Thursday, January 15, 2015

SENTINEL LITERARY QUARTERLY POETRY COMPETITION (NOVEMBER 2014)–AN ADJUDICATION REPORT

by

Mandy Pannett

I found it extra difficult this time to select nine poems – not because the chosen ones aren’t brilliant, they most certainly are – but because there were so many others that ‘came close’, that demanded to be noticed. I started making a list of them to be included in this report but in the end decided not to because there are many.

A number of poets used the technique of line end rhyme. This, I think, is incredibly hard to do well. So often the chosen rhyme is not the best one – it may sound alright and be pleasing to the ear but may not be the best word to convey meaning and emotion. Poems that worked best in this competition, where the poet was keen on using rhyme, was where enjambment reduced the doggerel effect or where the rhymes were ‘looser’ – as in several of the sonnets which I found very effective.

A number of themes recurred throughout the entries. Many concerned personal experiences, families, relationships, the pain of love and loss, assumptions, hope and disillusion. Memory was a strong theme, collective memory and connections with the past as well as the individual and present. Many strong poems described landscape and the natural world and there was an emphasis on Earth as unsustainable, under threat. Imagery conveyed strong feelings and profound thought in poems about war, sickness and malignancy.

This competition brought me a bagful of poems rich in variety and complexity. Here, after a lot of thought and indecision, is my selection.

1st prize: The Terminology of Bells by Mike Bannister

This poem caught my attention from the very first reading. It is a poem about memory and time with the bell terminology skilfully intermingled with descriptions of the setting and matching the mood of each passing moment. I love the sense of place it creates – the names of towns and rivers and the lyrical details of fish and water birds – but I have mainly chosen it as my winner because of the perfect and bell-like musicality of it all. Who could fail to appreciate the poem’s beginning? ‘Sally stroke: early morning, neither a dog bark/nor cuckoo call, only that distant, melancholy peal/a deep-rolling tonnage of bronze’. Or this later stanza? ‘Go: the heart hunting now, headstock and chamber/back behind the tears, for one born by Michaelmas,/who slept in a drawer; was told, and would believe/that the bees sang in the hive at Christmastide.’

2nd prize: The Catastrophe Tapes by Seán Street

An outstanding poem. Comes into my personal category of ‘I wish I’d written it!’ Intriguing and highly original it takes the idea of having a jumble of words and thoughts from a medieval battlefield somehow ‘recorded’ in an ‘old technology’ and left for us to decipher and interpret if we can. The Battle of Towton was one of the most ferocious of the Wars of the Roses, lasting ten hours in a snowstorm so that the white ground afterwards was stained for miles with blood. An idea close to my heart, this connection of the past with the present, the idea of atmosphere and vibrations being forever contained in objects and settings. This poem, however, goes beyond that. To me it reads as all wars, all atrocities. The horrors of Towton are echoed in the trenches, in the rubble of Syria. An incredibly profound poem which leaves us with desperate questions and pleas: ‘surely someone will listen?’, ‘Are you hearing any of this?’, ‘it may matter/ someday, they may need to know it’.

3rd prize: Finger-Wing by Yvonne Reddick

Quotation and commentary cannot do justice to this brilliant poem that uses language so skilfully and to the full. The poet, on a chilly day, is looking at clouds, blows on his fists to warm them and feels ‘the scrunched membranes/that mesh my fingers/and remembers how ‘pterodactyl/means finger-wing’. From this imagery of membranes and bones other associations come fast – the poet notices ‘the sludgy hulk of a decomposing pigeon’, remembers how his/her grandmother was ‘bird-bone hollow, all ribstrakes and wing-scaffold ... knuckly birdleg fingers.’ There are further incredible risks with language: the granny’s cremation is described lyrically as ‘plume-cinder ash...The south-easterly hush-hushed it north’, but then we have a line of harsh consonants ‘I interred the pigeon’s slimy reek in a skip’ followed by the quotation ‘le fruit de vos entrailles est béni’ – a direct reference to the Annunciation, a miraculous birth in contrast to this imagery of death and putrefaction.

Highly Commended: Quince Zone by Dominic James

This is another poem that stayed with me from the first reading. Maybe there are underlying themes – identity, awareness, selection, discrimination, even sacrifice – but I chose this poem for its humour, detail and the perfect ‘voice’ of it whereby the ragged quince on a tree in an apple orchard is personified with ‘warty limbs’ and begs the onlooker to pluck it from the tree so that more fruit may grow. The language is conversational and colloquial but with a lyrical Shakesperian touch – ‘a summer comes’ says the quince, ‘oh ,pluck my fruit,/at night the stars smile through me.’ An irresistible poem.

Highly Commended: We Are All Waters by Shittu Fowora

An enigmatic poem which requires many readings to fully appreciate its layers and depths. This suits me perfectly – I enjoy ‘working’ a poem, teasing out associations and subtleties of meaning. Water in a multitude of forms is used here as the central metaphor for the repeated idea ‘There is no ‘you’, or ‘I’, save ‘we’. Identities merge in the universal, waters ‘variously hued’ may be seen in rain, fresh water, dirty water, puddles, in pots for cooking, tears, clouds, droplets, cesspools, icebergs, ponds – and all these aspects collect ‘the geography of the places you’ve been to’, share love, fear, tranquillity, troubles, ‘percolate the crevices between rocks and questions.’

Highly Commended: Chilson Founder’s Day Harvest Festival by Michelle Bonczek Evory

The narrator in this poem has been ‘camping/in a strange land’ where, for days, there has been ‘a sopping mess’ of ‘rain and thunder, wind whipping leaves’, where even the chipmunks have been ‘washed out their burrows’. Now the sun is out and an assortment of people gather for the celebration. A delightful poem which I chose for several reasons: its effective use of enjambment, the clear and detailed imagery – I particularly love ‘a silver oven/waiting, for the body of a hog to be spun in its space/like a planet too close to a star’ – but most of all for the small, ordinary, incidental aspects of the day: the names of people and places, phrases of overheard conversation, the baked potato ‘still hot in its aluminium wrapper’, the red-haired brothers licking sour cream ‘from their white plastic forks’. Pleasure on this day may be transient but while it lasts it is real and good.

Commended: Mobius by Alison J Powell

I must confess to a touch of subjectivity here as a poem that ‘plays’ with language and uses techniques of circularity, reversal and repetition will always catch my interest. When it is crafted as beautifully and skilfully as ‘Mobius’ it is guaranteed to find its way on to my winners’ list. Here the poet uses the metaphor of a dance to create the ‘infinite loop’ of a courtship with its spiral of resistance, pursuit, delusion, hopes, tears and dreams culminating in ‘the joining of edges’ as the couple ‘cut loose and flew/Dancing.’ A clever and memorable poem.

Commended: Liturgies by Anthony Watts

I find this sonnet incredibly moving. An adult remembers himself as a child playing at being a priest. Here ‘a patterned hearthrug’ served as a church, the swing of the censer could be mimed, the altar was a shoebox with ‘pencils stuck in cotton-reels for candles.’ This was a vulnerable child searching for something beyond the tangible and inarticulate and this is a vulnerable adult too, still yearning, still on the quest for something more, for an ‘Everywhere’. An incredible poem that suggests so much in a few lines.

Commended: After by Julian Dobson

Many poems describe the horrors of war, the anguish of loss, the aftermath of brutality. This short poem is one of the most effective and poignant I’ve read. With carefully selected details and the technique of understatement the poet takes us into the debris of a market where starving people ‘scour’ for food where ‘lemons/rot in shattered boxes’ and flies ‘signal what might still/be edible.’ So far a fairly typical depiction of devastation. But there are more horrors in this scene, an almost casual mention of ‘legs’ which are ‘not of goats or sheep’ and then these lines which will stay with me for a long time: ‘To eat, you must not search too hard./The stomach will not digest/some discoveries.’

mandy pannett

Mandy Pannett. January 2015

All the Invisibles, the powerful poetry collection by Mandy Pannett is available at amazon.co.uk and amazon.com


Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (February 2015) judged by Noel Williams is now accepting entries

First Prize: £200

Second Prize: £75

Third Prize: £50

Highly Commended: 3 X £20

Enter online or by post here


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

BRIDGEWATCHER & OTHER POEMS

Edited by MANDY PANNETT

Published by SPM Publications

in association with Excel for Charity in aid of The Psychiatry Research Trust

bridgewatcher front cove rweb

 

BRIDGEWATCHER           

 

Penny Shutt

 

I don't ask you to unbutton the sleeves

of your smart work shirt

to show me the cuts

because I believe you.

 

You tell me you typed 'suicide'

into Google again last night,

tell me about the website that came up

and I nod as though I don't know exactly

which one you mean.

 

I know it wasn't methods that work

you sought

but the solace of those voices

clamouring across the pages

for help amongst the helpless.

 

On the way into work, my train flies past

the bridge I know you go to.

In the morning glow, a crow perched on the railing,

it doesn't hold the same poignant splendour

I know it holds for you

at four a.m after the wine, the cider, the gin.

 

I know when you're up there

there's a certainty to the smooth flat concrete

below. That just grasping the cool steel

of the railing, toying

with that quivering possibility

is all the release that cutting

no longer gives.

 

I'm meant to be the one who manages this risk

but I don't

because I know that's not why you go there.

Instead, I up your antidepressants

so it looks like I did something.

 

As I write the prescription,

you recall a time when you were little,

the judder of the car across the Forth Road Bridge

the sparkle of South Queensferry

across the still black water

and the sudden horror

of seeing a man let go and drop

into the unglimmering depths,

flashing blue lights arriving seconds too late.

 

'Sometimes people just don't want to live anymore'

your dad tried to explain from the front

but he was driving, hadn't seen

what you had;

the sickening courage

of that hand

letting go of the rail.

© Penny Shutt

Where to buy Bridgewatcher & Other Poems

SPM Publications

Also available at Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and all other amazon channels.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

SENTINEL LITERARY QUARTERLY SHORT STORY COMPETITION (AUGUST 2014)–ADJUDICATION REPORT

Administrator’s Note

Please note that this competition was judged blind and the adjudication report was sent in by the Judge with only the titles of the winning and commended poems. I have matched the winners and their poems to make for easier reading.

-      Nnorom Azuonye (14/10/2014)

 

An adjudication report by Brindley Hallam Dennis

 

There were 73 entries, and I knew I was in trouble when my shortlist reached twenty.

        Adding one more to the list would have brought another nineteen in with it, and that didn't help either. What I'm saying is that I enjoyed an awful lot of these stories. In fact, there were only a few – two or three – that I didn't think had something good going for them; and two of those read like well-written articles, but they weren't really short stories. For all you glass half full types out there, you could say, I found a lot of the stories to be lacking that little something that would make them winners!

        It's only in competitions that you have to make these sort of judgements. Otherwise you take your shorts like an espresso, and enjoy them for what they are, in the moment, for you, as you are, at that moment. What's it about? Do you care? How's it written? Does the voice beguile you?

        As I sifted through I began to realise that the stories I wanted to celebrate most were somewhat oblique in form or content; forceful in their tellings, with voices that made me stop and listen; with subjects that caught my interest. The whole range was there: life death; love; comic; tragic; absurd; serious, and the rest. A few took what are becoming contemporary standards, and anything that everyone is talking about is hard to write about without becoming part of the undistinguishable murmur, or cacophony. Two, in my 'Commended' list were, I guessed, by the same author, having the same characters. I'd like to see those as part of a longer fiction – a novel perhaps?

 

Here's my list, in traditionally reversed order:

 

Commended (in no particular order):

 

Till Death Us Do Part by Gareth Shore (Sale)

Fifty-Second Birthday in Bed by Christie Cluett (Bristol)

Odd Boy by Sharon Boyle (East Linton)

It's Seven Letters You Need by Maxine Backus (Grueningen, Switzerland.)

Abide With Me by Maxine Backus (Grueningen, Switzerland.)

 

Highly Commended (in no particular order):

 

For Mike by Geoff Aird (Edinburgh)

Swan Sculpting in Leighton Buzzard by Katie Martin (Cambridge)

Oh How We Danced by Tony Crafter (Knockholt)

 

3rd Prize

The Eternal Knot by John Robinson (Newbury) - Complex, convoluted, philosophical. A conversation between an Old Man and a snake, on the huge subject of sentience – of being alive and knowing it; of being mortal, and knowing that too.

 

2nd Prize

Coffee-Coloured Eyes by Olga Vakruchev (Toronto, Canada) -Slipping into the surreal, but I never doubted this woman's voice, nor her belief in her own story.

 

1st Prize

Killers at Fat Joe's by Tom Serengeti (BERTSHAM , South Africa) – I think I liked the ambition of this most of all: daring to echo Hemingway's title, and story, and do a riff on it. But I liked the spare descriptions and the dialogue too, and the unfolding events, and the characters, and their names, and the ending. I guess I would have liked the pizza too!    

 

BRINDLEY HALLAM DENNIS

 


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

SENTINEL LITERARY QUARTERLY POETRY COMPETITION (AUGUST 2014) – ADJUDICATION REPORT

Administrator’s Note

Please note that this competition was judged blind and the adjudication report was sent in by the Judge with only the titles of the winning and commended poems. I have matched the winners and their poems to make for easier reading.

-      Nnorom Azuonye (14/10/2014)

 

An adjudication report by WILL DAUNT

 

Adjudicating reminds me of how it feels to go through your wardrobe, looking for good companions to donate to the latest charity collection: you don’t want to say goodbye to any particular item, but as you do, the qualities of each garment/ poem stir a mixture of affection and regret. And you hope that your farewell will not be a final airing.

 

The great thing about adjudicating for Sentinel is that you can – as it were - leave so much good material in the wardrobe, convinced that, when it sees the light of day again, it will be genuinely worthy of public view.

 

Thanks to all those writers who contributed to a large number of entries, many of which made the long list. Of these, ‘The Sapphire’ by Dominic James and ‘Sibling Rivalries’ by Andy Hickmott came closest to inclusion, in the final analysis.

 

COMMENDED

 

‘Adlestrop Unwound’ by John Whitworth (Canterbury)

The irreverent humour of this exploration of (mainly) English place names begins with one of the most famous – poetically - happily mutating into a more surreal journey through unlikely locations: ‘Upper Slaughter, Lower Slaughter,/ Foggy Bottom, Devil’s Drop’,/ ‘Faintley-Furtive-in-the-Water’. The diction is as sharp and sure as the wordplay, the momentum well judged.

 

‘East’ by Terence Jones (New Barnet)

This evocative picture of a few hours spent at the eastern edge of England leads the narrator to a point of distilled isolation, which, while full of chilling imagery, condenses a compelling creative energy: ‘…It suits me now/ to look away from all my beautiful/ sunsets, and toward the dark quarter’.

 

‘Edwin’s Candle’ by Terence Brick (Newbury)

Referring to Bede’s History of the English people, this poem vividly reawakens the ways of life of the time. The imagery stirs the senses, while the language sings: ‘But that day the raven ǀ harkened to the dove./ And such was the debate ǀ swift as the sparrow,/ in at the window ǀ to the hourly chatter.’

 

Gravity’ by Oz Hardwick (York)

Here’s an example of a sonnet which easily could have been overlooked. There is great skill in the understated precision with which a budget airline flight is recreated. Subtly controlled (like the use of rhyme), a sense of longing emerges from the ordinariness: ‘But through the misting window I see nowhere,/ nothing: just turbulence, close as recycled air’.

 

‘Homecoming’ by Oz Hardwick (York)

The beauty of this piece lies simply in the degree to which the narrator recreates what was seen, heard and felt from within a home-bound car. No word has been lost, or misplaced: ‘Chains tick, wheels whisper,/ a smooth descent between trees/ whose fingers click to the rhythm of breathing’.

 

‘Ice Fisher’ by Jude Neale (Bowen Island, Canada)

‘I miss/ your clutch of amazement/ that untethered me here//to become a finger point/ a sky full of oranges’. From the poem’s conclusion, these lines capture its insistent yet restrained progression through stages of loss. The hints of the underlying tale are deftly spread throughout the piece.

 

‘Judging a Gap’ by Kieron Tufft (Ripon)

There’s a compelling originality about this piece: its form and its purpose tantalise and entice equally, with the ‘gap’ of the title implied through a succession of ambiguous but engaging images, such as: ‘…And we ponder what anything/ is worth these days// if pale, freckled faces still hold sway’.

 

‘The shipwrecked naturalist’ by Robert Archer (Valencia, Spain)

The love behind this sonnet is a scientist’s loss of a life’s work in a shipwreck. More telling, his possessions will survive him as he drifts into the open ocean: ‘ …his own crates,/ sealed and tarred, packed tight with journals, gorgeous moths,/ strange reptiles, seeds and bulbs for English soil..?’ The futile ironies of mortality are portrayed with a lucid assurance in these accomplished, imaginary snapshots of a death.

 

We’re all in the Book by Tessa Foley (Southsea)

The intrigues within this poem draw you in, repeatedly. Who is ‘My baby’? Why did she leave ‘shortly’ to ‘begin a new life’ and why could she ‘not take pills/ her throat was too narrow’?  How do the numbers spread through the poem, thread together? It’s a powerful invitation to explore familial fragmentation.

 

HIGHLY COMMENDED

 

‘Juggling’ by Angela Arnold (Oswestry)

This poem is rich in irony, beginning with a call to ‘turn down’ a media report on unemployment. Instead, the narrator’s focus shifts to the equally unfamiliar activity of distant ‘labouring manikins’ who ‘secure the land’ as they bring in the harvest. Seen, but not heard ‘from beyond double-glaze’, the workers are depicted adeptly. They fascinate as much as they alienate the writer, turning them back to the frustrations of their own, very different graft.

 

#OCCUPYNIGERIA by Aminu Abdullahi (Kano, Nigeria)

The wide-ranging collage of imagery in this striking piece draws the reader compellingly to a moment in time: the Occupy Nigeria protests. Its impact is built around the well-judged balancing of a strong evocation of place, against only a suggestion of partisanship: ‘as the lavender lies burning/ the smell is no estacode’. Change stands within ‘…liberty’s promised light// Gay until the colours/ Washed the labyrinth’.

 

‘Viewpoint’ by Mark Totterdell (Exeter)

The evocation of place is so often done well, so rarely done remarkably. Here, the combined panoramas of landscape and memory envelope the reader: ‘it’s like being given a decade of eyesight back’. No one and nowhere is named, and rightly so. Like a painter, the writer communicates through skill alone; no pretension or polemic: ‘warped squares of agriculture, fuzzy/ February-coloured woods, even the airport/ undeniably, all topped by a cut of sea.’

 

THIRD PRIZE:                 

 

‘The Thimble’ by Daniel Davies (London)

Here’s a poet who can construct a narrative. The implied horror of a rail suicide is set behind a failed attempt to make a day out memorable. There’s a carefully veiled sense of disappointment and ennui: ‘Snow on Good Friday’ when the ‘ridged earth looked white up ahead, black from behind,/two-toned by the angled blast’.

As the day fades during a forgettable return journey, the fatal collision happens without, at first, being understood. You can believe the scene, in the marooned train: ‘Those were bones we heard, you said. Not rocks’. The numbness of the travellers’ sensibilities is captured finally with the trivially tactile, as the narrator fiddles with a thimble ‘plucked from the One Pound Bucket’.  As if nothing had happened.

 

SECOND PRIZE:     

 

orange brain. flowered brain by Jen Campbell (London)

This poem innovates in form, thematic progression and in its accomplished use of dialect. ‘Abigail’s mind is aal ablaze’ from the outset, and the kaleidoscope of images which develops this theme leaves the reader able to imagine a number of traumas that might explain why ‘Abigail cups her brain like soft-shell crab’, or why the poem’s mood darkens: ‘In toon them talk of banishment. Ain’t much time for them what split themselves’.

At each stage of its development, this effervescent piece grabs the ear and shakes the imagination; not a comfortable read, but one that roots deeply in the consciousness.

 

FIRST PRIZE:          

 

‘Flood’ by Philip Burton (Bacup)

This is a poem which coolly brings this year’s British floods swelling back into the mind’s eye. Like a calm but irrepressible tide, the depiction of that saturation point seeps down the page; that force which ‘came as a dead thing’, that leveller which delivered a ‘super-cooled molten-mirror’.

Mankind’s tenuous tenure of the earth is everywhere: ‘the rustic oak sideboard which made you/ proud, grounded and secure, can’t navigate/ the narrow stairs’.

 

What makes the impact of ‘Flood’ particularly telling is the absence of any first person or self-pity. The tone is slightly detached, almost factual, with the use of the second person underlining powers which, while being beyond our control, are perhaps of our making

 

WILL DAUNT, 11 OCTOBER 2014

Monday, April 28, 2014

SLQ POETRY & SHORT STORY COMPETITIONS MAY 2014, JUDGES: DOMINIC JAMES & CATHERINE EDMUNDS. ENTER NOW.

SENTINEL LITERARY QUARTERLY POETRY COMPETITION

Closing Date: 31-May-2014

For original, previously unpublished poems in English Language, on any subject, in any style up to 50 lines long. This competition is open to all poets regardless of nationality, living anywhere in the world. Judge: Dominic James.

Prizes: £200 (First), £75 (Second), £50 (Third), £20 x 3 (High Commendation).

The winners and commended poems will receive first publication in Sentinel Literary Quarterly magazine.

Fees: £4/1, £7/2, £9/3, £11/ 4, £12/5, £16/7, and £22 for 10 poems.

Enter online and pay securely by PayPal or print out an Entry Form for postal entries at:

www.sentinelquarterly.com/competitions/poetry

Or send your poems with a cover note titled ‘Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition May 2014’, together with a cheque/postal order for the applicable payment in favour of SENTINEL POETRY MOVEMENT to: Sentinel Poetry Movement, Unit 136, 113-115 George Lane, South Woodford, London E18 1AB, United Kingdom

 

 

SENTINEL LITERARY QUARTERLY SHORT STORY COMPETITION

Closing Date: 31-May-2014

For original, previously unpublished short stories in English Language, on any subject, in any style up to 1500 words long. This competition is open to all writers regardless of nationality, living anywhere in the world. Judge: Catherine Edmunds

Prizes: £200 (First), £75 (Second), £50 (Third), £20 x 3 (High Commendation).

The winners and commended stories will receive first publication in Sentinel Literary Quarterly magazine.

Fees: £5 per story, £8 for 2, £10 for 3, £12 for 4.

Enter online and pay securely by PayPal or print out an Entry Form for postal entries at:

www.sentinelquarterly.com/competitions/short-stories 

Or send your stories with a cover note titled ‘Sentinel Literary Quarterly Short Story Competition May 2014’, together with a cheque/postal order for the applicable payment in favour of SENTINEL POETRY MOVEMENT to: Sentinel Poetry Movement, Unit 136, 113-115 George Lane, South Woodford, London E18 1AB, United Kingdom