Todd Swift

Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (October 2011)

Judge’s Report

Overall, this was a challenging competition to judge, because at least 20% of the poems submitted were of sufficient quality to demand serious attention. The weaker poems were weak in the way that the writing clearly established that the poets read little or no contemporary poetry; they were riddled with stale phrasing, theme and diction; or were sentimental and personal without any balancing sense of form. 

The main weakness of most of the poems was a bald prosaic statement – the habit of confusing personal opinion or utterance with artful expression.

The three winning poems were of a different calibre. 

The First Place winner; ‘Madame de Pompadour Considers…’ fuses a sense of form, wit, and history to create a clever and thoughtful poem. 

The Second Place poem; ‘Dorothy’ manages to be surprising in form, and very
moving, ending with a profound last line. 

The Third Place poem; ‘Valentine Gift’ at first appears to be simply a “greeting card” gimmick, but expertly manages to combine form and content, in a delightful way that, of course, reminds of Herbert’s poems.

Each of the three highly commended poems was – at some stage – potentially a
winner, as well.  ‘Post’ impressed me with its imaginative argument and snaking syntax, and the use of unusual imagery.  ‘Nature Walk’ manages to be
a good sonnet, but more, a history/anecdote poem that manages to surprise with its gritty ending.  ‘When I Lived in Buenos Aires’ is a beautifully composed, minimalist poem, that is both lucid and enigmatic.

The nine commended poems had elements that made them stand out from the
crowd – either unusual, fresh use of metaphor; or tone; or humour – or a compelling blend of thought and feeling.

Todd Swift


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