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The Stephen Spender Prize 2017 for poetry in translation
in association with the Guardian

18-and-under category, second prize

Read the judges’ comments
Download the 2017 booklet
Email to request a free hard copy of the booklet (UK addresses only)
Read the winning entries from previous years


Euan McGreevy

Architectural Pride


There where you live, lived people,
you don't hear them, they have already left,
they left empty vases and empty beds.
You are there now and you are the same.

Others
knead bread each day, another sun rises,
each cell is renewed, your whole
body is changing, tomorrow
another arm, another foot, another way of thinking
the same things.

However,
the city, with her architectural pride
of reinforced concrete and glass
is always the same:
she shelters us, she lends us the space
within her, she watches us die, indifferent.

Someone will arrive after you,
and remove the posters from where children sleep,
paint with a colour that isn't yours,
someone strange will come with their spectacular life
and stay where neither your footprints nor your smell
nor even a sad thought of yours
stays any longer.

There the city remains, there the place where you lived,
but inside there is nothing, no one you know will be left
to cross those streets, point at your window
and say:
Look, I lived there.

Translated from the Spanish by Euan McGreevy
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Orgullo Arquitectónico


Ahí donde vives vivió gente,
no les oyes, ya se han ido,
dejaron vacíos jarrones y camas.
Tú estás ahí y eres tú mismo.

Otros
cada día amasan pan, sale otro sol,
se renueva cada célula, tu cuerpo
entero va cambiando, mañana
otro brazo, otro pie, otra forma de pensar
las mismas cosas.

Sin embargo,
la ciudad, con su orgullo arquitectónico
de hormigón armado y de cristal
siempre es la misma:
nos va acogiendo, nos va dejando hueco
dentro de ella, nos ve morir indiferente.

Alguien vendrá después de ti,
y quitará el póster donde la infancia duerme,
pintará de un color que no es el tuyo,
alguien extraño vendrá con su vida aparatosa
y ocupará donde no quedan ni tus pasos ni tu olor,
ni una triste idea de las tuyas.

La ciudad ahí se queda, ahí el sitio que viviste,
dentro de nada nadie que conozcas quedará
para pasar por estas calles, señalar a tu ventana
y decir:
mirad, ahí vivió este.

Sergio C Fanjul
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Translation commentary

I chose to translate "Orgullo Arquitectónico" as the scene Fanjul creates is not only fascinating but also based in truth. At first, the focus of the poem is on the brevity of our lives – in such a short time the place where we once lived, now belongs to others. In the modern day, humanity faces many threats and, whist it may seem distant, one day humanity will succumb to extinction. When that happens, the great structures we have built will remain for thousands of years after we no longer exist ourselves. Fanjul paints this picture – a time when humankind is no more but humankind's cities live on in remembrance.

As this poem is so modern I could find no English translation of the poem which gave me the freedom to truly write my own. For the most past I wanted to stay true to the poem but whilst also conveying the sense of the poem effectively in English. I decided to keep the structure of the poem very similar to the original Spanish; such as the length of the stanzas and the way the poet uses enjambment to keep the continuity between lines.

In the third stanza Fanjul writes about the 'la ciudad' is if it were humankind's guardian. Having first translated the city using neuter pronouns, as would be common in English, I felt this lost the feeling that the poet creates of the city actively protecting us. To emphasise this personification of the city, I decided to draw inspiration from the Spanish and use the pronouns as if the city were a person; 'her architectural pride', 'she shelters us'. I believe this was a closer translation to what the poet had intended – personifying the city gives the impression that it is mothering humankind.

Euan McGreevy