Palm Beach Poetry Festival Announces Winners of ‘Fish Tales Poetry Contest’

Susan R. Williamson, Director of the Palm Beach Poetry Festival, today announced the winners of the Fish Tales Poetry Contest. To enter, writers were encouraged to submit up to 30 lines of original poetry inspired by one of 10 designated photographs that were part of the Fish Tales exhibit at the Delray Beach Historical Society.

Fish Tales refers to the stories, memorabilia, artwork, writing and history surrounding the sport and art of fishing in Delray Beach.

As Chris Justice wrote in The Poetry of Fishing, “As anglers cast into the mysterious lake of possibility seeking perfectly scaled gems, writers cast into the sea of language seeking the perfect word or phrase. Those quests are sometimes frustrating and often challenging, but regardless of results, they are always rewarding: having examined our deepest worries and wonders while writing of fishing, poets and anglers alike often produce memorable tales.”

Zoë StephanThe $100 First Place Prize goes to Zoë Stephan of Miami, FL, who was inspired by the 1928 photograph, “Uncle Bob’s First Fish.” The winning poem was titled, “Meager Catch.”

Contest Judge Stephen Gibson, author of seven poetry collections, hailed the winning submission as “a terrifically well-crafted, terza rima sonnet, which employs the form so well that it doesn’t even intrude. The language remains conversational and tonally exact, right up through the concluding couplet. A wonderful poem in subject treatment and form use.”

Additional contest winners include in order: Jen Karetnick of Miami Shores for “Fishing with Family: A Small Tale of Seasickness;” Bill Newby from Hilton Head Island, SC for “Hooked;” Sarah Brown Weitzman of Delray Beach for “Catch of the Day;” and Miami’s Shenu Kathymoon for “First Catch.” They will each receive $25 – plus all of the winning poems will be published online at

The five Honorable Mention recipients in alphabetical order were Gabriella Alexis (“Swings Below Sea”), Stephanie Casio (“Under the Boat”), Jennifer Grant (“My Old Man and the Sea: A Cento”), Jo Ann Steger Hoffman (“Caught”) and Allen Sweat (“Catch and Release”).

“The Palm Beach Poetry Festival, through our collaborations with cultural organizations throughout the county, sought to provide opportunities for artistic expression based on photography, painting, the heavens, the Everglades, and more,” says Festival Founder Miles Coon.

“We were thrilled to join with Delray Beach Historical Society to be inspired by the rich history and long traditions of the lives of those who fish in and around Delray Beach. I learned so much from visiting the exhibit and from working with Executive Director Winnie Edwards on the contest,” adds Williamson.

Meager Catch

By Zoë Stephan

Nobody looks pleased at the prospect of

fish. They sag from fingers, brushing the ground –

tail to cropped grass, to earth, no present love

for fish. We’re all stark, knobby knees, land-bound

by our bare feet, toes still traced with sea-salt,

dragging ocean creatures out to drown


in the empty dryness of the cobalt

air. Gills gape like schooner sails with stolen breath.

We wrinkle noses at the smell’s assault


and our eyes at the sun. The fish’s death

serves no real purpose. It’ll be our meal

and a story to tell, but without depth


or true meaning. They’re just fish. Blood congeals

around the fishhook’s hole. There’s no appeal.