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University of Ottawa amateur sonnet-writing competition

As part of the University of Ottawa’s celebrations of “Shakespeare’s Afterlife” marking the 400th anniversary of his death, the organizers of “Shakespeare 400” invite you to try your hand at a Shakespearean sonnet on a Canadian theme. First-time sonneteers are warmly welcomed!

Win cash! First prize: $300. Two runners-up: $100 each (Okay, it’s not that much cash, but still….). All finalists will be invited to read their sonnets at a Shakespeare-themed evening of poetry reading and fun.

All entries must include name and University of Ottawa student or employee number with the declaration that the submission is original work, never before published. All entries must be submitted by e-mail to the organizers at

Here are a couple of examples to whet your appetite. Pretty silly, eh? Anyone can do it!


Sonnet on a Caesar

Tomato juice and essence of the clam,
Mixed with the finest Russian distillation,
How well thou goest with brunch of eggs and ham,
And art preferred for festive lubrication.
Thou art unknown below our southern border,
A fact upon which we do little think
Until in U.S. bar we place our order
And wind up with a salad, not a drink.
What’s more, their drink that shuns the briny shellfish,
Which they use plain tomato juice to make,
Is named after an English queen so selfish
She’d burn their founding fathers at the stake.
With cocktail tributes let them seek to please her:
Let them hail Bloody Mary; we’ll hail Caesar.


“The Bard in a Winter Wonderland” or “SNOW Is a Four-Letter Word”

What country’s this, that these mine eyes behold?
Where winds do blow so rude to shake my spear,
And freeze my doublet and my hose with cold.
On ice full fathom five I quake with fear!
Where are the beds where late the tulips grew?
And mighty maples cool’d a summer’s day?
Alas, poor Yoricke, hast thou spoken true,
To frozen graves hath all life past away?
What creature’s this, that fast and fearless scoots?
With front teeth large and flat round tail he rides.
With elbow’d stick, he skates, he slides, he shoots!
What country’s this, and who o’er it presides?
“’Tis Can-a-da; the king’s name read below”:
And with his stick he writes the dread word: S-N-O-W!

- Anon.


1. Sonnets must be in true Shakespearean style—that is, iambic pentameter with a traditional sonnet rhyme scheme of ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. Using modern English vocabulary, though, is fine: “thees” and “thous” not required.

2. Participation is open to the entire University of Ottawa community, including students in all disciplines, professors, and staff. As this is an amateur competition, please refrain from entering if you write poetry (or other literary genres) for a living.

3. Sonnets must be in some way related to Canadian themes, contexts, or settings: literary, social, historical, political, environmental, etc.

4. Entrants may submit one sonnet only. Sonnets must not be previously published.

Deadline EXTENDED: All submissions must be received by February 14, 2016.

Judging: The entries will be reviewed by a panel of experts, including Shakespeare specialists and published authors. Names will be removed from the entries prior to review by the panel. The decision of the panel will be final.