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The Stephen Spender Prize 2015 for poetry in translation
in association with the Guardian

14-and-under category, joint winner

Read the judges’ comments
Email to request a free hard copy of the booklet (UK addresses only)
Read the winning entries from previous years

Viktoria Mileva


To my wife

Sometimes I will come into your dreams,
an unexpected and unwelcome guest.
Do not leave me outside –
doors bolted.

I will come in silently. I will sit quietly,
I will stare into the darkness to see you.
When I have seen you enough,
I will kiss you and go.

Translated from the Bulgarian by Viktoria Mileva


На жена ми

Понякога ще идвам във съня ти
като нечакан и неискан гостенин.
Не ме оставяй ти навън на пътя-
вратите не залоствай.

Ще влезна тихо. Кротко ще приседна,
ще вперя поглед в мрака да те видя.
Когато се наситя да те гледам-
ще те целуна и ще си отида.

Никола Вапцаров (Nikola Vaptsarov)

Translation commentary

I was looking for a Bulgarian poem to translate, so I asked my mother. Actually my grandmother suggested this poem by Nikola Vaptsarov. He is an important poet in Bulgaria even though he only ever wrote one book of poetry in his lifetime. He died when he was only 32. At first I did not really understand everything about the poem but after I read it again and again I began to like it very much.

I think the poet wrote the poem because he knew he was going to die. He was arrested during WWII for being a communist and acting against the government and the German troops in Bulgaria. On the same day he was arrested, 23 July 1942, he was sentenced to death. He wrote this poem to his wife at 2pm that afternoon. In the evening he was shot and killed. It is a note to let his wife know he is going to die but it is also a love letter. I think this is an important poem for people to know outside Bulgaria – it is going to help them to understand things about the war and how deeply the Bulgarian people feel for their dead. When my grandma Marinka died I was so sad.

The poem is a nice shape in Bulgarian and I wanted to keep the same shape, as much as possible, in English. The language is simple. I like the first two lines which give the impression of a ghost coming and the end which shows that even when you are dead, love does not leave you.

I came to the UK from Bulgaria a year ago on 19 July 2014. I spoke only a little bit of English then but now I am already forgetting some Bulgarian words and I like to write my poetry in English.

Viktoria Mileva