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Vol.3. No. 3. April - June 2010





Barrie Darke
Bruce J. Berger
Chad Norman
Christian Ward
Chuma Nwokolo Jr
Claire Askew
Colin Gallant
Davide Trame
Gary Beck
Ivor W. Hartmann
Katie Metcalfe
M C Hardwick
Michael Conley
Minna Salami
Pete Court
Roger Elkin
Warren Paul Glover
George Freek


Champion Poems #1

Selected Poems from the

Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition July 2009, featuring poems by twenty fine minds of our time, including Miles Cain, Mandy Pannett, Charles Evans, L.S Mensah, Thomas Gayton, June Drake, Noel Williams and Ellaraine Lockie.

45 Pages.

£3.95 (UK), £4.95 (Overseas)

Price includes P&P

In stock




Judge's Report


by Claire Askew


First prize: The Real Red Riding Hood

This poem spooked me a little, it was so timely.  I'm currently in the middle of a PhD in Creative Writing and Contemporary Scottish Poetics and my thesis concentrates partly on poems that attempt to re-write myth and fairytale.  I've been reading (and, as a result, writing) a lot of these kinds of poems recently and come to realise that fairytale re-writes are so common that they're pretty much a genre in their own right.


To find a poem that subverts that genre – and so effectively – was just a joy.  The Real Red Riding Hood was beautifully done.  The language is very simple but the voice is really well realised.  This is the ultimate unreliable narrator – you get the feeling that they really doth protest too much.  I liked the idea that Red Riding Hood has become a viral internet sensation, and that she's been up to  something slightly untoward – hence the interrogation.  And the pacing is bang-on, leading up to the fantastic pay-off at the end.  I was really happy to find such a subtle and well-written funny poem.  That's a hard balance to hit.  But it's dark and clever as well as funny.  Brilliant stuff.


Second prize: Acting Blackbird

When I found out that I was going to be judging the contest, I blogged about my preferences as a reader and gave a few hints as to what I'd look for in a winning poem.  One thing I mentioned was the ability to produce an original slant on a potentially tired topic; another thing I asked for was “excellent wordsmithery”.  I could have asked for a better example than Acting Blackbird.

Bird poems are absolutely everywhere.  There were a lot of birds flapping around in this stack of poems, in fact – marauding seagulls, pesky pigeons and the ever-popular magpie.  None of them really offered anything very new or interesting.  But Acting Blackbird caught my eye with it's glittery wording: “diagonal” used as a verb, fantastic descriptions like “nervy-bird, up-tight”, and a strong awareness and use of sound – ratcheting, chattering, patter.  I liked the extended metaphor of theatre and performance and the way it was handled.  Sometimes references were obvious – mentions of “soliloquy” and “Jacobean tragedy” – but others were more subtle, like the blackbird's “dagger of beak unsheathed” (a great line).  It's a jittery, energetic little poem with tons of sparkle.


Third prize: Aquarium

The first line of this poem is like one of those “a man walks into a bar” jokes, only a little more sinister.  That sets the tone for the entire piece: a poem that tells you a joke just a little too dark to laugh at.  On the one hand, the premise is nuts – a man's torso has become a fish tank, complete with a trio of fish and (a sweet touch) a little castle.  But on the other hand, there's a lot of darkness here too.  When one of the fish disappears, the man loses a part of himself. 

I read Aquarium as a strange and unique look at illness and mortality.  The shock of discovering you have a serious long-term illness must feel just as strange and jarring as finding that you've turned into a human fish tank.  And when you've lived with illness for a long time, when it begins to lift, are you the same person you used to be?

In spite of its mad premise, I thought this was a very poignant poem.  The man's decision to name the fish, the apathy of the doctors he visits, the bittersweet metaphor of fixing ones hurts with a roll of masking tape... there's a lot more in here than you might think at first read.  The language is simple – almost perfunctory – but effective, too.  Any poet who can inject feeling into a sentence as straightforward as “he feels sad” is definitely onto something.  This was my kind of poem: mad, sad, genuinely original.


Highly Commended: Od 2 a mob fone; Beebox Buggy; Luna

Od 2 a mob fone and Beebox Buggy were two of only about five concrete or visual poems I received – something which surprised me.  I am a huge fan of visual poetry and had hoped to find more in the entries, so when these two surfaced I was really pleased.  The former takes a really risky premise – a poem written in text speak – and manages to turn out a sweet, well-structured piece that doesn't stray into cliché or gimmick (the only thing that put me off was the glossary of terms – I don't think they're needed).  And Beebox Buggy was short, sweet, and alliterative with a great title and a definite shape – though the poet wasn't slavish to the visual side of things.  I liked the its simplicity and subtlety.

The other Highly Commended poem is Luna, which from first read reminded me a great deal of the Carol Ann Duffy poem Stealing.  Like Aquarium, this is a mad premise for a poem, but it manages to be poignant, too.  It also presents a new take on the age-old lovers' promise “I'd give you the moon.”  I love it when poets take ideas like that and run with them.


Judge's choice

The poems I chose for inclusion in the magazine are, I think, a representative selection of all the strong poems I read.  At Home on The Lea contains some lovely language, and I was struck by the strange image of pouring dead fish into the river, and the other fish coming up to eat them.  Amongst the entries there were a lot of street-scapes, a lot of poets looking out of their windows and describing the scene before them.  Access Land was one of the most interesting – I loved “butterflied” and “bristling / on the bonnetsnow”.  Several of these poems hooked me with their cracking endings – the rather bonkers Channel made me smile with its final line, as did Moses, and Belief and True Opinion won me round with a brilliant last stanza.  Catching Purls emanated warmth and rich imagery; Clearing Your Dad's House With Laurel and Hardy was one of the longest poems I read but it kept me interested to the end.  Finally, My Bit – a funny little poem with definite “that's so true” factor – and Upwardly Mobile In The Bottomless Pit, the only poem to leave me laughing out loud.  Look at those last lines – after a threat like that, how could I not select this poem?!

Final statement

I have absolutely loved reading through all the contest submissions and hearing so many new, original and insistent voices.  I was so pleased by the number of entries received and very surprised by the high standard of many of them.  Compiling a Top 15 from a stack of over five hundred poems was a huge challenge, but an enjoyable one.  The poets who made it should be really pleased with themselves – all the poems here had a spark that was impossible to ignore. SLQ




Click on a link below to choose a Sentinel Literary Quarterly competition to enter


Short Story Competition (July 2010)


Poetry Competition (July 2010)



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April-June Index


April 2010 (Poetry)

Judge's Report

April 2010 (Short Stories)

Judge's Report

July 2010 (Poetry)

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July 2010 (Short Stories)

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Claire Askew holds a Masters Degree in English Literature and MSc in Creative Writing from the University of Edinburgh, and she is currently reading a PhD in Creative Writing and Contemporary Scottish Poetics. She teaches Literature and Communications at Telford College, Edinburgh. In 2008, Claire won the Grierson Verse prize, the Sloan Prize for Writing in Lowland Scots Vernacular and the Lewis Edwards Award for Poetry. Her website:



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