Hart House Literary Contest

The University of Toronto’s Hart House Literary Contest is an annual literary tradition that gives emerging writers of the Hart House community an opportunity to have their work professionally reviewed by a panel of judges.

2021 literary contest Winners

Prose Winners

1st Prize: “Birth By Landscape” by Mina Ivosev

“Deftly twisting beauty and dread, ‘Birth By Landscape’ weaves itself an entirely original fable. By turns tender and ravenous, the story unfolds through a distinctive voice that exposes new approaches to imagery and narrative in a story about siblings and hunger, leading the reader down an inevitable path, where we feel the magic on display is one already rooted in our imaginations even as it is placed there for the first time. ‘Birth By Landscape’ will leave you tasting the dirt in your mouth.” —Ben Berman Ghan, Prose Judge

2nd Prize: “The Place Where They Lived” by Lilly Stewart

“‘The Place Where They Lived’ effectively explores the relationship between humans and extreme weather. Using a distinctive and believable voice of a child, the writer successfully creates an atmosphere of drama and dread, followed with an unexpected ending.” —Sanchari Sur, Prose Judge

3rd Prize: “The Ragged Lookout” by Claire Ellis

“Through the distinctive alternating voices of two young siblings dealing with their sister’s disappearance, ‘The Ragged Lookout’ offers a lyrical meditation on vulnerability, pain, and the lifelong hauntedness that comes with being part of a family.” —Robert McGill, Prose Judge

Poetry Winners

1st Prize: “Self Portrait with Polar Bears” by Farah Ghafoor

“This is an exquisite poem, with a masterful control of language and image, and a lovely sense of form. As a self-portrait it’s both intimate and reaching outward towards larger global challenges. Some of the images—’hungry as stars’ and ‘his pelt soured milk’—will stay with this reader for a long time. A rich, moving reading experience.” —Adam Sol, Poetry Judge

2nd Prize: “The Living Religion” by Salman Bhatti

“This poem is admirable in its courage, self-scrutiny, and sense of quest for oneself in others. Many write about identity in terms of glorifying and justifying their tribal, religious, cultural roots. This poem is about going beyond those arbitrary borders. To the poet: Congratulations! Keep writing about grey areas of identity, the hours between the dog and the wolf.” —Bänoo Zan, Poetry Judge

3rd Prize: “Red Rose, Orange Pekoe” by Hadiyyah Kuma

“This poem is a feat of autotheoretical genius. A body in motion, a system in time. The speaker breathes in sentences, open and unfinished. ‘In the inconsistent mirror’ of this poem, there is no shying away any ‘aesthetic violently derived.’ The system is ‘in my hands,’ ‘at the back of his throat,’ ‘stepp[ing] on my toe.’ If someone ruins the moment, someone else might listen. Strength is our blood still moving. The question we are left with is not why, but what would you do? Tomorrow, what will I do again?” —Sanna Wani, Poetry Judge

2021 literary contest honourable mentions

Prose Honourable Mentions

“The China Cabinet” by Lauren Alexander

“This story explores relationships to family and inheritance in the shadow of death. What remains in the aftermath? What objects—material or otherwise—do we carry into the future? Using humour, the writer takes a stab at answering these difficult questions.” —Sanchari Sur, Prose Judge

“Glass” by Sierra Simopoulos

“What do we know of those who live near us, and what do we owe them? Through its account of a couple minding their business all too well, ‘Glass’ movingly asks us to reconsider the value and art of neighbourliness.” —Robert McGill, Prose Judge

“Escape” by Katharina Davoudian

“Claustrophobic and charming, ‘Escape’ unfolds with panic and humour, capturing tones of isolation and desperation and the cruel irony of feeling trapped voluntarily, and what it means to be consumed by fears, whether they make sense or not.” —Ben Berman Ghan, Prose Judge

Poetry Honourable Mention

“Next Time Someone Asks Me If I Speak Mandarin” by Quinn Lui

“This poem perfects refusal. It expands the speaker’s sovereignty on the page. Opacity is a practice of hope. In the powerful dismissals of the poem, there are so many incredible interventions: worry is ‘a product of possession,’ silence is ‘locked safe[ly],’ and an apology is an assumption, owed to no one. The liminal space of somewhat speaking a language is no source for shame. The poet cuts across purity rhetoric for the depth of incomplete connections: ‘serenade but not song,’ ‘plum blossoms but not / magnolia, butterflies but never bees.’ The speaker’s hopes and dreams are so completely their own.” —Sanna Wani, Poetry Judge


Prose Category Contest Prizes

1st Prize: $150 and publication in the Hart House Review

2nd Prize: $100 and publication on the Review’s website

3rd Prize: $50 and publication on the Review’s website

Poetry Category Contest Prizes

1st Prize: $150 and publication in the Hart House Review

2nd Prize: $100 and publication on the Review’s website

3rd Prize: $50 and publication on the Review’s website

Prose Judges

Sanchari Sur

Sanchari Sur is a PhD candidate in English at Wilfrid Laurier University. Their writing can be found in Joyland, Al Jazeera, Toronto Book Award Shortlisted The Unpublished City (Book*hug, 2017), Room, Prism International, EVENT, Quill & Quire, and elsewhere. They are a recipient of a 2018 Lambda Literary Fellowship in fiction, a 2019 Banff residency (with Electric Literature), and Arc Poetry Magazine‘s 2020 Critics’ Desk Award for a Feature Review.

Ben Berman Ghan

Ben Berman Ghan is the author of What We See in the Smoke (Crowsnest Books) and Visitation Seeds (845 Press). His writing has appeared in such venues as The Local TO, Strange Horizons, PEN Canada, The Temz Review, Cypress Poetry Journal, Empty Mirror Books, and elsewhere. He received his B.A. from the UofT, and an M.A. in English from Ryerson University.

Robert McGill

Robert McGill is the author of two novels, The Mysteries and Once We Had a Country, and two nonfiction books, The Treacherous Imagination and War Is Here. His writing has appeared in magazines such as Grain, Hazlitt, Toronto Life, and The Walrus. He teaches in the Department of English at the University of Toronto.

Poetry Judges

Sanna Wani

Sanna Wani lives between Srinagar and Mississauga. Her work is published or forthcoming in Time, Briarpatch, the Asian American Writers’ Workshop’s The Margins, Best Canadian Poetry 2020, Brick, and Poem-a-Day among others. Her first chapbook, The Pink of the Seams, was published by Penrose Press in 2019. She is the winner of the 2017 Norma Epstein Award in Poetry; a mentee of Eduardo C. Corral through the 2019 Guernica Mentorship program; nominated for the 2019 Pushcart Prize; and a finalist for Radix Media’s 2020 Own Voices Chapbook Prize judged by Aria Aber. She loves daisies.

Adam Sol

Adam Sol’s most recent book is How a Poem Moves: A Field Guide for Readers of Poetry (ECW Press, 2019). He is also the author of four books of poetry, with one on the way from ECW Press in 2021. He is Coordinator for the Creative Expression & Society Program at the University of Toronto’s Victoria College.

Bänoo Zan

Bänoo Zan is a poet, librettist, translator, teacher, editor and poetry curator, with more than 200 published poems and poetry-related pieces as well as three books. Song of Phoenix: Life and Works of Sylvia Plath, was reprinted in Iran in 2010. Songs of Exile, her first poetry collection, was released in 2016 in Canada by Guernica Editions. It was shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award by the League of Canadian Poets in 2017. Letters to My Father, her second poetry book, was published in 2017 by Piquant Press in Canada. She is the founder of Shab-e She’r (Poetry Night), Toronto’s most diverse poetry reading and open mic series (inception: 2012). It is a brave space that bridges the gap between communities of poets from different ethnicities, nationalities, religions (or lack thereof), ages, genders, sexual orientations, disabilities, poetic styles, voices and visions.

Submission Guidelines

The Hart House Literary Contest is open to the Hart House community (U of T students and members in good standing), excluding judges and professional writers (i.e. Those who have earned more than $1000 for their writing).

The first-place winners of each category will be published in the Spring issue of the Hart House Review, and second and third place winners will be published on the Review’s website. All winners of each category will receive a cash prize.

All entrants to the contest are automatically submitted to the Hart House Review and will thus also be evaluated for publication in the Review by the Review’s editorial board.

All entrants are invited to the Hart House Review’s launch and awards presentation. The contest winners will be announced at the launch and will be invited to read their work during the spoken-word portion of the evening.

All entries must:

  • Be original work, be the property of the author, and not have been previously published.
  • Be submitted through the official contest Google Form.
  • The author’s name must appear only on the Entry Form. The author’s submission(s) must not contain any identifying information. 
  • Authors may enter one of the following submission packages:
    1. One work of prose (of up to 1500 words).
    2. Up to three works of poetry (of up to a total of 250 lines).
    3. A combination of one work of prose (of up to 1500 words) and up to two works of poetry (of up to a
    total of 250 lines). This package must not exceed a total of three pieces.
  • Be submitted as a .doc or .docx file (you may also add a .pdf file, especially if specific layout is essential to your piece).
  • Prose works must be double-spaced, 12pt Times New Roman font, 1-inch margins all around.
  • Poetry works may be single-spaced (no font, size, or margin specifications). One poem per page, no matter how small. Longer works may span multiple pages.
  • Submitted by January 25, 2021.

Hart House Literary Contest Diversity Mandate

The Hart House Literary Contest welcomes submissions from writers of the Hart House community who come from marginalized backgrounds, including 2SLGBTQIA+, BIPOC, immigrant, refugee, and women members, as well as members with physical and mental disabilities. We acknowledge the intersectional oppressions that members experience based on their identities and the oppressions that deny marginalized writers a platform for self-expression, exploration, and representation.

We encourage marginalized writers to submit their work to the contest—we want to hear from you!