Three youth categories for the Stephen Spender Prize for poetry in translation

The Stephen Spender Prize for Poetry in Translation 2020 is now open for entries, with a closing date of 17 July 2020.

The prize is open to residents of the UK Ireland, or pupils at British schools worldwide.

Translating a poem from another language into English is an ideal activity for remote-learning, whether as an activity set by school, or a home-based individual or family project. What better way to develop close reading skills, creative writing practise, extend knowledge of an existing language, or explore a new one altogether? It’s a wonderful way to develop knowledge of language spoken at home, a chance to see the language in a new light and to discover some of its literary heritage.

To support students and young people hoping to enter the prize, the Stephen Spender Trust has this year launched a brand new virtual resources hub, with videos and teaching sequences for educators and young people to access online. For the first time
the Trust has also published a booklet of suggested poems, including many contemporary poems that have never been translated into English.

sst posterStephen Spender Trust Director Charlotte Ryland says, “Poetry translation is a perfect activity for these unprecedented times: it is a gentle and structured approach to creativity, without the intimidating blank page that can put off many would-be poets; it is an opportunity for parents and children to work together, in particular in families where more than one language is spoken; and it is a task that can be shared with peers and teachers.”

The judges are acclaimed poets, translators and educators Khairani Barokka, Mary Jean Chan and Daljit Nagra. The top prize is £1000 and all shortlisted poems are published in a booklet.

As well as translating a poem from any language into English, applicants also write a short commentary of 300 words about three challenges they encountered in the process of translating. Extensive guidance and resources on translation and commentary writing are provided on the virtual hub, Multilingual Creativity and on the Trust’s new YouTube channel.

In 2019, entries came from a record 65 different languages ranging from Albanian to Yoruba – a welcome reminder of the multicultural and multilingual society we live in. The prize administrators hope to break that record this year.

The prize, which honours the forward-thinking internationalism of poet Stephen Spender, celebrates creativity in translation and particularly focuses on new-generation translators, aged under 18.

Nadia Siddiqui, Head of Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) at The Westgate School in Slough entered a record number of pupils to the prize last year. “The Stephen Spender Prize is a fantastic initiative that celebrates not only poetry, languages and translation in general, but multiculturalism, diversity and community spirit, which are exactly the things that students should be exposed to throughout our country. At The Westgate School, we had a wonderful experience and submitted 56 entries in 25 different languages.”

Katrina Barnes, MFL teacher at Comberton Village College, says, “The Stephen Spender Prize could not have arrived at a better time. As we language teachers devote ourselves to searching for new ways to engage our students from afar, I am thrilled to be getting my students involved in a creative activity which will take them to the heart of what it means to communicate between different languages. Now more than ever, at a time
when other cultures may be less accessible physically, poetry translation has the power to guide students into other worlds, lives, and experiences.”

There are three categories for young people (14-and-under, 16-and-under, and 18-and-under) as well as an open category for adults. Please study the guidelines below carefully, as some elements have changed from previous years.

More information

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