Tag Archives: Paul McDonald

Michaela Coplen – Knot


The stretch of pavement off the road, where the new-builds were never built, where if in dark and his dad’s black car we kept the engine off,

and so were indistinguishable from mounds of upturned dirt, was the place
of our necessity, the place that, on a ready night, having tendered our excuses,

we would drive ourselves, past the billboard lights, the cows in their low blue barn, a narrowing (my nails sunk in the leather seat for purchase, the car a larger cage

we let the animal inside) — and when we parked, with swollen words,
the automatic chuckle, he would eager, and unbuckle, I would put myself

to task, to task to task to task, his plunging urge
my course of study — oh ever-willing subject of the list I had to tick —

and most nights, this was it: a clutch, a minute then of rest,
a fog of breath we’d smear around the windows with our shirts —

but one night, we reversed, he wanted, no he really did, he was sure he could, I said he could, I had no hints to give, he spent hours

trying everything — hitch, bend, twist — while I watched him from inside of me; I tightened me to it; in the dark, his hand

became the shadow of a hand — that other hand, he didn’t know,
I didn’t ever tell him, I was still so in the yoke of it, how could I really

tell him, that the thrum of pleasure had a chord of fear caught up
in it — the slip knot I could never slip, I couldn’t make myself slip.

Knot by Michaela Coplen was highly commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (July 2021) judged by Paul McDonald.

Michaela Coplen

Michaela Coplen is a poet and doctoral candidate at the University of Oxford. She earned her BA from Vassar College, where she served as a poetry editor for the Vassar Review. Her poems have been published online with The Atlantic and Poets.org, as well as in the Bellevue Literary Review and Up the Staircase Quarterly. She won the 2019 Troubadour International Poetry Prize, the 2020 York Poetry Prize, and was included in the 2020 Best New Poets anthology. Her work can be found at: michaelacoplen.com

Daniel Holt – Two Poems


We are ever so quiet and take great
pains to monitor each careful footfall.

We whisper our small conversations, and turn
pages of long novels with moistened fingertips.

It’s been this way for years, contemplating chicken
bones on saucers, mythologies of old wallpaper.

Our daughter calls and even she knows to whisper
into the receiver. She never listens.

To leave the house is a week on tenterhooks,
a restive gauze of sleeping pills, only then

returning down interminable corridors
single file, staring at the wainscot in hope.

When the knock comes, it is soft and deliberate:
a rapid two-knuckle triplet.

What can we do once summoned but shuffle
to the peephole in our dressing gown and slippers?


Your smile is broad and harmless.
Two pinhole eyes and a dopey grin.
A foregone conclusion leading nowhere.
A pair of whalers locked into a frozen bay.
The petrified beam of a corporate radical.
Beer belly button and bullethole.
Mute sympathy kept from the idiocy of words.
Mute idiocy kept from the sympathy of words.
Gentler heuristic for I love you but I don’t
want to talk to anyone today.
A cave painting for the flickering new century.
After the last goodbye or the first hello.
I don’t fully remember.
Crooked splint that warps to the fugue of addenda.

‘Waiting for a Visit’ and ‘:)’ by Daniel Holt were highly commended and specially mentioned in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (July 2021) judged by Paul McDonald.

Daniel Holt

Daniel lives in Hanoi, Vietnam, where he teaches English at a university. He is married to a Vietnamese woman and together they have a little son. Although he has been writing poetry on and off for several years, this is his first foray into the world of competitions and publishing. Besides an intense interest in poetry, Daniel enjoys the arts more broadly, especially music and painting. He is also learning Vietnamese.

Jocelyn Simms – Close to You


April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain

Beckoning your sisters to enter the historic
gloom, so they could smell the difference
between Catholic incense and Protestant
beeswax, you wore a tobacco silk two-piece,
swish and seductive though you weighed
only six stone with your boots on.
Inside the sanctuary your knife-edged,
pleated skirt unravelled from your skinny hips,
shuddered into a heap on the unforgiving floor.
April is the cruellest month,

breeding laughter, unseemly in a sanctified space,
you left in a huddle. Next a garden centre –
show the siblings you’d made a wise choice
– leaving the valley, the terraces, the smoke,
the grimy backyard where you and Billy played trains.
Now you count the flowers, the petals
you’ve pressed, a way to preserve memories
or return from an impasse – irredeemable,
insisting you can’t breed lilacs
out of the dead land.

I order yellow flowers from the florist,
cheerful harbingers of Spring. It’s still April
you nearly made May and your eightieth.
Lilies of the valley are nudging right
and left. Soon these, your favourites,
will burst into a cacophony of bells.
One night I saw you staring at yourself
in the gilded mirror in the hallway.
As if searching to find a self you could live with,
mixing memory and desire.

You lay in the bath, wearing your swimsuit,
for nudity was a sin. Dad found you
drifting, thought you’d maybe banged
your head. He called you Pegasus –
not after the flying horse, I learned,
but the bridge: Normandy, 1944,
sweat and tears. Restless rhizomes, chaste
but poisonous, will soon quicken
under these April showers stirring
dull roots with spring rain.

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‘Close to You’ by Jocelyn Simms was commended in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (July 2021) judged by Paul McDonald

Jocelyn Simms

Jocelyn Simms is once again delighted to be published by Sentinel. Originally from the North of England she has lived in France since 2002. At the moment she is working on an ekphrastic collection of poems in both English and French inspired by local artist, Aristide Caillaud. Last year her debut collection, Tickling the Dragon, received the Poetry Book of the Year award. She organises Segora International Writing Competitions www.poetryproseandplays.com and offers workshops and feedback for authors.