Eugene Lee-Hamilton Poetry Competition

The Annual Eugene Lee-Hamilton Poetry Competition

Eugene Lee-Hamilton was a poet and novelist who studied at Oriel (1864-66) who revived the use of Petrarchan Sonnets in his own work, and encouraged it in others. The poetry competition prize was founded by the late Mrs Eliza Ann Lee-Hamilton by bequest in 1943, in memory of Eugene James Lee-Hamilton who died in 1907, in order to encourage the composition of the Petrarchan sonnet in Oxford and Cambridge.

About the Competition

The Provost and Fellows of Oriel College offer an annual prize of £60 for the best Petrarchan Sonnet in English submitted by a current undergraduate of Oxford or Cambridge. The sonnet can be on a topic of the author’s choosing, and enjambment between the eighth and ninth lines is permitted.

2020 Competition Open for Entries

The 2020 competition is now open for entries!

If you wish to enter, please email your sonnet to Mrs Rebecca Bricklebank, Oriel College:, by 12 noon on Friday 29th May 2020. Results will be announced by 22nd June 2020.

No candidate may submit more than one sonnet to the competition, and previous winners are not eligible to win again.

Each sonnet must be accompanied by an email from the Head or a Fellow of the entrant’s college, confirming that the candidate is a current undergraduate student. The winner will have been deemed to have given permission to publish his/her sonnet online on Oriel’s website, and in the Oriel Record.

2019 Winning Poems

The First Prize winner of the Eugene Lee-Hamilton Poetry Competition 2019 was Katherine Knight, University College, Oxford with her sonnet, Croquet, Fellows' Garden. The Second Prize winner was Bonnie Samuyiwa, Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge, with her sonnet, Michal's Complaint. Read them both here.

2018 Winning Poems

In 2018, the quality of entries was so high that the judges decided to award the Eugene Lee-Hamilton Prize to two winners: Dominic Leonard, Christ Church Oxford, with his sonnet 'The Fisher of Ham Common' and Shimali de Silva, Peterhouse Cambridge, with her sonnet 'Stella to her Violent Lover'. Read both sonnets here.

2017 Winning Poem

The winner of the Eugene Lee-Hamilton Poetry Competition 2017 was Conor Wilcox-Mahon, St John's College, Oxford with his sonnet 'Merlin's Tower'.

2016 Winning Poem

The winner of the Eugene Lee-Hamilton Poetry Competition 2016 was Jacob Mercer, The Queen's College, Oxford with his sonnet 'The Colossus'.

2015 Winning Poem 

The winner of the Eugene Lee-Hamilton Poetry Competition 2015 was Dominic Hand, Oriel College, Oxford with his sonnet 'On First Looking at Newman's Window'

2014 Winning Poems

There were two winning poems in 2014; Catherine Olver, of Corpus Cristi College, Cambridge with 'The Labourers to Proserpina', and Tara Lee, of Queens' College, Cambridge with 'What the time tells'.