The Sonnet Contest

Words, words, words

Shakespeare’s sonnets, 154 in all, demonstrate his mastery of the English language in a way that some of us might appreciate, if not fully understand, and perhaps even want to imitate.

With this in mind, the Southern Shakespeare Company, in partnership with the Tallahassee Democrat and Sachs Media Group, will hold its FIFTH ANNUAL SONNET CONTEST in 2019.  

The contest will run March 26 through April 26, 2019 providing an opportunity for folks to write like the Bard!

There will be three categories: COLLEGE/ADULT, HIGH SCHOOL, and  MIDDLE SCHOOL.

All finalists will have their sonnets published in the Tallahassee Democrat and the winning sonnets will be announced and read Saturday evening, May 11th, during the Southern Shakespeare Festival weekend at Cascades Park with special guest artist SONNET MAN!

Prizes are valued over $1,000!

So, what precisely is a sonnet? Shakespeare wrote 14 line sonnets that follow a specific rhythmic and rhyming pattern of iambic pentameter. Shakespeare wrote sonnets about love, loss, and beauty, but our sonnet contest writers wrote about most ANY subject of their choosing…and had some great fun! 

Sonnets can be submitted to Category (Middle, High School or Adult) and contact information must be included with your submission.

If you have any questions, please feel free to check our FAQs page or reach us at!


The 2018 Sonnet Contest finalists were published in the Tallahassee Democrat on May 20, 2018. To view the article, click here.

Congratulations to our Middle School Finalists!


Olivia Lunsford

A Sonnet for my Siblings 

On the bus from school, can’t wait to be home.
I’m ready to rest, a book in my hand.
I arrive at last, I’m fin’ly alone.
But no! I open the door to mayhem.A hurricane of children knocks me down.
The rolling thunder of tiny kid shoes.
The gust of outraged screaming blows around.
I’m pelted with tears from a baby’s bruise.A cyclone kid leaves Legos to step on.
I cannot see the carpet anymore.
I try to stop them, but the storm’s too strong
I wish I had never opened the door.I think, while I’m drowning in baby drool,
I can hardly wait to go back to school.

Laxmi McGuire


Do you just wander, no destination?
Is all you do stroll along the paved path?
Always obey, without explanation?
Scared to break rules, scared of the aftermath?You think that you are afraid of dying,
But your fear is that you haven’t lived life.
You can’t know true laughter without crying,
Can’t learn without being cut by the knife.Would it be so bad to just run away?
If you let go, the wind would carry you.
If you dive in, you cannot drift astray.
Put your hand to the glass, let it glide through.Emotions coursing through your heart, your veins,
Pure euphoria is all that remains.

Ivy Simpson


Twirling, whirling, all such intricate knots
As it unravels, a pattern will form
Blue moons and white stars, and little black dots
Scarves with tassels for keeping you warm.A hat, a sweater, ever so cozy
Weaving cables to keep out the cold air
Great for a book where it is not noisy
But it unravels again with a tear.Looping and thatching, over and under
Needles slide up and down with a click click
Weaving a tapestry is a wonder
And only with some wool and two slim sticksPeople can knit the world together again
I wait to see if by wool or by chain.

Congratulations to the High School Finalists!

in alphabetical order

Ingrid Cortes-Marin

Land of the Free

Land of the free is what I’ve heard them say.
Land where you speak and will be heard, it seems.
Where the sun falls and still the children play.
Where you may turn your passions into dreams.Land of sole inequality, I say.
The daily threat of a corrupt bullet.
Glares of hatred, igneous, every day.
A wicked man standing in the pulpit.Centuries of false liberty, I say;
For think of mental liberation.
Garden of Eden, a hoax, they portray,
As strategy of manipulation.Manipulated I refuse to be.
My mind is my freedom, not this debris.

Annette Lu

Starving for Freedom

I am starving for freedom, locked in chains
Heavy weights holding me back from the light
Trying for freedom, crying in vain
With nowhere to turn, I have lost my fight.Courage is fading, the road never ends
But I never slow down, I keep going
And if I reach freedom is what depends
If I lose my sight, there is no knowingEnveloped in darkness, gloom all around
The wind is howling, the walls are closing
But I see something, shining on the ground
I get up slowly, this light is growingNow, nothing’s in my way or holds me back
Free at last, only restraint that I lack.

Madeleine Roberts


The stars are fairies, caught in shady webs,
Suspended in the heavens unobserved
By ancient spiders that misplaced their legs
In early days, becoming planets curved.The tiny sprites endeavor to escape
And beat their wings and twinkle, mortified.
From fairy bodies constellations shaped,
Those freed at long last shoot across the sky.Who knows how long they’ll hang there, cloaked by night
And guarded by Orion’s silver bow?
Or thrashing at their bonds that hold them tight,
The age-old struggle started long ago?But same thing happens each and every day:
Gold dawn appears, the fairies fade away.

Congratulations to the College/Adult Finalists!

in alphabetical order

Randie Denker

Inspired by Sonnet 34
The Play is the Thing (methinks)

Why didst thou promise such a beauteous play?
And make me travel to Cascades Park
To see Shakespearean actors strut and sashay
Across a stage, braying “prithee” and “hark”?T’is only a fool who takes on this craft,
Braving forgotten lines and stage fright,
Unappreciative audiences who ne’er laughed,
Capricious sound systems not quite right.Then the sorrow of a performance rained out,
The terror of the understudy’s abrupt call,
The critic’s scorn, the gnawing self-doubt,
The clumsy entrance, the humiliating fall.Then, just when all seems to be going so well,
And sublime words from actors’ lips are born
Along comes an eighty-car train to break the spell,
Drowning out their words with the blasts of a horn.And yet, despite all the pitfalls and dread, loyal friend,
Methinks the play’s worth more than gold in the end.

Kathleen Fedore

The Line Between Reality and Ren-Faire

The faire will be packed this year I will bet,
Garbed, as we exit a car, not a coach.
Husband bad-jokes “Think of what we won’t get!
The pox or plague from a flea or a roach!”Was it this hot in Renaissance days?
Not smiling yet, I’m trying to force it.
Wish fans were inside my kirtle and stays,
Sweltering ‘neath my Amazon corset.Fools blocking the way with cell (fie!) in hand!
Will someone please tell this Instagram set
Glitter fishnet hose, pointy elf-ears and
Wings are not even close to accurate?!Oyez! Huzzah! Of this line we are freed!
Bring on Shakespeare, merry-making and MEAD!

Robert Ferdinand

Love’s Labour’s Won

When I a callow youth of seventeen
Did first behold my heaven in thine eyes
Of tawny hue, my heart proclaimed you Queen
And swore thy heart would be my sacred prizeFor I unworthy of such sweet delight
As shines enthroned upon thy gentle brow
Did pray that thou my love might yet requite
And thus perfect my joy should fate allowSo I unswerving as the stars above
Did proffer there my worship day by day
To thee alone- and lo, thy precious love
Did blossom like the rose adorning MayAs in thy love my heaven shines anew
So time shall never dim my love for you.