In honour of Valentine’s Day, enjoy these heartfelt poems written by Dalhousie students who won the 2020 sonnet contest organized by the university’s English Department.
First place: “Blank” by Susanna Cupido
“It doesn’t always have to rhyme,” I said,
And grit my teeth against your laugh, your grin,
Already sick and sore of sonnet stuff,
Conducting my iambic autopsy.
I can’t—in octet, sestet, volta—find
A spot for rotten, reeking garbage bags
You lied and said you’d take out yesterday,
The food you left that spoiled and clogged our fridge,
Or what about that check that never cleared?
And where’s the night when, sitting on my hands
(They shake) I said, “I don’t know why we’re here.”
You’ve taken all my rhymes but one, my dear.
I’ll throw away the meter next, I think,
And hope my verses might, at least, be free.
Second place: “Into the Vast” by Eilidh Ram
The ebb and flow and loneliness aside,
My life ashore is nothing like the sea.
On land, my love has places it can hide,
In oceans wide, the only place is me.
In corners and in cupboards I can rest,
My mind and heart away from prying-eye.
In safety, dry and silent, unexpressed,
My love is left with naught to do but die.
My heart will never sing inside a hole,
My mind will never thrive without a light.
So lonely, parched, and yearning is my soul
To crack the boathouse door and sail the night.
I board a boat, my heartbeat quickened-fast,
And beaming, loving, surge into the vast.
Third place: “Hearts of Dissonance” by Chelsea McMillen
She is my love, of flesh and blood—
with grief I’ve watched her bleed,
And oft I marvel at her flood,
of frac tured dreams’ debris.
Though she, a sanctuary strong,
will urge my soul to rise,
With rotting beams and mildewed song,
accepts her own demise.
These are the hearts of dissonance,
she carries day by day—
One holds me tightly through the dance,
one turns herself away.
Her love that tarries, streets of stone—
Her love, never returning home
Honourable mention: “Coiled Love” by Riley Donovan
I realize why they all crave love,
as your cheek slides into my neck.
Tingles line my spine because of
lips which gift sweet nighttime pecks.
The urge to rip your clothes in two,
and snuggle you in my blanket.
Gold eyes who’s gaze I won’t undo.
Despite my flaws which threaten it.
Without you near the coil within
my chest tightens as ghosts embrace.
The coil is scarce with palms on skin.
A desperate lust left in its place.
You asked me how love feels for me,
for you ill bare my heart, A.G.