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. Sylvia Plath-Hughes is among the past winners of this competition, so entrants are in good company.

2022 Competition - Open for Entries!

The 2022 competition is now open for entries.

To enter, please email your sonnet to Mrs Rebecca Bricklebank, Oriel College:, by 12 noon on Friday 27th May 2022. Results will be announced by 24th June 2022.

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.

2021 Winning Poem

The winner of the Eugene Lee-Hamilton Poetry Competition 2021 was Tayiba Sulaiman, St Hilda’s College, Oxford with her sonnet, Reading.

2020 Winning Poem

The winner of the Eugene Lee-Hamilton Poetry Competition 2020 was Jane Cooper, New College, Oxford with her sonnet, Upon James Sadler’s Ascent from Christ Church Meadow.

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.