Poetry in Translation: Sarah Maguire Prize

I am a big fan of poetry in translation. I struggle with languages other than my own, and only have a working knowledge of Latin enough to translate from it – and there are far greater scholars than me to do that, so I cannot read poetry in its original language unless it’s in English. Translation is of course collaboration between the original poet and the translator poet, aiming to bring poetry they love to a wider audience. It is therefore two challenges in one!

I was very pleased to be asked to share the news of a new prize for poetry in translation. This is its first year and the shortlist has just been announced this morning. The following article is their press release:

The Poetry Translation Centre is pleased to announce the shortlist for the inaugural Sarah Maguire Prize for  Poetry in Translation. 

The Poetry Translation Centre (PTC) launched the Sarah Maguire Prize for Poetry in Translation to recognise  the best book of poetry by a living poet from Africa, Asia, Latin America or the Middle East published in  English translation and to champion the art of poetry in translation. 

In its first year the prize has been judged by the poets and translators Alireza Abiz, Ida Hadjivayanis and  Leo Boix.  

The shortlist features books translated from Japanese, Arabic, Korean, Spanish and Chinese. The selection  celebrates both the best of modern poetry from across the globe and showcases a range of different  translation methodologies highlighting excellence in literary translation. In choosing their shortlist the  judges looked for books which speak to UK audiences, but which maintained the unique spark of their  original texts. The shortlisted books are: 

Factory Girls by Takako Arai 

Translated from Japanese by Jeffrey Angles, Jen Crawford, Carol Hayes, Rina Kikuchi, You Nakai and  Sawako Nakayasu. (Published by Action Books, 2019) 

A Boat to Lesbos and other poems by Nouri Al-Jarrah 

Translated from Arabic by Camilo Gómez-Rivas and Allison Blecker. (Published by Banipal Books, 2018) Incomprehensible Lesson by Fawzi Karim 

In versions by Anthony Howell after translations from the Arabic made by the author. (Published by  Carcanet Press Ltd, 2019) 

Hysteria by Kim Yideum 

Translated from Korean by Jake Levine, Soeun Seo & Hedgie Choi. (Published by Action Books, 2019) Tiawanaku: Poems from the Mother Coqa by Judith Santopietro 

Translated from Spanish by Ilana Luna. (Published by Orca Libros, 2019) 

Anniversary Snow by Yang Lian 

Translated from Chinese by Brian Holton with further translations by WN Herbert, L. Leigh, Pascale Petit,  Fiona Sampson, George Szirtes and Joshua Weiner. (Published by Shearsman Books, 2019) 

Alireza Abiz, poet and chair of judges, said: “Translation of poetry is a labour of love. Translating poetry  from other cultures, especially from those less represented in the anglophone world, not only gives  translated poets more exposure, it also enriches English poetry.”  

Media contact 

If you would like further information, or to arrange an interview with the PTC or one of the judges, please  contact Vicki Berwick at vicki@vickiberwickpr.com. 

Images of the shortlisted books, poets and translators as well as the judges and Sarah Maguire are  available for press use here:  

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/17mCCImYoe3w76EG8ikEoVExo22Ppefit?usp=sharing Notes to Editors 

‘The PTC will publish The Sarah Maguire Prize 2020 Anthology to accompany the prize showcasing the five  shortlisted poets and their translators, with selected poems from each of the nominated publications. The  prize anthology will be published on the 2nd February. 

The winning poets and translators will share a £3,000 prize fund. 

The prize will be announced in an online event with the judging panel on Thursday 25 March – reserve a  place here to watch live: https://sarahmaguireprize2020.eventbrite.com 

A public online event Translating Poetries – The Sarah Maguire Prize Shortlist, will be held at the StAnza  Poetry Festival – 19:30, Monday, 8 March 2021: stanzapoetry.org/festival/events/translating-poetries 

The Sarah Maguire Prize for Poetry in Translation is supported by the Estate of Sarah Maguire, the British  Council, the Garrick Charitable Trust, and the kind donations of the friends of Sarah Maguire. 

The Poetry Translation Centre gives the best poems from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East  a new life in the English language; to better understand and celebrate the diverse communities who have  made their home in the UK; and to enrich the English poetic tradition through translation. 

The poet Sarah Maguire (1957-2017) was a champion of international poetry. In the mid-1990s, Sarah was  approached by the British Council to be the first writer they sent on outreach trips to Palestine (1996) and  Yemen (1998). It was on these visits, encountering Arabic poetry, that Maguire developed her passion for  poetry translation. In 2004 she established the Poetry Translation Centre and remained its director until  shortly before her death. 

The Sarah Maguire Prize for Poetry in Translation was established with the support of Sarah’s family and  friends to showcase the very best contemporary poetry from around the world, and to champion the art  of poetry translation. The prize will be held biennially and awarded to the best book of poetry by a living  poet in English translation published in the last two years. The inaugural 2020 prize was open to entries  from Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. From 2020 on, the prize will be open to poets from  anywhere beyond Europe. The books may be published anywhere in the world. 

The Judges 

The Chair of our judges is Alireza Abiz, an Iranian poet, literary critic and award-winning translator. He  has translated leading English language poets including W.B. Yeats, Ted Hughes and Allen Ginsberg into  Persian. Abiz has written extensively on Persian contemporary literature and culture and published five  collections of poetry. His sixth collection, The Desert Monitor, is forthcoming.  

Ida Hadjivayanis is a translator originally from Zanzibar. She has lived in Dar es Salaam, Paris, Maseru,  Conakry, Khartoum and Rome. She studied at the National University of Lesotho, Middlesex University and  SOAS. Hadjivayanis is the author of Alisi ndani ya nchi ya ajabu, a Swahili translation of Lewis Caroll’s Alice’s  Adventures in Wonderland. She is currently involved in the production of the first anthology of Swahili  translations.  

Leo Boix is a Latino British poet, translator and journalist based in the UK. He has published two collections  in Spanish, Un lugarpropio and Mar de noche, and has been included in many anthologies, such as Ten:  Poets of the New Generation and Why Poetry?. His English poems have appeared in Poetry, The Poetry  Review, Modern Poetry in Translation, PN Review and elsewhere. Boix is a fellow of The Complete Works  program and co-director of ‘Invisible Presence’, a scheme to nurture Latino poets in the UK.

The Shortlisted Books 

Factory Girls by Takako Arai 

Translated from Japanese by Jeffrey Angles, Jen Crawford, Carol Hayes, Rina Kikuchi, You Nakai and  Sawako Nakayasu. (Published by Action Books, 2019) 

Factory Girls is a vivid depiction of the world of women workers in Japan’s textile industry. The poet herself  grew up in and around a small silk weaving factory her father owned and many of the poems in this  collection are about the lives of the women workers she had known growing up. 

A Boat to Lesbos and other poems by Nouri Al-Jarrah 

Translated from Arabic by Camilo Gómez-Rivas and Allison Blecker (Published by Banipal Books, 2018) 

A Boat to Lesbos and other poems invites the reader to experience the most unbearable agony of  hopelessness in the face of the most brutal events happening in our time. From the first line, the poem  calls upon us to see what we have tried so hard to look away from: ‘Suffering Syrians, beautiful Syrians,  Syrian brothers fleeing death’. 

Incomprehensible Lesson by Fawzi Karim 

In versions by Anthony Howell after translations from the Arabic made by the author. (Published by  Carcanet Press Ltd, 2019) 

Fawzi Karim writes about the homeland, exile and the sense of belonging. He reveals conflicting sentiments  toward his Iraqi homeland and his Arabic poetry tradition. His relationship with his homeland is not that of  a loving nostalgia, as in the case of many exiled poets. It is agonising, painful and hurt. 

Hysteria by Kim Yideum 

Translated from Korean by Jake Levine, Soeun Seo and Hedgie Choi. (Published by Action Books, 2019) 

Hysteria is lively, confrontational, energetic and down to earth language best serves the dark sense of  humour and the narrative quality of most of the poems. Yideum writes with an exceptional ease about a  wide range of everyday topics and different sentiments moving from fury to laughter, humorous to tragic  in a single poem. 

Tiawanaku: Poems from the Mother Coqa by Judith Santopietro 

Translated from Spanish by Ilana Luna. (Published by Orca Libros, 2019) 

Tiawanaku, Poems from the Mother Coqa is a journey into the geography and history of indigenous  Andean territories and a reimagination of ancient Latin American cultures, languages and spiritualities. It is  a fascinating representation of indigenous people and their relationship with their environment. 

Anniversary Snow by Yang Lian 

Translated from Chinese by Brian Holton with further translations by WN Herbert, L. Leigh, Pascale Petit,  Fiona Sampson, George Szirtes and Joshua Weiner. (Published by Shearsman Books, 2019) 

This collection is grounded to the historical roots of Chinese culture, poetry and art, but goes beyond it,  reinterpreting with poise and intelligence the very essence of our existence, from the changing landscape  that surrounds us, the appeal of the natural world and the inner beauty of language, its political force and  its philosophical teachings.

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2 responses to “Poetry in Translation: Sarah Maguire Prize

  1. Maureen Weldon

    Yes a means of reading some of the world’s most wonderful books.