Category Archives: Sentinel Champions – Prizewinning writing

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

Jeanine Stevens

Wintering in Bloomsbury: 1981

The holly bush, a sober lump of green,
shines and smiles at winter. John Clare

Lucky to find a cheap flat off campus, with breakfast:
bacon, egg, tomatoes and toast (white or brown).
Ideal location, just around the corner
from the British Museum (free entry
on days when studies lag). On a side street,
I walk past a book stall: purchase
a leather bound: Tudor Shakespeare,
1916, and The Cloister and the Hearth, 1920.
The mist is still and gray; streetlamps refract
at 10 a.m. Waiting at a stop sign, a local
asks, “And how do you like your President Reagan?”
I will check in with my tutor, maybe Tuesday.
My essay on wooden henges can wait.
For now I need to hear the crackle of winter branches,
freckled leaves splitting under icy arms.

If it were Spring, I would join John Clare,
in the Kentish heights, seek the ox-eye daisy,
startle the wild duck, and watch
weary rooks fly to distant woods.
The walk will find some places still and warm.
If Summer, I would lounge in parks, enjoy outdoor
dramas on college lawns, everyone more
obvious then, analyzing maps, pavilions filled
with bright florals and floppy hats.
How pleasant to learn that little rivers still exist
under London: the Walbrook, the Tyburn.
Fog follows me as I tighten my tweedy muffler
and step inside a small hotel; here a ‘Ephemera Sale.”
(Little sandwiches of potted meat offered.)
I purchase a tattered copy of English Country Life.
Past the American University,
the British Library is overcrowded. I only want
to stand before adjoining displays: early
handwritten Beatle’s lyrics
and King John’s Magna Carta.

Heading back, denser fog disrupts sound.
I hear the murmur of sales clerks in a booking office,
and folks in chilly flats stirring their evening meal.
Yesterday in University lunch room,
I’m wearing Birkenstocks and a denim jumper.
The clerk asks, “Do you have a faculty card.”

John Clare: “A Leaf Falling in Winter.”
“A Song.”

Wintering in Bloomsbury: 1981 by Jeanine Stevens was highly commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (March/April 2020) judged by Mandy Pannett.

Angelena Demaria

Infested Waters

She birthed a baby shark. Her husband, leaving,
said he knew there were no sharks on his side of the family.

Friends were wary visiting because it had to keep
moving or it would die, she had been told.

Its tail smashed her face as it swam around the flat.
Its teeth tore pieces from her other children’s lives.

No supermarket trolley jailed its thrashing, so she
Shopped online, stayed home and drowned in solitude.

There were no other waters where it could swim free-
no other caring sharks and nurturing ocean. She alone.

Sometimes her shark swam slowly enough for her to
touch its velvet skin, and in its round dark eye she saw

herself reflected, knew that even with a harpoon to hand
she could not choose whose body the bolt should blow apart.

Infested Waters by Angelena Demaria was highly commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (March/April 2020) judged by Mandy Pannett.

Gabriel Griffin

Flying ointment

My knowledge is the kind
that buds and blooms, my charms not
swelling breasts but aconite, hemp’s
sweat, the purple poppies’ ooze; my

spells the droning of fat bees
gorged on sweet-scented eggs,
their honeyed hum
dozing into dreams.

I’ve done no harm! Not put
the screech-owl’s curse
on running mouse or man, nor
infused toadstool’s candid spawn

to confound, confuse – or
worse! Nor ever used the
viper’s splitting eye
to make men die. Instead

I’ve helped old cows over
time give birth and milk,
rubbed out the pox on rosier
cheeks than mine and

eased the moaning when
Death’s pin has poked
too many holes in life’s
fine and fragile skin.

Simmering on my own
slow cures for doubled nights,
I get no thanks, expect no reward
for skills I’ve honed

alone; the flame soft swearing
at the log, a fever boiling
in the pot, midnight winking
at the door. I’m poor. Poor!

So what harm do I wreak
on you that you cry
Witch! and hunt me, pin
me, rack me, duck me,

stake me, baste me, want
me to die just because –
despite your will –
I fly?

Flying Ointment by Gabriel Griffin was highly commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (March/April 2020) judged by Mandy Pannett.