Recap: 2021 Poetry Contest on COVID-19 Vaccines

Chartible organizations our winners helped us support this year:
Coffee House Writers Group,    ACLU,    ATime,    Youth Empowerment and Support Services,    Black Girls Code,    Ottawa Street Medic Collective,    National Canine Cancer Foundation,    Tulsa City County Library,    Wharton (NJ) Public Library

In mid-January we announced our poetry contest on the theme of COVID-19 vaccination just as the vaccine rollout was getting underway in many parts of the world. This has been our first major contest since 2016, when the theme was Community. Vaccination may seem like a strange theme for a poetry contest, and we weren't sure what to expect, but we were touched and delighted by the wide range of ideas it elicited. We received more than 1500 poems from poets around the world and from all ages. Topics ranged from advocacy for vaccination; joy at reuniting with loved ones; inequities in vaccine distribution; hesitations about getting vaccinated; and, most heart-wrenchingly, something that vaccines cannot do: reverse the losses we and our communities have suffered in the past year.

You can flip through some of this year's entries here. The winners are listed below.

We had a larger-than-expected response from teens and children, some as young as 6 years old. We doubled the number of honorable mentions from the 5 we originally promised to 10 and also added 10 finalists ($50 USD) so that we could reward a wide range of ages. All told we'll be awarding $3000 in prizes, and directing $1300 more in donations to nonprofits on behalf of the winners.

How we judged: We hired 7 poetry enthusiasts (4 adults and 3 youth) to judge the poems sent to us by email and Twitter. Each poem was read by a mix of adults and youth. We also gathered emoji reactions from you, our readers, on our website (74,000 reactions from 5300 different people) to get a sense of which poems moved people the most. Only the poem’s content was visible in this process — neither the hired judges nor the public readers could see the names, locations, or ages of the authors. We combined all these ratings to narrow down the pool, and then picked our favorite poems across a range of author ages. We looked foremost for thoughtful, creative treatment of the theme of COVID-19 vaccination, but we also considered a poem’s technical qualities like meter and rhyme.

If your poem is on the list below we'll be following up with you by email or on Twitter with next steps. Thank you for taking the time to reflect on this crucial topic and sharing your powerful words with us. Wherever you are, we wish you and your family and community a safe and peaceful 2021.

Co-winners (18+ division)

Vaccine Verse
by Annie from Brooklyn, New York

Four hundred days less two...
by Susan Vanost Silberman from Santa Ana, California

Honorable mentions (18+ division)

A tired smile in a stranger's eyes...
by Nicole Johnston from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

by Olivia Reed

Hope in a Syringe
by Elysia V. Thorne from Oklahoma

Covid-19 Vaccine?
by Chaya Nachum from Brooklyn, New York

Vaccine Against The Living Dead
by Delia Ion from Bucharest, Romania

My arm’s aching,...
by Shelby Sullivan from Atlanta, Georgia

Finalists (18+ division)

Conversation with an anti-vaxxer
by Catherine Willoughby from Yorkshire, England

by Mike Peoples from West Yorkshire, England

Inoculation: Morals Not Included
by J.M. Chip from Rhode Island

Grammy’s arms are crushing me...
by Julie Letchner from Seattle, Washington

Last year, I had no shoulder to cry on...
by Anonymous

Winner (Youth division)

The Light at The End of The Tunnel
by Megan from Rhode Island (age 16)

Honorable mentions (Youth division)

by Kiran from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (age 12)

Wake up
by Gabby Sebestyen from St. Johns County, Florida (age 14)

by Jasmine from Chicago, Illinois (age 15)

by Nara (age 17)

Finalists (Youth division)

by Bella Kim from Sanghyun dong, Gyoungi, Korea (age 9)

Just a Pause, Not the End
by Asmi Sinha from San Diego, California (age 11)

by Kay Meyer from Forth Worth, Texas (age 12)

Not No Superhero
by Carter Bake from Michigan (7th grade)

Inner Pandemic Thoughts
by Julia from Johnston County, North Carolina (age 12)

Original contest announcement below

Write a short poem about the theme:

COVID‑19 Vaccination

...and post it before the end of the day on April 11, 2021. Your poem can touch on topics such as how you feel about getting the vaccine; what our post-COVID future looks like; how the vaccines work; or more. Be creative!

Submit by writing your entry on Twitter or emailing it to us.
(Emailed entries may be reposted anonymously on our website or Twitter account.)

In mid-April (National Poetry Month in the U.S.) we'll choose the ones we like best and award three winners $500 USD each and five honorable mentions $100 USD each.

Continuing our tradition, we'll also donate $100 USD to a registered public health or social justice non-profit organization of the writer's choice, for each winner and honorable mention.

We'll favor poems that show creativity, craftsmanship, and adherence to the theme. In the most recent contests we've required that the entry be in rhymed couplet form, and that's still an option, but for this special 2021 contest we'll accept any form.

Why have we chosen "COVID-19 vaccination" as a theme?
We've revived the contest after 3 years of dormancy so that we can encourage people to share their feelings and perspectives in this anxious time. We would like to help researchers find innovative new ways to communicate how important vaccines are to public health, and give a forum for people to understand each other's hopes, concerns and hesitations about this topic.

Whether or not you enter the contest, we encourage you to read up on the COVID-19 vaccines from official sources (such as the CDC in the U.S.) if you haven't already.

Submit by writing your entry on Twitter or emailing it to us.
(Emailed entries may be reposted anonymously on our website or Twitter account.)

New: Read some of the poems submitted so far!

Past couplet contest themes and winners:
Jun 2018TODDLERS@JanieGouge
Jan 2018SNOW@ckimani371
Nov 2017SUPERHEROES@peterjcasey
Oct 2017BOOKS@kerryrawli and @vkatariya
Sep 2017PLANETS@futzle
Aug 2017TURTLES@224bees

Non-profits supported:   Mermaids UK, All Hands Volunteers, ShelterBox Canada, Sci Hub,
ASRC Australia, Canyon Theatre Guild, Direct Relief, Homestead High School Music Boosters, Make-A-Wish America, Bethel Bible Village, Cradles to Crayons

(Also see the 2014 / 2015 and 2016 contest pages.)

OFFICIAL CONTEST RULES for the RhymeZone Couplet Contest


This couplet contest (the “Contest”) is sponsored by Datamuse Corp, Bluffton SC, 29910 USA (the “Sponsor”).



The Contest ends at 11:59:59 pm U.S. Eastern Time on the deadline day listed above. Entries submitted after this time are not eligible. Incomplete submissions or submissions posted outside the contest entry period will not be considered.


Participation in the Contest constitutes applicant’s full and unconditional agreement to and acceptance of these Official Rules. By entering the Contest, applicant warrants that the submission is an original work, has not been previously published or won any award, and that applicant is aware of no conflicting rights in the submission including but not limited to copyright or other intellectual property right as further identified below in the section entitled “No Infringement.” Applicants agree that Sponsor, its affiliates, parents, subsidiaries, agents or contractors and their employees, officers and directors shall not be liable for injury, loss or damage of any kind resulting from participating in this Contest.


All submissions must be the original work of the applicant. All applicants represent, state, and agree that their Contest submission will not infringe upon the intellectual property rights of any third party, including by way of example and not by limitation, any copyright, trademark or patent rights belonging to any third party. Plagiarism in any form will result in disqualification.


All submissions, including the winning submissions, remain the property of the applicant before and after the Contest. Sponsor claims no ownership of the applicant's work. We will announce the winners on the RhymeZone Twitter account and by linking to the winning tweet from this page.



The Winner will be selected on the basis of its originality, humor, rhyme, meter, and adherence to the Couplet Contest theme. The Winners and Honorable Mentions will be selected at the sole discretion of judges employed by the Sponsor, and their decisions are final.

Note: This is not a popularity contest! While the Contest judges will consider the Twitter activity associated with each entry (such as the number of hearts, retweets, and replies), the Judges will ultimately use their collective judgment to decide on the winners of the Contest.


The Winners will be notified by Twitter direct message or email, and announced on, within two weeks of the contest deadline.


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Because this is a Contest of skill, the odds of winning depend upon the quality and eligibility of the submissions received, as well as the number of entrants. Sponsor reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to cancel, modify or suspend the Contest should fraud, technical failures, or any other factors beyond the reasonable control of Sponsor impair the integrity of the Contest, as determined by Sponsor in its sole discretion. By entering the contest, entrant agrees to release and hold harmless sponsor, its parent, subsidiaries and affiliated companies, officers, directors, employees and agents from and against any and all claims, causes of action and/or liability for any injuries, illness or death, loss or damage of any kind arising from or in connection with participation in and/or entry into the Contest or receipt or possession, use or misuse of any prize or element thereof. Sponsor, its respective affiliates, parents, subsidiaries, agents and employees are not responsible for late, lost, illegible, incomplete, stolen, misdirected, illegitimate, or impermissible submissions or mail; postage due mail; or any other error whether human, mechanical or electronic.




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