Skip to main content

Eric Yip (Economics Tripos) scoops first prize for his work, Fricatives.

Eric Yip’s fantastic poem won the £5,000 first prize. This is an incredible achievement as the National Poetry Competition winners’ are usually found among experienced poets. The fact that Eric is an economics student makes the result even more impressive as it’s outside of his normal studies. Furthermore, Eric’s work was up against over 16,000 poems entered into the competition from over 7,000 poets.

The name of Eric’s poem, Fricatives, comes from the term given to a consonant made by the friction of breath in a narrow opening, such as the ‘f’ sound in the word ‘free’.

Eric shares his feelings after finding out the great news, “It was such a complete shock for me to have won. Poetry is definitely one of the arts where you get better with age because you have more lived experiences and you read more and you write more… I see this win as a beginning, an encouragement for me to keep writing and to keep improving.”

Eric’s amazing achievement is a reminder that embracing extra-curricular activities is great for your wellbeing and it can open up many new and exciting opportunities.

You can read Eric’s poem below.

Fricatives by Eric Yip

To speak English properly, Mrs Lee said, you must learn

the difference between three and free. Three men

escaped from Alcatraz in a rubber raft and drowned

on their way to Angel Island. Hear the difference? Try

this: you fought your way into existence. Better. Look

at this picture. Fresh yellow grains beaten

till their seeds spill. That’s threshing. That’s

submission. You must learn to submit

before you can learn. You must be given

a voice before you can speak. Nobody wants to listen

to a spectacled boy with a Hong Kong accent.

You will have to leave this city, these dark furrows

stuffed full with ancestral bones. Know

that death is thorough. You will speak of bruised bodies

skinnier than yours, force the pen past batons

and blood, call it fresh material for writing. Now

they’re paying attention. You’re lucky enough

to care about how the tongue moves, the seven types

of fricatives, the articulatory function of teeth

sans survival. You will receive a good education

abroad and make your parents proud. You will take

a stranger’s cock in your mouth in the piss-slick stall

of that dingy Cantonese restaurant you love and taste

where you came from, what you were made of all along.

Put some work into it, he growls. C’mon, give me

some bite. Your mother visits one October, tells you

how everyone speaks differently here, more proper.

You smile, nod, bring her to your favourite restaurant,

order dim sum in English. They’re releasing

the students arrested five years ago. Just a tad more

soy sauce please, thank you. The television replays

yesterday on repeat. The teapots are refilled. You spoon

served rice into your mouth, this perfect rice.

Steamed, perfect, white.