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Hifsa Ashraf — Touchstone Award for Individual Poems Winner 2021

Hifsa Ashraf is the recipient of a Touchstone Award for Individual Poems for 2021 for her poem

late-night train
the mother’s lullaby
for everyone
— (kontinuum: kortárs haiku/contemporary haiku 1.1)


Commentary from the Panel:

“Who hasn’t been there. You’re tired and stressed from a long day at work, and you just want to get back home as hassle-free as possible. On a deeper level the train, plane, or bus commute also makes you feel “alone in a crowd,” especially at night. More existential still, maybe you feel like “a motherless child a long way from home” in the words of that old spiritual. These and other implied circumstances set the scene for us in the opening line. And then we hear a song. Not someone’s cellphone music that we dread, but rather a mother’s lullaby for the baby she cradles in her arms. A homely act which changes nothing, and yet transforms everything, about the circumstances. We are comforted now, more at peace. Each and all of us, within the sound of her voice.”


See the complete list of winners of both Individual Poem Awards and Distinguished Books Awards in the Touchstone Archives.

This Post Has 13 Comments

  1. This is a wonderful haiku!

    Yes, ‘the’ adds much to the poem. Thanks to Alan for the insightful ‘article’ article. I have shared it on Twitter!

  2. This is a beautiful poem, with such depth. I can’t help but think of all the refugees leaving home by train, but also how this is a metaphor for any of us traveling in the dark and the unexpected comforts that we offer one another along the way. I think too that this poem speaks deeply to the work of mothering, which has societal impact that reaches far beyond any one family. I feel comforted by this poem each time I read it, and so in its own way it becomes a kind of lullaby too. Well done, Hifsa, and congratulations!

  3. Using the the article “the” rather than “a” is a brilliant move that simultaneously pulls the reader in close and universalizes the idea of “mother.” A beautiful poem!

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