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The Times Stephen Spender Prize 2011

14-and-under, joint first prize

Read the judges’ comments
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Read the winning entries from previous years

Anamay Viswanathan

Children of the Sun and Wind

We still live,
On the edge of insignificance,
Between the north and south of the seasons.

We still sleep,
Embracing stone pillows,
Like our fathers.

We still follow the same clouds,
Resting in the shadows of bare thorn trees.

We still drink tea with sips of fire,
We walk barefoot so as not to disturb the silence.

And in the distance,
On the slopes of the mirage,
We still watch on countless evenings,
The sun plunge into the sea.

And the same woman salutes us,
As she waits and watches for dusk,
In the midpoint of the map.

She greets us, then is lost,
In the eyes of a child,
Who smiles from the lap of timelessness.

We still wait,
For a fresh dawn,
To appear once more.

Translated from the Spanish by Anamay Viswanathan

Hijos del sol y del viento

Aún vivimos en las esquinas
de la nada
entre el norte y el sur de las estaciones.

Seguimos durmiendo
abrazando almohadas de piedra
como nuestros padres.

Perseguimos las mismas nubes
y reposamos bajo la sombra de las acacias desnudas.

Nos bebemos el té a sorbos de fuego
caminamos descalzos para no espantar el silencio.

Y a lo lejos
en las laderas del espejismo
todavía miramos, como cada
las puestas de sol en el mar.

Y la misma mujer que se detiene
sobre las atalayas del crepúsculo
en el centro del mapa nos saluda.

Nos saluda y se pierde
en los ojos de un niño que sonríe
desde el regazo de la eternidad.

Aún esperamos la aurora siguiente
para volver a comenzar

Mohammed Salem Abdelfatah, ‘Ebnu’

Translation commentary

I chose this poem as I feel it conveys a powerful message through very creative and striking imagery. The poet, Mohammed Ebnu, describes a journey, a journey of life, and how we live it. He conveys this with passion and emotion through his imagery. I felt touched and gripped by his poetry and I felt the meaning as it is relevant to anyone who sees life as a journey with up-hill struggles, but it is this hunger and ambition to achieve a desired goal, no matter how steep the climb, that pushes us. This mixture of passion and sophistication was perfectly demonstrated in Spanish but incredibly difficult to rediscover in English.

I also found the fluency and metre, which added so much elegance to the description in Spanish, very much contrasted with the metre and rhythm of my translation. I found it challenging to translate this poem accurately but keeping the elegance of the imagery. I decided to alter the metre as I felt it would keep the same intensity and meaning to the poem’s imagery in English. I realised that English and Spanish as languages both have contrasting metres when spoken. ‘We still’ was the start to most of the stanzas, it gives structure and a rhythm to the piece though it may not actually be present in the Spanish piece; I felt I needed to loosely translate this.

Though I had altered the metre, I tried to keep the same tone to the poem: the tone of inquisitiveness and thoughtfulness as Ebnu recreates our lives in one journey. I found the translation of words such as 'estaciones', which have two meanings (stations and seasons), difficult. The line ‘desde el regazo de la eternidad’ holds such elegance in Spanish but I found it difficult to carry the same fluidity and posture into English.

Anamay Viswanathan