Category Archives: Sentinel Champions – Prizewinning writing

The winning, highly commended, commended and specially mentioned poems in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition series.

Natalie Crick – Apple Da

Apple Da

Apple Da is pencil thin
in a black apron. His eyes
walk out in leaf along the branch,
then disappear into the tilt of sky.
Blank blue races overhead.

Da strides across the meadow
flashing in shadow hyacinth.
His orchard is idle with nausea,
his bottles empty of scrumpy,
his bruised apples hanging brown.

Da culls Mam with a stick,
a heavy bowed dance.
Soon he’ll be smashing her head
until she pools into darkened ferments,
seeds rolling in her mouth.

Perching down on his knees, Da might
roll Mam to the baskets if she is ripe
and rich and green, but not too soft for him.
Satisfaction might break in his face
like the definition of joy.

* * *

Asleep on Mam’s floor
Lee dreams this like a calf
lulled and loaded with pain.
When he wakes he is hot
and his breath tastes like fruit.

Mam’s face sitting on her chair
is an empty apple, skin pocked
with turn, the years moving
inside of her. Da harvests Mam and
puts her away in the kitchen.

Natalie Crick

Natalie Crick is a creative writing research student at Newcastle University and poetry editor for Fragmented Voices. Her poetry is published in The Poetry Review, Banshee, SAND, Agenda, Poetry Salzburg Review, New Welsh Review, The Moth and elsewhere. She won second prize in the Newcastle Poetry Competition 2020. Her poetry received an honourable mention in the Poetry London Prize 2020 and was commended in the Verve Poetry Festival Competition 2020, amongst other awards. This year her poem ‘Sisters’ was shortlisted in the Wales Poetry Award (pending prize-giving) and she received a nomination for The Forward Prize for Best Single Poem.

‘Apple Da’ was commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (January 2021) judged by Oz Hardwick.

Pratibha Castle – The Only One Who Loves You

The Only One Who Loves You

Spurning words that echoed
like a curse, I stuffed
a duffel bag with
blister packs
of pills, Mary Quant
minis, fantasies of girls
threading daisies in the muzzles
of guns; fled to the Big Smoke. In a bedsit

by Kensington Gardens, I massacred
steak with the mallet of hate,
a year on, turned vegan;
pioneer in ’68 of pity
for pool-eyed cows,
sheep, slate stare plaice.
Feigned compassion. Strove

to prove to myself that I was
worthy of love. Strutted
the nights away with
flautists, a harpist whose
healer’s hands strummed my
strings; drummer, his silk tipped
stroke nimble on the snare; callous
guitarists plucking tunes from out of smoke drifts. Chanted

mantras with Ram Dass in a basement
in Notting Hill, dossed in a Maida Vale
squat; candles, calor gas stove, the one tap
drip drip in the bog beside the back door. Made

out, off my head, with a sweetheart
leaf Philodendron, burnt joss sticks
to placate Kali’s horde
of swords, sweeten
the vibes, man, stench
of cat lit no-one from
the Highgate commune
I crashed in next, ever emptied;
spooned marmalade from a jar

half-full, recycled from a skip. Almost
believed myself deserving of love, till come
the morning, I forgot. My heart tenderised with
grief discovering the night my mother died, love
is an ether you can choke or float in.

Pratibha Castle

Pratibha Castle’s debut award-winning ‘sensual, sacramental’ pamphlet, A Triptych of Birds and A Few Loose Feathers (Hedgehog Press) publishes in 2021. Her poems appear in literary journals and online including The Honest Ulsterman, The Blue Nib, One Hand Clapping, Impspired, Fragmented Voices, Sarasvati, Reach, Fly on the Wall, Words for the Wild. She has work forthcoming in Agenda, Dreich Magazine and Dreich Special ‘Summer Anywhere’, and Beyond Words. Shortlisted in poetry competitions, winner of 2009 NADFAS poetry competition, with work anthologised, Castle broadcasts regularly on West Wilts Radio, The Poetry Place. Irish born, relocated to England 1953, she now lives in West Sussex.

‘The Only One Who Loves You’ was highly commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (January 2021) judged by Oz Hardwick.

Alex Matraxia – ‘Autumn City’

Autumn City

Inside a copy of Nan Goldin’s The Other Side,
a photo of her roommate standing by a café
on Grove Street, orange light
mixing through her hair.
A photographer relies on light & speed
by necessity, a slight eclipse of something
momentarily stunning in the wake
of ordinary life. To snatch photos of autumn
in New York as the sun was rising,
fistfuls of red light scrubbing down the city.

Passing along any local street,
bundles of wet, dried, self-contradictory leaves
fold into themselves to die quietly, attractively.
This is the cool mercilessness of the season,
a skewed grace, things falling into place
& in doing so, falling apart.
Backyard bonfires fill the roads with smoke
& the sound of generic elderly voices; potentially
children eyeing up the size of the flames.
Potentially a moment of peace
for the families I imagine. Today
everything seems red; the coffee cups
at lunch, the buses, the sun, the neon sign
that suspiciously reads Welcome
in the dark empty window of an abandoned shop.
I wonder what it is that I’d be welcomed into,
what weird fun would red have in store for me?

Outside I see some friends on the other side
of the road. I don’t wave & before I know it
they’re gone, having walked into a pile of leaves.
I wonder if I’ll ever see them again.
It gets late, the leaves sink into the mud
& I can’t help but consider how each room in this city
has always smelt like autumn to me, always
like something’s burning.

Alex Matraxia

Alex Matraxia is London-based writer, interested in queer identity and its relationship to memory, myth, and urban space. Their work has previously appeared in The ISIS, The Oxford Review of Books, Lucent Dreaming. They were the recipient of the Martin Starkie Poetry Prize (2018), the Graham Midgley Poetry Prize (2019) and the Future Creatives’ Writing Award
(2020). Their work is published in the Future Creatives’ anthology Tomorrow. ‘Autumn City’ was highly commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (January 2021) judged by Oz Hardwick.