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The Times Stephen Spender Prize 2010

14-and-under, commended

Read the judges’ comments
To obtain the free booklet of winning entries and commentaries,
please email: info@stephenspender.org


Marwin Kalo

The Aral Sea
by Raim Farkhadi


We are children of the Earth,
We live by the Aral Sea,
It is far away,
Among the bitter and salty sands.
Oh, people, why is only the pale shadow,
Of dry shapeless clouds,
Above the desert of heat and sorrow?

Not one droplet of rain will fall,
Over the sea during the summer,
The voice of the river is silently fading,
In the deserted distance.
The lonely sun is moving slowly along,
Just like an exhausted traveller,
Where docked ships drowned in the sand…

We are children of the Earth,
We grow, we laugh and debate,
At different latitudes,
We all choose our different paths.
And suddenly we stand still,
As we hear the cry of a seagull above the sea,
That’s calling us all
To quickly help and save!

We are children of the Earth,
We live by the Aral Sea…

Translated from the Russian by Marwin Kalo
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Аральское море (The Aral Sea)


Мы-дети Земли,
Мы живём у Аральского моря,
Оно далеко, среди горьких, солёных песков.
О, люди, зачем над пустынею зноя и горя
Лишь бледная тень бестелесных сухих облаков?..

За лето над морем ни капли дождя не прольется,
И голос реки умолкает в пустынной дали.
Как путник усталый, бредёт одинокое солнце,
Где, встав на причал, потонули в песке корабли...

Мы-дети Земли,
Мы растём, мы смеёмся и спорим,
На разных широтах свои выбираем пути,
И вдруг замираем,
Услышав крик чайки над морем,
Зовущей всех нас
Скорее помочь и спасти!...

Мы-дети Земли,
Мы живём у Аральского моря,

Раим Фархади (Raim Farkhadi)
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Translation commentary


Looking through a Russian magazine which contained one or two of my grandfather’s poems (published in Moscow in 2005), I spotted one of the two that struck me. ‘The Aral Sea’ is a poem about a subject very relevant to today. Global warming is evaporating the seas and the effects it has on our environment.

My grandfather has written many poems and stories for both children and adults. When I was a child, he always used to read me his verse and it inspired me with many ideas to write my own poetry. So it was a great pleasure for me to have the opportunity to translate one of his works.

I wrote two versions of the poem. Firstly, I altered the poem by adding more description and then I decided to compose one authentic version as I did in the poem ‘Cries of Trees’. In the end I chose the more authentic version because it is true to the original.

I didn’t have many troubles except finding a way not to disturb the rhythm of the poem and to try to keep the language and line breaks in the same place. I did not have any difficulties translating the poem though.

When I talked to my grandfather on the phone for the first time after knowing that I was going to translate on of his poems, he was very fascinated and proud. Unfortunately, he does not speak English, at least not well enough to read my translation. If he could read it I think he would be very satisfied with the translation as I was greatly.

Marwin Kalo
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