The 2020 Hart House Writing Contest is now closed. Below you will find details of this year’s winners, honorable mentions, and shortlisted pieces. We thank everyone who entered for trusting us with their work and hope you will consider entering next year.


1st prize: Eric Wang, “I like you. But not as much as I like self-portrait island love poems.”

From our poetry judges: “Our winning poem, ‘I like you. But not as much as I like self-portrait island love poems’, is an exquisite lesson in playful self-love. If you’ve ever wanted to jump into a synesthetic, effervescent waterfall of language that reads like The Metamorphoses in miniature, it is this poem.”

2nd prize: Victoria Mbabazi, “Medusa Smile”

From our poetry judges: “‘Medusa Smile’ is a love poem that upends the love poem. Deftly negotiating tricky and very familiar territory with an impressive, tongue-in-cheek command of romantic cliché, the poem manages to combine erotic frankness, genuine pain, surprising wit and deep feeling.”

3rd prize: Elizabeth Bolton, “Writing Woman”

From our poetry judges: “While building meaning through structure, language, and the sounds and images of lines like ‘the nighttime grocery’s flicker-lit linoleum’, ‘Writing Woman’ also retains mystery. Incantatory, ‘the wound’ morphs from object to persona, leaving us to contemplate the weight of truth.”

Shortlisted by the judges:

“Sarah'”, Radmila Yarovaya

“The Painting of Life”, Yiheng Gao

“Shadow Man”, Sana Mufti


1st prize: Veronica Spada, “A Portrait of Madame Bovary on a Subway Window”

From our prose judges: “We particularly enjoyed the title and a playful way with imagery are the first things we notice in this, and the specificity of the setting—like the Knox College gargoyle, adds to the effect. There were lots of evocative details and the point of view made good observations.

2nd prize: Mina Ivosev, “‘Lara’ as Men, Boys, and Guys”

From our prose judges: “This is a terrific series of vignettes about Lara learning to navigate the perks and considerable perils of contemporary feminine existence, and discovering more about herself with each boy, guy, and man. The way her life goes forward, as symbolized by her careers’ evolution, tells us she is getting older and wiser and more sure of herself; it works nicely.

3rd prize: Sana Mohsin, “A Postcard from the Crows”

From our prose judges: “Great opening images—the man’s glasses, the smell of incense, etc is strong scene setting. The handling of magic and mystery gave us confidence in what kind of universe the characters are moving through. The twist when her hand matches Kahla’s is an ominous development.

Honorable Mention: Nirvana Nursimulu, “Help!”

From our prose judges: “Kavya’s problems with her anxiety and her brothers are very relatable and I’m genuinely sad for her. It’s a relief when she breaks down and lets her brothers know she’s in trouble. Maybe they’ll help and maybe they won’t, but she has moved forward.”

Honorable Mention: Jaclyn Pahl, “Crystal”

From our prose judges: “Crystal is a strong story that shows the ambiguity of young lives in transition and echoes the sadness of a past that cannot be changed.”

Shortlisted by the judges:

“The Death of Old Babineaux”, Veronica Spada 

“A Garden Alliance”, Isabel Armiento

“About my Roommate”, Erika Dickinson

“Milky Rooibos Tea”, Erika Dickinson

“Whatever”, Erika Dickinson

“Aisle Eight”, Aamina Aamina

“Three Days of Warmth”, Aamina Aamina

“Alone”, Jocelyn Chen

“Stay”, Jocelyn Chen

“Journey”, Jocelyn Chen