Saturday, 19 January 2013

Results and Adjudication Reports, Sentinel Annual Poetry and Short Story Competitions 2012

We are pleased to announce the results of the Sentinel Annual Poetry and Short Story Competitions 2012.


These competitions closed on the 30th of November 2012 and the judges have stated that the quality of entries was particularly very high. Because of this level of participation we have decided to recognise more poems and stories than we had originally advertised.


We were initially going to have just three winners (1st, 2nd & 3rd) and five Highly Commended authors in each category, and the winning poems and stories were to be published in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly magazine.


What we have done instead is to have in Poetry category, 12 Commended, 5 Highly Commended, and the top three winners.


In short story category we have 5 Commended, 5 Highly Commended and the 3 top winners. The judge felt very strongly about 2 other stories which have received special mentions.


The other change is that instead of publishing the winners in Sentinel Literary Quarterly magazine, we propose to collect these 20 poems and 15 short stories in a winners’ anthology to be published in the Summer of 2013 by SPM Publications.


Here are the results and adjudication reports by the judges.




Commended (in no particular order)

Please note: Commended poems do not receive any prize money, but will be included in the winners anthology.


Robin Mvers – The threat of sweet peas

Mandy Pannett – A marrying of Herbs

Steve Scholey – The harmony of swallows

Adrian K.S. Shaw – Holy Trinity

Margaret Eddershaw – Hibiscus

Lesley Burt – Freeze-framed

John Robinson – To My Wife, Our Life

Clive Burson-Thomas – Morning milking

Carolyn King – Quarry

Christine Coleman  - An Arrangement of Bones in the British Museum

Eilidh Thomas – Sweet Wood and Apple Pie

F. Philip Holland – Foxfire


Highly commended (in no particular order)

£25 each plus publication in anthology.


Norma Powers – Sir Walter Raleigh – On His Portrait

Joe Hackett – Father’s Knife: My Apples

Julie Mellor – Meat

Deborah Harvey – An Approximation

Catherine Edmunds – Later


Third Prize

£125 plus publication in anthology


John Lindley - John ‘Hangman’ Ellis.


Second Prize

£250 plus publication in anthology


Linda Burnett - Stand-off with hare.


First Prize

£500 plus publication in anthology


Oz Hardwick - The Genesis of Falcon.




Special Mentions


Rhuar Dean – Blood Dress

Stephen Atkinson – Table Top Invitation


Commended (in no particular order)

Commended stories do not receive any prize money, but will be included in the winners anthology.


David Crewe – The Mysterious Man

Mel Fawcett – The Family Way

Shiko – Damned on the Kitchen Floor

Anne Oatley – Mr Carrington

Valerie Knight – The Lure


Highly Commended (in no particular order)

£25 each plus publication in anthology.


Patricia Murray – The Berries

Andy Fawthrop – The Jumper

Belinda Rimmer – The Lady Who Feeds the Squirrels

Helen Holmes – Counting

Deborah Birch – Kindness


Third Prize

£125 plus publication in anthology


Valerie Knight – Vengeance is Mine


Second Prize

£250 plus publication in anthology


Joanna Campbell – Dream Work


First Prize

£500 plus publication in anthology


Alison Bouhmid – The Day a Heart Shifted



3.0.         Sentinel Annual Poetry Competition 2012 – adjudication report by Roger Elkin


One of the highlights of my poetry year is the adjudication of the Sentinel Annual Poetry Competition. For several weeks I am allowed in to a wealth of poetry worlds, and the rich pennings of hundreds of folk from a variety of backgrounds, relationships, cultures and countries. What adds a particular frisson is that because the competition is adjudicated anonymously, attention is focussed entirely on the poems before me, without any distraction that knowing names and reputations might bring. What matters are the words, their sounds, their mystery and their patterning, and their subsequent achievements. An indication of that achievement can be seen in the tremendous variety and wealth of the 20 poems that made my final short-list. As with the two previous Sentinel Poetry Competitions I have been honoured to adjudicate, the general standard of the 326 entries was extremely high and the arrival at final positioning took several days and with an incalculable amount of pleasantly-agonised reading.


Here, in no particular order of excellence, are the twelve Commended poems:


The threat of sweet peas: a questioning exploration about evolution, and the nature of man from close observation of sweet peas, whose “flutterings” become “butterflies, / debutantes with untried wings / too scared to launch”. Changing to “lifeboat pods”, that “start flying”, “Perhaps their eggs take root”. The descriptions are exquisitely delicate; and the range of imagination and philosophising as disturbing and intriguing as the poem’s startling title suggests.


a marrying of herbs: a poetic discussion of the interface between action, “making a soup”, and “musing on the word / dissolve”. The description of it as “an elusive, long-limbed word” gives way to a catalogue of beautifully-realised parallels of incident and state, so that the poem opens out to embrace the world of faith, jewels, sea, love, life and death. A beautiful, delicate, yet simultaneous probing poem.


The harmony of swallows: an account of a seven year old child’s ringing of a bronze church bell, which disconcerts the child as “twice, it clangs again, reverberates”. The description is precise, exact, and touched with wit: “Alarmed /  by the element of its tune – the throbbing hum,  / the strike tone, tierce and quint, the piercing nominal - / you pitch, diminuendo, run to my arms.” Such fine use of diction is the stuff of poetry.


Holy Trinity: a poem modelled with octave and sestet as a partially half-rhymed sonnet which explores the life and values of an unnamed woman, whose “marble headstone shining in the rain” serves as a reminder that “such cleanliness … is next to piety in God’s eyes”.  The Holy Trinity of “Bicarb, bleach, vinegar” with which the poem opens is the visual prompt for both poet and reader: an economical exploration of a much fuller life.


Hibiscus: a moving poem paralleling a father’s admiration for the hibiscus he “sheltered … on a window-sill” with his life, and slow, quiet death. A beautifully-realised extended poetic metaphor with some finely detailed and exquisite descriptive writing. Perhaps the clumsiness of the dedication could be overcome by replacing the initial “He” with “Dad”: this would allow the reader to investigate the poem for him/herself.


 Freeze-framed: an economical description of a caught moment in a family. The writing manages to echo the stillness  / completeness/certainty and concentration of the photo-taking that it describes. Lovely writing: just look at the exactness of that “thwack”!


To My Wife, Our Life: exactly what the title suggests: a searching, if not critical, examination of a marriage, its hopes and disappointments, its meetings of minds and its gradual driftings. This is a sad poem; intensely honest; and, therefore, moving.


Morning milking: a delightful, life-affirming account of cows coming into the milking-parlour. The diction is so exact: just consider for example the opening image of the cattle, “Mud mothers with slab shoulders”; and marvel at the accuracy of the verbs: “barge”, “Slip-slop”, “skate”, “wrestle”, “ruck up”, “haloes” – lovely, characterful writing.


Quarry: again, economic, effective description – albeit leaner – in this account of searching for a “murdered girl” memorialised by a tree-sculpture: the use of blank space within the line is very effective: “beautifully defaced, still growing.”


An Arrangement of Bones in the British Museum: the three lengthy questions which open the poem and delve into past events give way to the present, nicely located in stanza 3 via the use of shorter sentences in command idiom. The description is visually-exact; and the stance nicely distanced, though not at the expense of sentiment.


Sweet Wood and Apple Pie: an exotic paralleling of pieces/notes/quotations from history re the nature of “cinnamon, myrrh and spikenard” alternating with stages in the preparation, cooking and serving of an apple pie. The poetry lies within the contrast: the spices, nicely luxuriating in poetic repetition/alliteration/assonance; the apple pie, a series of blunt, factual statements.


Foxfire: a full-blooded account of the mating and coupling of a pair of foxes. The writing is rich; and effective – though, occasionally, becomes slightly-portentous as in the penultimate verse charting the interface between human and animal worlds. Elsewhere, a pruning of adjectives might reap dividends.


Now to the five Highly Commended poems:


Sir Walter Raleigh – On His Portrait: a searching historical poem that cleverly comments on the painting via the use of a first-person account. Here Raleigh condemns the artist he “trusted” but who “gives no hint of risks I take”, and “will not dare the perilous waters of the mind”. The poet (using a similar level of verbal skills) has Raleigh applaud the artist, “Velvet, lace, brocade, he paints with a kitten’s tongue / and rapier’s accuracy”; and yet finally considers the portrait “so poorly done”. The reason? Why, “my hand”, “my effeminate hand”, “that weak hand”, “that hesitant right hand”. The repetition hammers out Raleigh’s discomfort. Just one caveat, try to avoid ending lines with the definite article.


Father’s Knife: My Apples: an economic portrayal of a familial and generational conflict pivoting on a bequeathed pocket knife. Dad’s knife has over the years become the symbol of the family conflict, “suitable for pruning … words /  from the page of my transgressions”; “to slice out all juicy untruths … my wriggling fibs”; and yet “entirely missing the bloody point”. The punning wit is typical of the brutal honesty of the poem; and the description of the knife beautifully-honed. The finality of the isolated last word is a comment both on the picked fruit, and the son. Survival is all!


Meat: in five quatrains, the poem offers an insight into an entire village community via the description of a split second butcher’s “fall of … hand”. This heralds the commercial activities of former butchers; Billy Hinchcliffe, Alf Marsden, Arnold Roberts. Their meat-dominated lives are exquisitely, humorously and economically depicted. The detail is carefully chosen, as much for its visual impact as for its wit: the punning ambiguity of the final clause is admirable in its simplicity.


An Approximation: this poem attracted with its mystery, humour and vision. Written in quatrains, it transcends the earthly and urban. Its subject is seeded by a quotation from The Life of William Blake, and the poet uses this to explore Blake’s imagination as he records the “intimations … rustlings in twigs.” The writing is exact and unfussy; the sense uncluttered, even though an element of mystery, and epiphany is conveyed in the “approximation” of the poem’s title, “I might dream an approximation of angels.”

Perhaps too much was given away within the referencing quotation? And the poem not allowed to realize its full, independent vision?


Later: a disturbing, disturbed poem about an after-life of a man whose wife has left him, or who has died. The uncertainty is important: this poem is uncertain – its structural disjointedness, with irregular stanzas, freely-associative imagery, repetitive patternings and dislocated events is mimetic of the man’s troubled mind and life. Every piece of the detail, though economically and visually-realized, as it attempts to depict a mind coming to terms with its own disorientation and the littlest bits of meaning left in life, is in itself disorientating.


Now to the three Prize Winners


Third Prize goes to John ‘Hangman’ Ellis.

This is a powerful poem whose gruesome subject matter – the suicide of the Hangman, John Ellis – is made more powerful by its strict stanzaic form of six regular quatrains written with an ABAB rhyme scheme, usually in pure rhyme. Only the final verse stretches the half-rhyming thinly: surely someone with such verbal-dexterity should be able to pull the form off completely?!!! Say, a slight re-writing could place “tablet” to half-rhyme with “bullet”? But, that’s being pedantic! What is important is the grasp of the irony that a barber should eschew “the wrench, sway and dangle” of the hangman’s rope, in preference for the “quick rip” of the cut-throat razor, and the “red reservoir at his throat.” It is the questioning of intent, and the querying, “Who knows for sure/ how such impossible choices get made?” that make this poem essentially human, and memorable. Well done!


Second Prize goes to Stand-off with hare.

This is an outstanding poem: an exploration of a face-to-face confrontation with one of Nature’s beauties. Throughout, the poet leaves no doubt as to his wonder, awe and sheer thrill of the sight of this magnificent creature whose “staring gold” of “fixed amber beads” reaches “from the pit /of its brain, as if shot through with piercing insight / or superior sensibility” and in which the “starkness of its gaze dissolves / my bones.” While he feels “exposed”, the hare is “composed”, “imperious, bold”, “stands firm … as though theatrically posed / for camera lens.” Notice the internal rhyming here, and elsewhere. And marvel at the way in which the visual reference is translated with tremendous sensitivity and skill in image after image: from the “delicacy of moths”, via “the undulating flaps of shaken table cloth” to its “face marsupial”. A further cluster of images underpinning the dramatic nature of their “O.K. Corral” stand-off pivots on in-built contrasts such as the “ecstasy of stillness” that becomes a “brusque dismissal” that leaves the poet “unutterably cold”. And is it any wonder: for all his poetic energies have been conscripted in the writing of this and the capturing of their “all-consuming play”: close, visual detail; a wide-ranging diction; masterful and imaginative imagery; the full battery of assonantal and alliterative tools; internal rhymes and verbal chiming; and a controlling structure of half and full rhyme. This is an enviable achievement. Congratulations!



First Prize goes to The Genesis of Falcon.

It is such things as the absence in the title of the (second) definite article to precede “Falcon” that demonstrate the poetic mastery of the writing. This Falcon with a capital F is the Bird with a capital B of the third stanza, the product of an “easy” “Perfection”. The mix of the everyday in the description of the act of creation (with a lower-case), and the refusal throughout to refer to God as nothing more than “He” or “His”, and reduced to an inspired “Cocky and careless” mechanical engineer, almost cavalierly negligent of “Health & Safety” - “By the time He had done chickens / puffins, parrots, and everything else” – contrasts comically initially, but subsequently wonderfully with the wonder of the whole of God’s achievement. This is exemplified by concentrating on the particular in the shape of a detailed description of Falcon spread over ten lines; so to some extent, the poem becomes almost mimetic of the creative act it is delineating. Look at the careful phraseology, the exact diction and imagery – “soldered eyes like beacons flashing / warnings” - , and internal rhyming – “ripping”, “gripping” – and the way in which Bird, like the poem, is built incrementally piece by piece, feature by feature, line by line with clear, hard-edged perception, that both acknowledges and glorifies the creature as instrument of life, and of death:


Perfection came easy: Bird rebooted

to ripping machine of beak and talons

gripping His wrist. He held it close,

kissed his creation, inspired it with steel,

darkness and plunging fire.


There is admiration, awe, love, intensity, fear and ownership here. This is an enviable work.


My congratulations go to the writers of the winning poems; and my thanks go to all who entered for letting me share a space in their poetic worlds.


Thanks, too, to Nnorom Azuonye and the Sentinel Poetry Movement for their efficiency and organization, and for inviting me to adjudicate.  It is heart-warming to see poetry thriving – long may it continue!


Roger Elkin




Reading the Sentinel Annual Short Story Competition was an uplifting experience. There were many well-written entries drawing upon family and other relationships, childhood memories, experiences of old age, crime, gypsy and ethnic cultures and colonial life as well as mental illness, historical and feminist perspectives. Each entry was worth reading and had something to say.  Sadly, there was often a lack of structure and unpredictability about many entries. It is simply not enough to have a static description of a memory, moment, state or condition that involves no action and revelation. A minimalist approach to story development can work if the detail is exact within a knowing or flawed first or third person narrative. The best stories in the competition were incredibly varied in style and tone. They were thoroughly unpredictable, page-turners, that grabbed attention with narrative force, and strong atmosphere, precise and memorable detail and a clear structure that stayed in the memory after reading.  Several of the best stories were also very funny or mysterious.


‘The Day A Heart Shifted’ won the First Prize. It has a formidably strong narrative force and arc. The first person narrative filters information as the story line develops within a beautifully described sultry setting and leads to a ferocious and violent crescendo. It has an unrelenting pace and fierceness that lays bare the narrator’s refusal to accept an unequal relationship and its consequences. It focuses sharply upon a woman ironing and raising a family without any help from her partner. The consequences are unpredictable and internally coherent. The short stabbing sentences beautifully evoke and mirror the condition under review and work to make the story linger long after being read. It is the best executed story in terms of writing, plot and narrative force within the word limit.


‘Dream Work’ won the Second Prize. It has a similarly strong first person narrative that develops within a testing narrative arc and also reaches a transcendent ending. Every word and detail counts in this story written with a vernacular accent that deepens and widens during its course. It has the widest social reach of all the entries and great charm. It has an expertly controlled and unpredictable narrative that keeps the reader fully engaged. It is the simplicity of the story’s arc supported by considerable and significant detail that the reader remembers.


‘Vengeance is Mine’ won the Third Prize. It is economical, diligently delineated to maximize effect and turns on a joke at the end that surprises and delights the reader. The contrast between the hard-drinking Christian, colonial bigot and his devout Muslim manservant works splendidly with the underdog surprisingly upstaging the protagonist at the end. The story’s arc involves the bigot unwittingly drinking his own urine after mistakenly thinking that he had poisoned his manservant with his it. This wonderful twist makes the story memorable a long time after initial reading. It is a simple story that works through attention to every detail and builds up the story’s pitch to a fitting ending.


Amongst the Highly Commended Stories ‘The Berries’ is an outstanding story that is deeply imbued with atmosphere of time and place that brings the reader back time and time again. It has a cinematic richness in its imagery and a mysterious quality that lingers. It is perhaps more narrow in focus and has less of an arc than the top three stories yet it beguiles and works through authentic and concrete detail. ‘The Jumper’ is also a memorable story about a drunken man discovering a man about to jump off a high bridge and going on to the ledge seemingly to talk him out of jumping off. It is a tragi-comic story that surprises and delights the reader with its mixing of the narratives of two characters. ‘The Lady Who Feeds The Squirrels’ sequentially unfolds a narrative concerning a murderer that has lost his memory and works through things that are unsaid. It makes good use of the form and shows what can be achieved within a word limit. ‘Counting’ shows how childhood experiences help form an adult character in unforeseen ways. There is great use of detail and plenty of narrative action that propel the story forward. ‘Kindness’  covers much ground within the word limit and impresses with its narrative skills delineating how an individual can be drawn from one world into another as well as showing how actions can lead to consequences in a surprising way.


All of the Commended Stories impressed with their structure and were in different and compelling ways memorable.  ‘The Mysterious Man’ is a self-contained story within a story concerning the meeting of a mysterious man with a mythical tale. ‘Damned on the Kitchen Floor’ reveals the emotional and psychological impact of a participant in a struggle that leads to a knifing. ‘Mr. Carrington’ is a study of a young girl’s infatuation with her violin teacher that culminates in her coming of age and seeing her teacher in mature perspective. ‘The Family Way’ has some tragi-comic twists and turns as a man with a pregnant wife turns to an escort for sexual relief only to discover that his sister has become an escort in order to earn a living. ‘The Lure’ is a mysterious study of attraction between murderer and victim. 


These stories merit a special mention; ‘Blood Dress’ concerns the emotional, psychological and physical impact upon a woman who finds and cannot keep her perfect designer dress.  The movement from triumphant bliss to unforgiving loss is wonderfully modulated. ‘Top Table Invitation’ by moves between the internalized thoughts of a character and narrative description and action within a circular symmetry.  


David Caddy






Closing Date: 21-January-2013

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: Noel Williams.

Prizes: £150 (First), £75 (Second), £50 (Third), £10 x 3 (High Commendation).

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

Fees: £3 per poem, £11 for 4, £12 for 5, £16 for 7, £22 for 10 poems.

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

Or send your poems with a cover note titled ‘Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition December 2012’, 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




Closing Date: 21-January-2013

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: Clare Girvan.

Prizes: £150 (First), £75 (Second), £50 (Third), £10 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: 

Or send your stories with a cover note titled ‘Sentinel Literary Quarterly Short Story Competition December 2012’, 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




ISBN 978-0-9568101-1-3

“Marking Time is a stunning collection of poetry that brings social history to life, looks at the world with breathless precision, and gets under the skin of the characters who moulded - and were moulded by - its landscapes.

Roger Elkin's readers expect nothing less than glittering imagery and perfection in both vocabulary choice and the use of language. This collection gives more as, like all the best poetry, it affects the way its reader thinks.  Reading Marking Time opens new vistas on life and death, love and ageing, and the whole human condition.  Enjoy.”

- Alison Chisholm

“The latest volume by Roger Elkin is a work of considerable

maturity and vision, its success measured by the powerful ways in which stories are told, and histories recreated… rooted in

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This is a big and important book.”

- Will Daunt

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