The Joseph Brodsky/Stephen Spender Prize 2012
for the translation of Russian poetry into English

In the 1960s Stephen Spender knew Joseph Brodsky only by reputation, as a poet imprisoned in the Soviet Union. They met for the first time in 1972 when W. H. Auden brought Brodsky, who had been expelled a few days earlier from his country, to London to the Poetry International and they stayed with the Spenders. There was an instant connection. The Joseph Brodsky/Stephen Spender Prize, instigated by Maria Brodsky and Natasha Spender, celebrates the poets' long friendship and the rich tradition of Russian poetry.

How to enter and conditions of entry
Download 2012 poster
Read last year's winning entries and the judges’ report
The judges of the 2012 competition are:
Sasha Dugdale Catriona Kelly Glyn Maxwell

Sasha Dugdale

is a poet and translator. In the 1990s she worked for the British Council in Russia, where she set up the Russian New Writing Project with the Royal Court Theatre. Since her return in 2001 she has translated new plays for the Court, the RSC and other theatre companies. She has published two collections of translations of Russian poetry. The most recent, Birdsong on the Seabed (Bloodaxe) by Elena Shvarts, was a Poetry Book Society choice and shortlisted for the Popescu and Academica Rossica Translation Awards. A third collection of her own poems, The Red House, is published by Carcanet in August 2011.

Catriona Kelly

is Professor of Russian at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of the British Academy. She has published widely on Russian cultural history, including most recently Comrade Pavlik: The Rise and Fall of a Soviet Boy Hero (Granta Books, 2005), and Children’s World: Growing Up in Russia, 1890–1991 (Yale University Press, 2007). She has also edited An Anthology of Russian Women’s Writing (OUP 1994) and Utopias: Russian Modernist Texts, 1905–1940 (Penguin, 2009) and National Identity in Soviet and Post-Soviet Culture (CUP 2012; with Mark Bassin), and has published numerous translations of Russian authors, including Tsvetaeva, Mayakovsky, Leonid Borodin, Elena Shvarts, Olga Sedakova and others. She reviews regularly for the TLS and Guardian, and in 2007 she was a judge of the Rossica Prize for translation from Russian.

Glyn Maxwell

was born in Welwyn Garden City, England. He is the author of several collections of poems, including The Nerve (2002), which won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, and Hide Now (2008), which was short-listed for both the T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry and the Forward Poetry Prize. The Breakage (1998), Time's Fool (2000), The Boys at Twilight (2000) and the Sugar Mile (2005) were all New York Times Notable Books of the Year. Many of his plays have been staged in London and New York, including his version of Aeschylus' Agamemnon which has its premiere this spring at the Phoenix Theatre Ensemble. Glyn was the poetry editor of The New Republic (2001–7). He lives in London.


How to enter

Entries may be submitted by post or email. Each entry must comprise the following:
  • • your translation
  • • the original Russian
  • • your commentary (see below for guidelines)
Accompanying your entry or entries, we require:
    one entry form:
  • online version
  • Word format
  • pdf format

    payment of £5 sterling per entry
Before you enter, please read the conditions of entry below.
Entries may be submitted by post or email.
To post your entry, please print and complete the entry form (Word, pdf) and send it with your entry (your translation(s), the original Russian and your commentary or commentaries) and a UK cheque or international money order payable to the Stephen Spender Trust for £5 sterling per entry to

The Joseph Brodsky/Stephen Spender Prize
The Stephen Spender Trust
3 Old Wish Road
East Sussex
BN21 4JX

To email your entry, please pay your fee via PayPal by completing the payment form below, specifying your name and title of first poem (in English) where prompted.

Payment via PayPal

Number of entries
Entrant's name
Title of poem (in English)

Then complete the entry form and attach your entry (your translation(s), the original Russian and your commentary or commentaries) to a covering email and send to

Attached documents should be PDFs or text files, for example:
  • • Microsoft Word .doc or .docx
  • • rich text format .rtf
  • • plain text .txt
Entries must arrive no later than 31 August 2012.
Please email with any queries.


Conditions of entry


1. Entrants may be of any nationality, resident anywhere in the world.  

Adjudication and prizes

2. There will be three prizes: £1,500 (first), £1,000 (second) and £500 (third).

3. The Prize will be administered by the Stephen Spender Trust and judged by Sasha Dugdale, Catriona Kelly and Glyn Maxwell. Their decision will be final and the organisers will not enter into any correspondence about the results.

4. The winners will be notified and the results announced on the Trust’s website by 30 November 2012. The winning entries and any others the judges wish to select will be published on the website.  


5. All entries for the competition must reach the Stephen Spender Trust no later than 31 August 2012.

6. Entrants are invited to submit an English translation of a published Russian poem, together with a commentary of no more than 300 words (see below for guidelines). The submitted translation should be no more than 100 lines long, so entrants may submit an extract if their chosen poem is longer. Self-translation is not accepted. Collaborations are permitted so long as the names of all the collaborators are declared on the entry form.

7. Each translation must be the original work of the entrant and not a copy or substantial copy of someone else’s translation; it must not have been previously published in a book or journal or broadcast.

8. Entrants should submit their entry form, translation and a copy of the original poem by post or email – see How to enter above. All submissions should come from the translator him- or herself: we will not accept submissions from a third party. Entries sent by post should be in black type on white A4 paper.   

9. Entries will be judged without the panel of judges knowing the identity of the competitors. The entrant’s name must not appear on the translation or Russian poem.

10. Competitors may submit as many entries as they like so long as they pay an entry fee of £5.00 (pounds sterling) per entry.  

11. The entry fee must be paid either by international money order, a crossed cheque drawn on a bank in the United Kingdom made payable to the Stephen Spender Trust, or electronically via PayPal (payee:

12. The worldwide copyright of each prize-winning and commended translation will remain with the translator but the Stephen Spender Trust will have the unrestricted right to read the translation on television, radio or the stage, or to publish it in whole or in part on the Trust’s website or in periodical or book form when the winners are announced or at any time up to twelve months after that date.

13. By entering, all competitors shall be deemed to have read and accepted all the conditions of entry for the Joseph Brodsky/Stephen Spender Prize.

Guidelines for the commentary

14. The commentary of no more than 300 words should briefly cover such matters as:
  • • Your reason for translating this particular poem.
  • • Problems encountered in translating between Russian and English.
  • • Problems encountered in translating the poem you have chosen.
  • • Your approach to the poem. For example, if the original is in a particular form – rhyme or a regular metre – have you or have you not attempted to preserve that form in English?