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

14-and-under category, commended

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

Grace Guthrie


Dear diary,
My birthday is here and i hate it.
i have to leave my boyfriend Charlie in the city to go and spend my
birthday in the pointless countryside.
What is better than to be in the city on your birthday?
Is a house on a bank of an icy river any place for a young lady like me?
There are bad times to travel and this is one of those times.
i just feel like i have been kidnapped or abducted.
It's my birthday so why do i have to go?
it's not fair
They won't let me be my own independent person
i hate my birthday.

Translated from the Latin by Grace Guthrie

Epistulae II

Invisus natalis adest, qui rure molesto
et sine Cerintho tristis agendus erit.
Dulcius urbe quid est? an villa sit apta puellae
atque Arrentino frigidus amnis agro?
Iam nimium Messalla mei studiose, quiescas,
heu tempestivae, saeve propinque, viae!
Hic animum sensusque meos abducta relinquo,
arbitrio quamvis non sinis esse meo.


Translation commentary

I chose this poem because I was immediately attracted to the first line: 'I hate my birthday.' This stood out to me as normally everyone loves their birthday and is excited about it.

I wanted to do something a bit different. A bit strange. I thought about the different ways I could translate the poem and when I read through the original Latin I knew that I wanted to make it as modern as it could be. A way to do this would be to make it sound like a bratty teenager writing in her diary about her birthday which she only wants to spend with her boyfriend. Never mind the effort that her parents put in to make it a special day by planning a day out in the countryside. I tried to make it look like a teenager had written it by not using capital letters and using words or phrases that teenagers generally use.

Grace Guthrie