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The Times Stephen Spender Prize 2011

14-and-under, joint first prize

Read the judges’ comments
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Giles Robinson


He put the nescafé in the cup
He put the cravendale in the cup
He put the sugar daddie in the cup
He put the small spoon next to the creamy hot cup
He turned and gulped his cup of coffee
He placed his cup of coffee on the table
Without a word
He lit his cigarette
And blew a smoke ring around another girl, I knew then
It was over
He put his ashes in his tray
Without a word
He watched me
He stood up
He placed his hat on his head
He put his coat on
Because it was pouring down
And he left
Under the rain
And me, I put my head in my hands
And started to cry.

Translated from the French by Giles Robinson

Déjeuner du matin

Il a mis le café
Dans la tasse
Il a mis le lait
Dans la tasse de café
Il a mis le sucre
Dans le café au lait
Avec la petite cuiller
Il a tourné
Il a bu le café au lait
Et il a reposé la tasse
Sans me parler
Il a allumé
Une cigarette
Il a fait des ronds
Avec la fumée
Il a mis les cendres
Dans le cendrier
Sans me parler
Sans me regarder
Il s’est levé
Il a mis
Son chapeau sur sa tête
Il a mis son manteau de pluie
Parce qu’il pleuvait
Et il est parti
Sous la pluie
Sans une parole
Sans me regarder
Et moi j’ai pris
Ma tête dans ma main
Et j’ai pleuré.

Jacques Prévert

Translation commentary

I chose this particular poem because I felt it would be reasonably easy to modernise but more demanding if I put my own spin on it. In lines 1–3 I thought that by putting in a little more description it would show more effectively that the girl talking in the poem feels sad that it is over and that she is looking at his every action. Another reason I chose this poem is because I actually saw someone in a café showing these emotions and her emotions came across clearly to me.

Giles Robinson