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The Times Stephen Spender Prize 2011

14-and-under, commended

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


Charlie Mack

A Dream for Winter


Winter, we will go in a small red wagon
Covered in blue cushions.
We will be blooming. A frenzied nest of kisses, rejected.
In each arched bend.

You will slam shut your eye, to hide from the place, by the ice,
Where you will unsettle the evening shadows,
A mass of growling monsters
Of empty demons and bloodless wolves

Then you will feel your cheek touched gently,
A little kiss, like a crazed spider,
It will move around your neck...

And you will say to me: ‘Look’ and craning our necks
We will take time to look for this… this emotion
This feeling, that travels with us… every where we go…

Translated from the French by Charlie Mack
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Rêvé pour l’hiver


L'hiver, nous irons dans un petit wagon rose
Avec des coussins bleus.
Nous serons bien. Un nid de baisers fous repose
Dans chaque coin moelleux.
Tu fermeras l'oeil, pour ne point voir, par la glace,
Grimacer les ombres des soirs,
Ces monstruosités hargneuses, populace
De démons noirs et de loups noirs.
Puis tu te sentiras la joue égratignée...
Un petit baiser, comme une folle araignée,
Te courra par le cou.
Et tu me diras: "Cherche!" en inclinant la tête,
Et nous prendrons du temps à trouver cette bête
Qui voyage beaucoup...

Arthur Rimbaud
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Translation commentary


I chose ‘Rêvé pour l’hiver’ for many reasons. The first of which is the interesting title meaning ‘Dreamt for winter’. This is unusual as ‘winter’ is not a topic you usually dream about, especially because during this time everything is sleeping or dead. During winter we are obedient to the struggle of cold and the difficulty of ice.

The poet has written the first stanza in the first person, thus the ‘we’. The reader does not know who the ‘we’ is though, and since he wants to find out, reads on. This means the poem is enticing and attracting to the reader as the identity of the poet never gets revealed.

My favourite part of the whole poem is when the poet describes the shadows and uses personification well. The shadows are probably metaphors. I think they are meant to represent the fears, problems and worries that lurk in the back of the mind. The poet has conveyed this well as he is trying to say that you can’t make these feelings go away, even if you are in the happiest place on earth. I have changed the description a bit to describing the monsters in the poem as ‘empty and bloodless’ as the monsters are made of shadows and are not technically alive, neither made of flesh and bone. You can tell the character is trying desperately to not worry as he ‘shuts his eye, to hide from the place, by the ice’. The ice, I think, represents an unforgiving and harsh place where the problems of the mind live. These problems follow you as the closing words of the poem are ‘that travels with us everywhere we go’.

The rhyming is also interesting as in the first two stanzas the rhyming is in the form ‘AB AB’. However in the final two stanzas the rhyming changes to ‘AA B’ as the verses are only three lines long.

Charlie Mack