Tuesday, 30 April 2013


Results of the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry & Short Story Competitions (March 2013) were both scheduled for announcement today, April 30th, however the short story results are not yet in. The judge, Kate Horsley, needs a further week to complete the adjudication process. Therefore the short story results will be announced on Thursday, 9th May. Find below the results of the Poetry Competition judged by Oz Hardwick.






Rebecca Bilkau - A Blue Dancer Speaks

Nick Pemberton - Cage Wrestling for Dummies

Roger Elkin - Elemental

Andy Fawthrop - Hare

Eileen Carney Hulme - Impossible Now

Gill McEvoy -Revival Meeting, North Carolina

Mark Totterdell - Sidwell Street

David William Clemson -Theorists in Context

Simon Jackson –Unborn




Rebecca Bilkau - At Sea

Julie Mellor - House of Thorns

Simon Collings - Four more ways of looking at a blackbird




3rd Prize: RICHARD ORMROD - Letter to the Grim Reaper

2nd Prize: BILL LYTHGOE - I Remember

1st Prize: JIM BENNETT - in the car park of the Ponderosa Café






Judging a competition is always an education, revealing a unique cross-section of what is popular and what isn’t amongst poets. Perhaps it’s the omnipresence of Brian Cox on our television screens, but astronomy supplied by far the most popular source of metaphors amongst entries: there were galaxies and constellations everywhere, some of which spiralled into the final fifteen. On the other hand, if there’s one thing that seems to be losing popularity, it’s punctuation. I confess to being more than a little concerned about this. Whilst the winning poem manages to defy the page’s gravity and balance words perfectly on the page without the use of comma, full stop or safety net, so many entries seemed to be the product of either not understanding what punctuation does or simply not bothering. If words are the scaffolding upon which we support meaning, punctuation is the nuts and bolts, and it takes a very deft engineer to keep the scaffolding aloft without them. Too many of the entries collapsed into heaps of words and images, their relationships to each other poorly delineated.

            Rhyming verse is apparently still out of favour, and few of the rhymed entries were confident or adventurous. This said, the subtle rhythms of free verse was often a joy to experience. Unlike a song lyric, a poem has to contain its own music, and there was much to enjoy, not only in the short-list, but in a number of poems which didn’t quite make the final cut. And there were a number of strong poems which didn’t end up amongst the commendation – the long-list took a couple of weeks of jostling in the pack before the leaders started to separate themselves and pull ahead.

            So, what about those final six? ‘Four more ways of looking at a blackbird’ appeals because it engages with ‘the canon’ in a way that is witty and personal, particularly in the third stanza (although on my copy I have compulsively added a comma after the first line). A fresh exercise that punches slightly above its weight.

            First lines are important, and ‘House of Thorns’ had me from its opening phrase. Throughout, the prosaic scratches against the folkloric to create an uncomfortable thrill until it closes with that wonderful ‘sound like knuckles cracking’. Would I change anything? Well, the arrows are not as strong a simile as the sharks’ teeth, but it’s only a slight dip in this tight, spiky poem.

            ‘At sea’ is another tactile delight. Read it aloud and enjoy the taste of the words: ‘it ebbs from the quick, sharp sand while rock pools // spume with caught stars.’ In a poem that provides an object lesson in where to break lines, I particularly liked this extended breath between stanzas.

            In third place, ‘Letter to the Grim Reaper’ is another deceptively simple poem which is nonetheless beautifully controlled. This is one of those poems that at first glance seems like a prose passage chopped into neat lengths, but then the rhythms kick in, the long, stretching sentence pulling against the short line structure, while the rhymes bob to the surface, steer the sense onward, before it all comes to that flat, colloquial – and hopeless – utterance.

            ‘I Remember…’ is an altogether different poem of endings. The subject could be mawkish, but the first-person address and lack of pleading – even in that cold closing statement – render this intensely moving. The way thoughts lose their moorings, elide with reminiscences and asides, is utterly convincing. Yet, as with the third-place poem, the effect of plain speech is the result of carefully controlled rhythms, balanced lines and, in this case, quite disturbing patterns of repetition.

            To hark back to my opening remarks, ‘in the car park of the Ponderosa Café’ is a poem that doesn’t need punctuation, each word pinned with precision to the white field. It gives us just enough. There is nothing fussy, from the opening catalogue of hikers’ equipment to the ‘few trees’ of the final stanza, yet the action is all happening between these concrete details. The inevitability of abandonment makes us return immediately to the start of the poem to look for clues, and to sketch in our own details. It was, I admit, a close call, but this is the poem that has haunted me when I’ve turned my mind to other things, and for that reason it gets the first prize.


-       Oz Hardwick


Congratulations to the winners and commended poets. We shall be contacting all winners within 7 business days with their notifications of achievement and for publication permissions. If you are a winner or commended author in this competition and for any reason you have not received mail from us within 7 business days of this announcement kindly get in touch by writing to competitions@sentinelpoetry.org.uk

No comments:

Post a Comment