Sonnet Contest

Established in 2014, our annual Sonnet Contest inspires (and rewards) writers around the world. This year, we’re accepting entries January 1 – February 29 in two categories: Sonnets and Tallahassee Poems.

Poets can enter up to two poems in each of the categories/entry levels* for which they are qualified. Each finalists is invited to share their work live onstage before a performance at the 2024 Southern Shakespeare Festival in Cascades Park.

For each poem that places, finalists also receive Amazon gift cards:

  • 1st Place: $200 Amazon gift card
  • 2nd Place: $100 Amazon gift card
  • 3rd Place: $50 Amazon gift card

*This means that one seventh-grader could enter up to four poems–two sonnets to the Middle School category, plus two additional poems to the Tallahassee Poems category–and earn up to $600 in gift cards if all four poems placed!


Read on to learn more. Still have questions? Contact our Communications Director Kelby.

The Sonnet Contest has three categories for sonnet entries–Middle School, High School, and College / Adult.

Each sonneteer that qualifies for those categories may enter up to two sonnets on the topic(s) of their choice.

Sonnets should use the English format (ABABCDCDEFEFGG) and are encouraged to incorporate Shakespearean stylings such as iambic pentameter. Looking for more sonnet guidance and inspiration? Scroll down…!

In celebration of Tallahassee’s Bicentennial, the 2024 Contest also features a fresh category unrestricted by entrant age or poem format: Tallahassee Poems!

All poets may enter up to two compositions, unrestricted by format.

The only requirement for poems in this category is that they must celebrate Florida’s capital city in a positive light. So whether you do haikus or fire off free verse, let the muses lead you…!

Congratulations 2023
Sonnet Contest Winners!

middle School Winner

Oh how I love the sound of your sweet voice
by Timothy Hughes

Oh how I love the sound of your sweet voice,
Your dulcet tones are pleasing to my ear.
But sometimes you barrage me with your noise,
So much that I can’t stand to listen here.

Some music is like angels sent from heav’n,
It soothes me like the purest foreign balm.
Sometimes it stills me like the cream of Dev’n,
And it provides for me a wondrous calm.

I love to play a wide range of music:
Bach preludes to the waltzes of Chopin.
The lovely rhythm although sometimes quick,
Is wonderful to my attention span.

And as you see music is my great love;
 I treasure it as if it were a dove.

2nd Place: “I wish my writer’s block would go away” by Laurel Standridge

3rd Place: “A piece of homework every now and then” by Wyatt Mitchell

High School Winner

Ode to a White Crayon by Adeline Brown

An artist who holds me within his fist,
And presses me upon his paper slate
I try to free myself but can’t resist
The gentle pressure of his writing’s weight. 

How freely he draws what’s inside his mind;
But nothing marks the movements of our hand.
An artist’s tool is somehow wholly blind,
Perhaps my hue’s too pale to understand? 

He picks me up to read my label torn
And sets me down—no artist job to do.
I plead with eyes that ask ‘bout secrets sworn;
White crayons won’t show the splendor that he drew. 

I watch him shade and scribble from the shelf,
As Reds and Blues grow duller than myself. 

2nd Place: “The Latin language is superior” by Benjamin Hall and Timothy Hughes

3rd Place: “Running Through a Sonnet” by Sarah Patel

Adult Winner

for Thurston and all children of the Anthropocene Age
by Jinn Bug

Scry the horizon where our city broods—
a smoky wound consuming drought-stripped hills
where no green branches dance the rough winds’ moods.
Is it too late to heal all that is ill? 

The world’s ablaze. From space, men signal down
a continental snapshot ringed with fire
yet our compulsive greed leaps every bound
and species after species fuels the pyre. 

In olden days, we’d whisper bees this news;
in sympathy, they’d sweeten what they could.
What we do now is argue against truth;
we sheathe the world in concrete, call it good. 

When fire melts what we callously hardened,
Earth will drink our ashes and yield gardens.

2nd Place: “A Sonnet for Ukraine” by Renée Szostek

3rd Place: “A Sonnet for Hiroshima and Nagasaki” by Renée Szostek

Are you a sonneteer? Watch our past winners and guest readers for inspiration!

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