On July 30, 2016, Tim and I traveled to Winona, Minnesota for our annual treat–listening to the reading of the winning sonnets from the Maria W. Faust Sonnet Contest–a closing event for the famous Great River Shakespeare Festival. We then spent the day along the Mississippi River to celebrate our anniversary which falls in early August.
Since I first learned about this contest in 2013, I have been not only impressed by the great variety, beauty, and power of the winning poems, I have begun, much more frequently, to “think in sonnet form.” What I mean by that is that the meter, rhyme schemes, and rhetorical structures offered by the sonnet form(s) are now etched more deeply into my poetic consciousness. Consequently, while I have been writing sonnets for thirty years, I write many more of them these days–Shakespearian, Petrarchan, the odd “curtal sonnet” (with homage to Gerard Manly Hopkins), and fourteen-line poems I call “sonnet-like objects.”) Of course, with all of these sonnets arriving, every year I select a few to enter in the contest, despite knowing that the competition is steep.
This year, I was surprised and pleased to get a phone call the week prior from Ted Haaland, husband of the late Maria W. Faust, who runs the contest. He told me that my own poem, “Carp,” written this spring, was one of this year’s winners, and asked whether I would like to read it at the event. It was great fun.
A list of winners from all nine years, and the texts of winning sonnets for 2015 and 2016 can be found HERE. For those of you who want to try your own hand, the site also has a very helpful section on the mechanics of sonnet creation. Contestant poems can be received sometime in January for the 2017 contest–you can also bookmark the site and check back in the New Year for the exact date.
Meanwhile, do enjoy reading the work online, and consider purchasing the beautifully made anthology showcasing winning poems from the first five years (2008-2012) of the contest.
(Copies can be ordered from Ted Haaland, whose contact information can be found at the link above.)
And when you think of Winona, nestled into the limestone bluffs next to the storied waters of the Mississippi, think, too, of the annual movement of fine sonnets, from all over the nation and beyond our borders, flowing into the little jewel of an art town.
Enjoy the waning days of summer! LESLIE