Winner of the 2019 Judith Khan Memorial Poetry Prize Announced


The third edition of the Judith Khan Memorial Poetry Prize received 115 entries during the submissions period from 29 May to 31 July 2019.

In terms of the number of entries, this was the biggest contest in the brief history of the poetry prize. We are grateful to all the poets who sent their poems for the contest, which is open to poets who self-identify as Pakistani. We apologise for the delay in releasing the results and thank you for your patience.

We also thank Jarri Haider and Risham Amjad, both brilliant young poets and alumni of the DWL Poetry Workshop, for helping with the shortlisting process.

As some of you already know, the award honours the legacy and generous spirit of educator Mrs. Judith Khan. The prize was established in January 2015 and is funded by Mrs. Khan’s former students Noorulain Noor, Quratulain Noor, and Mahey Noor.

The winner of the 2019 contest was chosen by a two-member jury comprising of poet Noorulain Noor, who is the founder and co-patron of the poetry prize, and poet Rakhshan Rizwan, the author of Paisley (The Emma Press, 2017) and the winner of the inaugural Judith Khan Memorial Poetry Prize in 2015.

The 2019 Winner

Aaisha Salman has won the 2019 Judith Khan Memorial Poetry Prize for her poem Tenants of the Crevice.

Aaisha Salman is currently studying South Asian Studies at Columbia. She is a liberal arts graduate from Karachi, Pakistan, and her work has appeared in Parentheses Literary Journal, and in the anthology I’ll Find My Way (Oxford University Press, 2014).* She will receive a $250 cash prize. You can read her winning poem at this link.

Rakhshan Rizwan’s note on the winning entry: For us, Tenants of the Crevice was the obvious winner. The poem’s powerful merging of the personal and the political and tactful use of code-switching, intertextuality and wordplay made for an exceptionally lyrical and evocative piece. While we felt the poem could use a slight trimming of the fat, a few lines in particular were extremely well-crafted and stayed with us: “It’s more practical: the way we form as smoke / only halves and quarters / making sufficient room for misreading. I dust off love like an old cloth and then gently draw through residue which is also adrenaline of the gentle being on-the-runs of love worlds/world loves.”

Congratulations to Aaisha on winning the prize and we wish her all the best for her future writing.

Honourable Mention

The jury would like to recognise Nabeela Altaf for her poem Bullet.

Rakhshan Rizwan’s note: We tried to deploy the ‘What would Mrs. Khan do’ test while judging the poems. She would, in all likelihood, have awarded each poem a prize, having found poetic promise and worth in each and every one. So, we felt it would be only fitting to announce at least one runner-up. In the ‘Honourable Mention’ category, we would like to acknowledge Bullet as the piece which came closest to being the winner.

We congratulate Nabeela for the praise she has received from the jury.

Shortlist for the 2019 Prize

Apart from the winner and honourable mention, the contest shortlist included entries written by the following poets. We would like to acknowledge their efforts by sharing their names here (in alphabetical order):

  • Ammar Aziz
  • Armin Bilquis
  • Ayesha Raees
  • Haania Amir Waheed
  • Manahil Bandukwala
  • Neiha Lasharie
  • Safi ur Rahman

We wish them all the success for their poetry in the future.

The Judith Khan Memorial Poetry Prize hopes to return next year. You can read more about the prize and its history on the DWL website.

*Note: This post has been updated with the bio of the winning poet.

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