moth’ by Mark Totterdell received a special mention in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly poetry competition (August 2019) judged by Roger Elkin.