QUARTERLY POETRY COMPETITION (OCTOBER 2009)
This being my first stab
at judging a poetry competition I wanted to use as many
critical techniques I had at my disposal. However, out of
what turned out to be quite a mixed batch of entries, only a
few poems really jumped out at me and took me by the hand.
So my job turned out to be easier than I thought.
First of all I discarded
clichéd, clumsy, rhyme-led poems and poems that tried to
philosophise too much without really taking me anywhere.
There were a lot of poems with a good grasp of language but
they failed to transcend, they remained simply words on a
page. I think it can be too easy to let our minds become
distracted by startling language, and regard such poems to
be good poems, without considering the beating heart beneath
the language that needs to be pumping those words around the
body of the page.
I immediately chose ‘’Moving’’
as a possible winner, before going over it again and again,
and again, and coming to the conclusion that it ticked
pretty much all the boxes for me. It had to be first. The
opening lines took me by the hand and by the end of the poem
I had been somewhere and come back better for it. There is a
command of line and craft in ‘’Moving’’ that doesn’t get in
the way, that doesn’t drown out the sound of a heart
was an obvious choice for second place, it appealed to
my emotions immediately. It doesn’t try to be something
else, it knows what it is and the writing almost peels away
to reveal a handful of seeds. For me, the best poetry is
something I can almost touch, almost have a conversation
with, and by the end of the poem I wanted to take the wads
of tissue out of the bin and put them under my pillow.
is third, and struck a somewhat different chord. The
economy of language was refreshing after wading through
chunks of rambling prose going around in circles and making
me dizzy. There is no padding and every word is just as it
should be without giving in to the temptation to run away
As for the rest, I am
confident around 32 of the poems that didn’t quite make it
will prove to make an interesting and varied mix of voices
for the resulting chapbook of runners up. From the very
beginning, when I opened the envelope of entries and gave
them a quick scan before diving in, it was obvious to me
that Sentinel have gathered the interest of poets who are
not afraid to write from the heart regardless of the
consequences. Now is a time when poetry seems to be opening
its eyes to the world again. I hope it likes what it sees.
To read the
winning poems now, go to October
issue of magazine.
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ESSAYS & REVIEWS
lives in Kidderminster in the West Midlands and runs the Last
Chance Before Bath-time publications