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The Stephen Spender Prize 2016 for poetry in translation
in association with the Guardian

14-and-under category, winner

Read the judges’ comments
Download the 2016 booklet
Email to request a free hard copy of the booklet (UK addresses only)
Read the winning entries from previous years

Tomás Sergeant


Listen to Desire

Only your warm heart,
and nothing more.

My Paradise, a field,
without nightingales,
or lyres,
a river, discreet,
and a little fountain.

Without the spur of the wind
in the branches,
without the star,
that wants to be a leaf.

An enormous light
which was
the firefly
of the Other,
in a field of broken gazes.

A still calm
where our kisses,
sonorous circles
of echoes,
will open, far-off.

And your warm heart,
nothing more.

Translated from the Spanish by Tomás Sergeant


Sólo tu corazón caliente,
y nada más.

Mi paraíso un campo
sin ruiseñor
ni liras,
con un río discreto
y una fuentecilla.

Sin la espuela del viento
sobre la fronda,
ni la estrella que quiere
ser hoja.

Una enorme luz
que fuera
de otra,
en un campo
de miradas rotas.

Un reposo claro
y allí nuestros besos,
lunares sonoros
del eco,
se abrirían muy lejos.

Y tu corazón caliente,
nada más.

Federico García Lorca

Translation commentary

I chose 'Deseo' by Federico García Lorca because it is a very interesting poem. It depicts a paradisiacal field that contains very few of the things we would think should be in a paradise; for example there are no nightingales – birds believed to have beautiful songs. This oddness that runs through the whole poem grabbed my attention.

After choosing the poem which, I think it is fair to say, is the easiest bit, came one of the hardest choices I had to make: whether I should make a literal translation or not. I did not want to translate this poem word for word because that is not how poems are written; they are written to convey a feeling or thought and here I sensed despair. One word that I found difficult was 'caliente' which in Spanish means hot, but hot neither conveys its meaning nor sounds good in English. When Lorca uses the word 'caliente' I think he means loving, passionate or even caring; but he does not use any Spanish word for this, he uses the word hot. So I thought and thought and the closest I came to the Spanish word was warm.

After researching Lorca a bit I found out a very interesting fact: he was homosexual in a time when being homosexual was taboo. I think this is a poem written by Lorca to a lover who is unavailable, maybe because they are in a relationship with another person or they are not homosexual themselves. Having learnt this I read through the poem and saw the bit which I had translated as 'the other' and that made little sense – what is 'the other'? And then I linked these two things: maybe this 'other' is the partner of Lorca's lover and should be 'Other'.

Tomás Sergeant