2024 Vox Poetry Contest Winners

Congrats to the winners of the 2024 Vox Poetry contest! By popular vote among the participating poets, the following poems have won prizes or honorable mentions. For my own reflections on the voting process, scroll below.


First Place: “Autumn Signs” by Adara O’Neil
Second Place:  “Game Point” by Thomas Alan Orr
Third Place: “Dog Owner” by David Lee Garrison

Honorable Mentions

For ballads: “There in the Stars” by Lexie McDonald
For light verse: “The Ancient Law” by Hal Johnson
For sonnets: “Last” by Ava Halter
For poems by poets under 18: “Knock Knock” by Andi Godwin


As far as I know, this is the first time anyone has used approval voting in a poetry contest. I didn’t vote, but I did track the votes obsessively, and I have to admit there were surprises. The first 25% of voters chose none of the same poems for their top 3 choices. I briefly had nightmares about all the poems getting the same equal but low number of votes the whole way through the contest. But as voting went on, 4-5 poems slowly emerged in the lead, and then eventually the top 3 settled into their places.

Even there, I’m not sure but that a 10% boost in our voting pool would have changed the results of the contest entirely.

Based on this experience, I’d say (what I knew before but obviously hadn’t thought about carefully enough): effective approval voting depends on sample size. In this contest it took 10 voters to even start differentiating the poems. In addition to sample size, the demographics made a difference. Many of our poet-voters were teenagers or children, and I noticed that the votes stacked up quickly for colorful poems with striking imagery or a clear story line, but not always for poems with advanced vocabulary or precise technical mastery. 

That having been said, the experience of watching the voting behind the scenes has got me questioning my assumptions about poetry judging. I’ve always assumed that most formal poets have roughly the same ideas about what counts as “good” formal poetry. The rhyme and meter should work, the metaphors should be thought-provoking, etc. Of course, we’re often bad judges of ourselves. But surely (I thought) we’ll all agree about how to judge others?

What I saw in this contest is that we’re all over the map when evaluating other people’s poetry. And now I’m scratching my head. How does a single poet ever judge a poetry contest? How does even a panel of 3 poets manage it? We needed 10 poets just to get a few leads off the ground.

In short, I think a contest of this type deserves to run more regularly… and with more poets! I’d like to try again in 2025, though at a different time of year. (If you’re considering starting a poetry contest, please know that the admin takes much longer than you think.) Poets who have already submitted to the contest will get a future email when the new contest opens. Anyone else is welcome to sign up for my extremely rarely published substack newsletter, where in addition to getting news about next year’s poetry contest, you might also occasionally get news about the classes I teach.

Thanks again to all our participants in this contest, and congrats again to our winners!