Sonnet competitions

The Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award is associated with the formal poetry print journal Measure, published by the University of Evansville, Indiana. The ten shortlisted “finalist” sonnets each year are published in Measure. First Prize: $1000; entry fee $3 per sonnet. This is not the most international-friendly contest (postal entries only, with payment in $US) but enjoys high prestige among American formalist poets. The closing (postmark) date for the 2011 contest is November 15 and the final judge will be Michael Juster, himself a three-time winner. The winner of the 2010 contest was Catherine Chandler (a regular in 14 by 14) and the final judge was A. E. Stallings. Past Nemerov winners Robert Crawford, Michael Juster, Rhina P. Espaillat and Stephen Scaer have sonnets in 14 by 14.

The Open Poetry Competition, for sonnets exclusively, was inaugurated in 2007. First Prize was £1400 (then around US $2800) and the contest was judged throughout by a panel which included prestigious British poet Don Paterson. The competition was organised by Chistopher Whitby, Director of Open Poetry. (A sonnet by Christopher Whitby appears in Issue 6.) The competition will need sponsorship if it is to be run again. The 2007 winner was Julie Kane — another of her sonnets had already appeared in our Issue 3; she later joined the selection panel and served from Issues 5 through 11; her competition-winning sonnet appeared as an invitational in Issue 5. The anthology of the shortlisted 100 sonnets from this competition was published in 2008 and is available from the site at the link above. Besides Julie Kane with the winning sonnet, former 14 by 14 panel member David Anthony and editor Peter Bloxsom have sonnets (two in David’s case) included in the anthology.

First place and the $500 prize in the 2010 New England Shakespeare Festival Sonnet Award went to former Nemerov winner Robert Crawford. Entries were anonymised for the sole judge, R. Nemo Hill. Prizewinning poems are to be published later this year in the Raintown Review.


Feel like browsing past Nemerov-winnning sonnets? Here they are.

Interested in the not entirely serious thoughts of three-time Nemerov winner Michael Juster (this year’s final judge) on a winning formula, if there is one? Here is How to Win a Nemerov.


Curious to read a sonnet by the editor? Here’s one in Soundzine that made the shortlist for the 2007 Open Poetry Competition and was included in the subsequent anthology Hand Luggage Only. Actually, if you hunt around in that site, you might even find the sonnet that won their inaugural competition.   

If you’re able to help in finding a potential sponsor or underwriter for a rerun of the Open Poetry (Sonnet) Competition, get in touch with Christopher Whitby at


The prizewinning sonnets in last year’s Shakespeare Festival contest were due to be published in the summer 2011 issue of the print journal The Raintown Review.