Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition closes 31st October

Details: This competition is for original, previously unpublished poems in English language, on any subject, in any style up to 50 lines long. Visual poem are welcome as long as the image fits into a single page. Poems posted on members-only non-public groups for review/critique as part of the creative process are not deemed to have been previously published. Poets of all ages, gender or nationality living in any part of the world are eligible to enter.

Judge: Roger Elkin is the author of 12 poetry collections including Pricking out, No laughing matter, Points of Reference, Bird in the Hand, Chance Meetings, Dog’s Eye View, Fixing Things, Marking Time and Sheer Poetry (September 2020). Elkin has won over 250 prizes and places – 61 firsts – in national and international poetry competitions.

Prizes: £250 (1st), £100 (2nd), £50 (3rd), £30 x 3 (High Commendation), £15 x (Commendation), 3 x SLQ Paperback (Special Mentions)

First Prize winner will also be entered into the The Forward Prize for Best Single Poem 2021 for a chance to win £1,000.00

Fees £5/1, £8/2, £10/3, £12/4, £14/5, £16/7, £22/10)

Details of how to enter HERE


Somehow by Helen Calcutt

HCcoverIn September 2017, Helen Calcutt’s brother, Matthew, took his own life. He was 40 years old.

‘… the phone rang / and when I answered it / you’d killed / yourself, and that was the start / of you being dead.’

In October 2018 I responded to a call for poems for Eighty Four: Poems on Male Suicide, Vulnerability, Grief and Hope from Verve Poetry Press – an anthology that Helen curated. It is described by Verve as “ both an uncensored exposure of truths, as well as a celebration of the strength and courage of those willing to write and talk about their experiences, using the power of language to openly address and tackle an issue that directly affects a million people every year” and one of its aims is to get people talking about suicide.

Somehow, Helen’s latest pamphlet continues this conversation, exposing the affects a suicide has on others, approaching it head on. At times devastating, at other times she sews a seed of hope and always written with clarity and beauty.




Helen’s poetry, journalism, and critical writing features in publications such as the Guardian, The Huffington Post, The Brooklyn Review, Poetry London, Poetry Scotland, Wild Court, and The London Magazine. Her first pamphlet ‘Sudden rainfall’ (Perdika, 2014) was a PBS Choice. Her second, ‘Unable Mother’, was published by V. Press in 2018. She is creator of poetry anthology ‘Eighty-Four’, produced in aid of the male suicide prevention charity CALM. It was a Poetry Wales Book of the Year, 2019, and was shortlisted for the Saboteur Awards, Best Anthology 2019. Helen’s newest pamphlet, ‘Somehow’ was published by Verve Poetry Press in September 2020.

Helen teaches for the Poetry School, N.A.W.E and Writing West Midlands, and is a visiting lecturer in Creative Writing at Loughborough University. Also a dance artist and choreographer, she specialises in the interplay between language and movement, creating performances for theatre, site-specific productions, and film.





Ella Frears – writing prompt

Ella Frears’ debut collection, Shine Darling, published by Offord Road Books is Shortlisted for this year’s Felix Dennis Best First Collection.  The Forward Prizes For Poetry are being announced at an event run by The British Library on October 25th at 3pm. Tickets for the event are available HERE.


Shine, Darling was a PBS Summer Recommendation and was described by Mark Waldron as ‘Uncompromising, intelligent, surprising, accessible and sharp … These lyric poems have a clarity and straightforwardness that only a special kind of attention, and a certain kind of fearlessness can achieve.’

Here Ella reads highlights from some of the poems she returned to during lockdown and offers up a prompt…


Paul Waring – Swallowing Sunsets

Swallowing Sunsets

My cheap Zenith spooled ready; long waits

outdoors or at windows all part of the show –

sunsets take time to ripen, fire fruit softened

then swallowed; each slow motion arc around

Basildon Bond sky a balloon descent, circus

of citrus, multivitamin shades spilled layer

by layer. Blood orange, pomegranate, charred

lemon and fig spooned honey-thick down throat

of horizon; eyes widen click by click, tongue

overspent on adjectives until the stage clears –

interval before nightshow moon; up there

somewhere, face behind the curtain.


Paul Waring is a retired clinical psychologist who once designed menswear and sang in several Liverpool bands. His poems have been published in print journals, anthologies and webzines. He was runner-up in the 2019 Yaffle Prize and commended in the 2019 Welshpool Poetry Competition. His debut pamphlet ‘Quotidian’ is published by Yaffle Press.


Valerie Morton reviews LURE by Alison Lock (Calder Valley Poetry, 2020)


Lost Below the Surface

 Stilled water holds our secrets in silt,

language of sand, leaf,, root,

words lost below the surface.

These are the opening words of the first section of this remarkable book. Sometimes you hold your breath in anticipation of a poetry collection, musing on how the writer will deal with the subject matter. This has been, for me, one such occasion.

Already a very accomplished poet, Alison Lock creates an inspiring and unique  lyrical account of a near death experience with her particular emphasis on environment and natural landscapes and how they interconnect with human understanding.

Lure captures the reader, pulling them into re-living her horrendous accident and the surroundings in which it occurred. At no time does the poet feel sorry for herself but rather connects with nature in order to find a path through her predicament in a place so familiar to her, where she was walking with her dog one early morning.  Part I is  one long lyrical evocation from the moment it happened:

There is the mark

on the place where broken rocks

are my bones, cold meltwater my blood.


Earth, air, water, spirit.


It was early one morning in April

when I entered her waters

in a flash of a kingfisher’s stripe

I might never have seen.


I do not remember.  The falling.

It is a tribute to a great writer that she is able to recall observations at such a time, trapped under water, alone, without a sense of panic but rather of seeking a way to become a part of the place in which she finds herself, following roots and branches and debris in order to find a way out. She becomes as one with her surroundings, following the rhythm that can keep her afloat. Until the questions:

Will I ever be found, this weed-bound me

this creature of pond, in plight?




Unknown to me my back is broken. I am truly felled.


I am a wolf, snarling into another life, circling wider and wider.

 What follows is a song of place, an intimacy of circumstances, where two lives – that of the earth, the other of a person at one with it, until we reach the end of the first section:

Hands, knees, reaching, inching.

I am the widening side

where the spilled earth

has been lifted, tipped into a pyramid

of brick, a rubble of razing.

I sink, I can go no further,

on, in, pain, dark.


Too cold, too cold, I am too cold.

 Part II (I Am Found) consists more of individual poems – each one a part of the long haul to recovery – the hospital, the back brace, the physio – each one a song to nature as if rediscovering not only herself but the world around her – until winter arrives:

Fault lines diminish, as I heal

the honeycomb of bone is mending

with the glue

of collagen, salt, calcium,


phosphate elements to re-create me.


So now I have the words, I have darkness, and I have hope.


The Epitaph – part III ends with the beautiful words:

I leave you the herons by the stream,

their silent flights known only by their shadow.

 This book is a song waiting to be sung – I have tried to provide a glimmer of the treasure in store for the reader.  This is a one-off, courageous, work about a landscape which held the power of life or death – the reader quickly becomes as much a part of this landscape as the trauma with which it is intertwined.  A highly recommended work which will quickly become one you may wish to dip into often – a reminder that life is a gift.




Fokkina McDonnell


It is morning, too early to know
if the breeze will turn into a horse,
standing still, eyes closed.
If it were to become a lost dog,
you’ll see it running, yelping the length
of that black drystone wall.

A field like this could be anywhere.
Think green, think clouds. Think winter.
In my memory, it’s early evening, sunny.
The ropes of a hot air balloon stretched taut.


Fokkina’s poems have been widely anthologised, successful in competitions, and published in a range of magazines, including Orbis, Magma, The North, Poetry News, Little Mslexia, erbacce, Strix.  Her debut collection Another life was published by Oversteps Books in 2016. Indigo Dreams Publishing will publish a second collection Nothing serious, nothing dangerous later this year.  http://www.acaciapublications.co.uk


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Annest Gwilym’s What the Owl Taught Me – reviewed by Rennie Halstead


What the Owl Taught Me

Lapwing Publications 2020 £11

ISBN 978-1-9163457-4-4

Annest Gwilym’s first collection is an exploration of the countryside, and especially the wildlife, in her native Wales. The book is loosely based on the tradition of a bestiary, so includes some imaginary as well as real animals. Nature is closely observed and Gwilym brings a great eye for detail to her writing, combined with some very evocative imagery.

In Crows, the opening poem, she says the birds:

            huddle like conspirators

in slick black suits

She references their sharp-eyed observation and speed at finding carrion as they:


polished as pickpockets.

Gwilym also creates a sense of the intelligence of this group of birds when she says:

            their keen eyes know that

beyond the bright cathedral

of the sky, the dark is deep.

Doorway is one of the few poems in the collection that focuses on plants, rather than animals.The observation is sharp and detailed. I love the idea that:

                        Sly fingers of ivy

creep darkly over one side

This image captures the way ivy colonises plants and fences when you are looking the other way, and suddenly the plant has made a constricting take-over bid for trees, fences, and in this case a disused doorway. Gwilym also picks up the way ivy provides a home and shelter for wildlife, here describing a butterfly as it:

prints red and black on it,

folds its wings as in prayer

In The Last Woolly Mammoth  Gwilym takes a leap of imagination to picture how the final days of the last woolly mammoth must have been. She describes the way mammoth were hunted and scavenged by stone-age man for their skins and bones, providing food, warmth and shelter. She pictures the death of the last mother mammoth:

The mother sinks into permafrost,

trumpets a final cry only he hears

The young mammoth is left alone to survive as best he can:

He keeps vigil; forages, shovels snow

for sweet grasses

Gwilym shows the other giants of the time, safe out of the reach of Man, for the moment:

Out in the bay the only other giants,

bow head whales and belugas

crest the sea like glossy grey boulders

She describes the mammoth’s death:

Alone on Wrangel Island polar night

closes round him

like a shroud.

On a different scale, Green Tiger Beetle is one of the poems in the collection that presents a picture of a small creature, one that could be so easily overlooked, and examines it in great detail:

In a marram forest sweetened by lilac trumpets

of shore convolvulus, a tiny sun-crazed tiger

lies in wait

Gwilym shows us a:

                        gaudy long legged lady,

in sea-green dress and purple stockings

The beetle is always watchful, always on the prowl. She:

scans the dunes in fearful symmetry;

still as the breath of a foxglove

When she spots her prey:

fast as fire in parched moorland

she sprints after a spider […] across crumbs

of silica and seashell.

The spider has no chance, and the poem ends as:

the six legged slayer […] grabs,

decapitates, gorges with guillotine jaws.

The Moon Hedgehog is a delightful introduction to this well-known but threatened mammal. Gwilym imagines the genesis of the animal:

One night the moon cracked open

and out he tumbled, with newborn spines

that pricked the air in their fire-beauty

She pictures his arrival on earth:

Golden tipped sea urchin, he fled

through looms of leaves fingered by spiders

and night crackling grass

The poem concludes with a close look at the hedgehog’s habits, and the ways he is so useful to gardeners:

A barn owl chafed the caverns of sleep;

all night he snuffled, snaffled slugs and worms,

blackened his lips with soft blackberries,

fell asleep at dawn drunk on moon-juice.

The last poem in the collection, There are Horses looks at the pressures and threats that the natural world faces today, particularly from the demands of planners. Gwilym opens the poem:

There are horses where they wanted houses

where the planning failed, where iron age people

once looked over the strait, their dreamless bones

now polished clean

She remembers the long tradition of early settlers, who also lived on the site, but whose homes have disappeared.:

Gone the round houses smelling of old smoke;

now ragwort, willow herb, meadowsweet prevail

Below in owl-haunted woods trees absorb

the bite of the wind that sifts through grasses

Gwilym comments on the wildlife still living on in the area:

Young hares shiver in forms as a hawk wheels

circles overhead,

The poem concludes:

the three horses and their foals,

nuzzled by sun, licked by rain. Those bright horses

of the night canter into my dreams.

This is a hugely enjoyable collection. We meet a great variety of animals, from herring gulls to bluebottles. Gwilym showcases the natural world in a most imaginative way, making us aware of the beauty that surrounds us if we only look closely, and which could so easily be under threat from development.


Angele Paoli – Opening song trans. Martyn Crucefix

Opening song

a translation of ‘Chant d’ouverture’ by Angele Paoli 

Death             your bit clicking my bones
you brush close you huff
your rotten song up my nostrils

you dance under leafy trees skulk
in cracks of rocks you rasp
your black laugh in the hinges of my hips

– who are you

to scrape barren soil then broadcast
in passing the foul stink
of your winds

who dance dancing with your bones
skiffing and jumping around me
your scythe scores earth

and you swell sky with your cunning
spine flesh gone gulped
skeleton gnawed

– what do you want now

so many corpses don’t they fill you
keep you fat –

I see them sneering
gap-toothed mouth dismantled chin
flung back to earth
still you champ at the bit

you filth!


Angèle Paoli is a Corsican poet, novelist and translator. She runs the on-line feminist review Terres de femmes and was winner of the Aristotle European Prize for French Poetic Criticism in 2013. Recent publications include La Montagne couronnée (2014), Les Feuillets de la Minotaure (2015), the novel Artemesia allo specchio (2018) and translations of Luigia Sorrentino.

Martyn Crucefix: recent publications are Cargo of Limbs (Hercules Editions, 2019), These Numbered Days, translations of the poems of Peter Huchel (Shearsman, 2019) and The Lovely Disciplines (Seren, 2017). Currently a Royal Literary Fund fellow at Westminster University, he blogs regularly on poetry, translation and teaching at http://www.martyncrucefix.com


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