First prize poetry winner of the Hart House Literary Contest in 2020 was Eric Wang, a student at UTSC pursuing a major in English and creative writing.
This is what the judges – poets Prathna Lor, Kate Cayley and Ingrid Ruthig – said about Wang’s poem:
“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.”
I like you. But not as much as I like self-portrait island love poems.
by Eric Wang
I am here, waiting for you on every island
my body has become. I pluck a scuttling
crab from my belly button. I fish a yellowtail
from my waistband. I trim the furled
seaweed from my pubic hair, then I turn my belt into
a sushi train. I’m saying I’d like to be a perpetual
feeding machine, a circular ecosystem
for you to sample. My heart swells from island
gigantism. My ample biodiversity
for your arrival. Though for lack of a dove, I give you a
mallard from my sleeves, flightless and ambling,
stub-wings opened to the cumulus clouds
darkening over my head. Shelter your dry hands
in my palm-tree hair, nuzzle and shake out
a coconut. If you scalp the fruit, you can
drink. Meanwhile, I’ll work the fibrous husk
into wiring for a coconut-radio playing:
how deep is your love, how deep is your love,
how deep — too near the coast, a whale
bearing a rainbow in its spout-breath breaches.
Beaches on my chest.