The Best Poems of 2020: Winners of the 9th Annual International SCP Poetry Competition

Joseph S. Salemi
James Sale
Evan Mantyk

Past First Place Winners 
Joseph Charles MacKenzie (2019)
Adam Sedia (2018)
C.B. Anderson (2017)
James Sale (2016)
Ron L. Hodges (2015),
Reid McGrath (2014),
Bruce Dale Wise (2013)
Alan Nordstrom (2012)

Based on the poems, all written in 2020, submitted by living poets employing the finest, classical traditions of English poetry, below are the best poems of the past year and their ranking:


First Place ($1,000)

Susan Jarvis Bryant, Texas
“A Half-Baked Rondeau Redoublé” “Still” 




Second Place

James A. Tweedie, Washington State
“Flodden” “Tango”

Brian Yapko, New Mexico
“On Rembrandt’s ‘Return of the Prodigal Son'” 

Sally Cook, New York
“To Some Other Poets” “In Our Town”

Joe Tessitore, New York
“We’ll Get Through This Together” “Take Me Out to the Ball Game, 2020”.




Third Place

Anna J. Arredondo, Colorado
“Famine de l’âme” “Go, Fading Leaf”

Andrew Benson Brown, Missouri
“How To Be Like Byron” “Ardor and Atoms”

Theresa Rodriguez, Pennsylvania
“Oh, When I Hear” “Oh, When I Think Back” 

Leland James, Michigan




Fourth Place

Mark F. Stone, Ohio
“Speak with Gentle Kindness”

William Conelly, West Midlands, England
“Hunting” “Solstice Week”

David Watt, Australia
“With Spring in Their Step”

Talbot Hook, Iowa
“Closer to a Vine” “Ode on ​Bertel Thorvaldsen’s ​Ganymede and the Eagle”

Cynthia Erlandson, Michigan
“My Father’s Cardinal”

Cindy Hill, Vermont
“These Woods Are Mine” “Plum Island Solstice”

Janice Canerdy, Mississippi
“With Goals in Tow” “There’s Much To Be Said About Swings”

David Whippman, England
“Childhood, 1919”




Honorable Mentions

“Before the Plague” by Daniel Kemper

“Appeal to the Muse” “O Children, Hear” by Amanda Hall

“Earth Song” by Lawrence Fray

“A Monk of Newstead Abbey to Lord Byron” “Advice from My Father” by Daniel Galef

“Infatuation” by David D. Irby

“A Poet’s Strife” by Sterling Osborne

“The Church is Locked on Easter Day” “Rosarium” by Benjamin Thomas Cepican

“Peradventure Before Naptime” by Denise Sobilo

“Seasons” “Shooting Star” by Shari Jo LeKane

“Death of Adam” by Michael Coy

“Pope Urban II Sonnet-Speech, Clermont, 1095” by Paul A. Freeman

‘Note Written Between Two Lives’ by C.M. Rivers

“Virtual Propitiation: Sacrifice of the Quarantined Caregiver” by Bethany Mootsey




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The Society of Classical Poets does not endorse any views expressed in individual poems or commentary.

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28 Responses

  1. James Sale

    Congratulations to all the winners, especially Susan Jarvis Bryant. There were some fabulous poems in all this and it was very hard discriminating between them. But well done all!

  2. Theresa Rodriguez

    Hearty congratulations to Susan for her well-deserved First Place win! And congrats to all the other poets as well! Well done, all!

  3. Rohini Sunderam

    Congratulations! Susan. And well done everyone else. This is a well-contested competition and anyone who even earns an honourable mention should be proud.

  4. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    My Monday morning has just got a whole lot brighter. I’m stunned, thrilled and honored. I have thoroughly enjoyed posting my work on this marvelous site and have benefited greatly from the educational and encouraging feedback and the inspiration provided by many talented poets. A huge THANK YOU to the judges, and a huge CONGRATULATIONS to all the superb poets on this page.

    • Mike Bryant

      Congratulations Susan and to all the amazing poets that grace these pages.

  5. Andrew Benson Brown

    Congrats, Susan! And to everybody else, too. Magnificent stuff.

    I will be sure to raise a toast to all the winners with a bottle of high-quality, vintage Andre this evening.


    I’m so honored to be on this list! Congratulations to all the winners and, especially, to you, Susan. You have a remarkable gift and you inspire us all!

  7. Paul Freeman

    From Albion, she spread her wings and flew
    Across the Pond to teach a thing or two
    On poetry, by posting work aplenty
    And being judged the best of twenty-twenty.

    Congratulations, Susan!

    Well done too, to all those other poets featured in the rankings.

    • jame sale

      Ah yes, Paul – she did fly from Albion – from Kent to be precise, which as a previous winner, I too am from. It’s the special air there that – hop-infested (ie, beer) – that in true Chestertonian fashion incites and excites poetry. The difficulty I now have is: can I say I am the only Brit so far to have won the award? After all, Susan is a full American these days! But we see with blessings that she is the first woman on these pages to get it – and what a strong field of women poets there are! Fabulous.

      • Mike Bryant

        James, Susan enjoys dual citizenship so you will have to be the only British male to have been so honoured.

      • Margaret Coats

        Did you notice, James, that women swept first place in all three contests (best poems contest, high school contest, and translation contest)? 2020 was The Year of the Woman at SCP!

  8. Benjamin Thomas Cepican

    Congratulations to the winners, especially Susan! Many, many congratulations!

    As for myself…I am honored to have even received an honorable mention! Practically unthinkable a thing!

    A note regarding the link to my poems (perhaps the website manager could solve this?): it only links to one of the two that was listed.

  9. James A. Tweedie

    Had I been a judge (a Herculean job I do not covet) I also would have chosen Susan. An extraordinary talent has received a well-earned honor. Congratulations to all. This has been a vintage year for the SCP and, amongst the kudos to the three judges I would add one extra word of thanks for Evan’s efforts on our behalf and for the advancement of classical/formal poetry.

  10. Anna J Arredondo

    Susan, hearty congratulations for a most well-deserved win. Had you not won the competition, I would have nominated you “Poet of the Year” for your abundant and consistently excellent contributions! You inspire me, not just to write better, but to write MORE. Keep ’em coming!

  11. Lawrence Fray

    Congratulations to all—I’m proud of an ‘honourable mention’ in such a high-standard competition. All praise to the winner!

  12. Mark F. Stone

    Susan, I predicted (to myself) that you would win, since your poems are quite remarkable. Congratulations to you and to the rest of the winners! Mark

  13. David Watt

    Congratulations to all the winners, and especially to Susan. I had you as my firm favorite due to your consistently high standard of poetry, and a broad range of compositions.

  14. Yael

    So much great poetry to enjoy, thank you all!
    Congratulations Susan.
    It makes my day to think that I don’t have to be a judge of poetry. I appreciate being able to read these poems and to gain glimpses into other peoples’ life experiences and thought processes, without any thoughts of constructing a hierarchy of any sort. I’m thankful that my journey of poetry has no known destination and I look forward to more great poetry from you all. Thank you for making this website available.

  15. Cynthia Erlandson

    I’m very grateful to the Society for having this contest, and just for being here throughout the year! Congratulations, everyone!

  16. Daniel Kemper

    Congratulations Susan and all on this list!! Now, back to work!!!

    And Herculean thanks for the Herculean task fo jusdging and running this site day in and day out. THANK YOU!

  17. Benjamin Thomas Cepican

    Sorry to be a bother:

    Could my secondary poem “Rosarium” be linked as well?

    Currently, the link only directs to “The Church is Locked on Easter Day.”

    Thanks again, God bless!

  18. E. V. Wyler

    Congratulations to Susan Jarvis Bryant and all the winning poets. You’re what makes The Society of Classical Poets special.

  19. Peter Hartley

    Susan – my most heartfelt and abject apologies for not having extended my earnest congratulations long ago for your winning the Best Poem of the Year award. There could have been little doubt in anyone’s minds that this was a foregone conclusion, and all I can say now is EUGE, in case you’ve never been congratulated in Greek before, though it’s a bit late to say anything. My excuse is (you won’t believe this) for the third year running I don’t know how, but I have totally missed the competition, didn’t even know about it, and it’s not as though Evan doesn’t advertise it well enough. Maybe I’ll remember next year, but I doubt it. Probably my feeble brain is just trying to tell me the competition is too stiff.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Peter, I am over the moon to hear this verbal pat on the back in Greek. I must confess (rather guiltily) that I am more than a tad grateful that you missed Evan’s efforts to alert you to this annual marvel. I know in my heart that those rats from Kathmandu would have gnawed the spots off any rondeau redouble engorged with pudgy gluts. My win is tainted by your oversight and I will forever carry that burden. Only a tune from a Tyrolese bugle would elevate my melancholic mood at this maudlin moment. You have been robbed of the literary victory you deserve and I promise (as a poet of the highest integrity) to alert you to the only competition worth winning as soon as Evan brings it to our attention.


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