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The Stephen Spender Prize 2018 for poetry in translation
in association with the Guardian

14-and-under category, commended

Read the judges’ comments
Download the 2018 booklet
Email to request a free hard copy of the booklet (UK addresses only)
Read the winning entries from previous years

Alexis Richards

Your Eyes

Your eyes are the homeland of flashing lightning and of tears,
silence that talks,
windless storms, waveless sea,
imprisoned birds, golden dormant beasts,
topazes merciless as truth,
or sound in a clearing of the wood where the light sings in the shoulder of a tree and
all the birds are leaves,
beach which morning finds constellated with eyes,
basket of fruits of fire,
lie which feeds,
mirrors of this world, doors to beyond,
placid pulsing of the sea at noon,
all that blinks,
a plain.

Translated from the Spanish byAlexis Richards

Tus ojos

Tus ojos son la patria del relámpago y de la lágrima,
silencio que habla,
tempestades sin viento, mar sin olas,
pájaros presos, doradas fieras adormecidas,
topacios impíos como la verdad,
o toño en un claro del bosque en donde la luz canta el hombro de un árbol y son pájaros todas las hojas,
playa que la mañana encuentra constelada de ojos,
cesta de frutos de fuego,
mentira que alimenta,
espejos de este mundo, puertas del más allá,
pulsación tranquila del mar a mediodía,
absoluto que parpadea,

Octavio Paz

Translation commentary

This poem interested me because initially it appeared oxymoronic, however on further study it appeared to make perfect sense and even to be a very powerful description. The poem presented certain difficulties, for example I found it very difficult to recreate the alliteration of 'la lágrima' and so I compensated for this in the second line with 'that talks'. 'Cesta de frutos de fuego' uses heavy assonance and alliteration and so I translated it as 'basket of fruits of fire'.

'Puertas del más allá,' is a slightly vague and mysterious phrase and so I rendered it as 'doors to beyond' because this is an equally ambiguous translation. I couldn't find a way of replicating the alliteration of 'pájaros presos' and so I compensated for this loss through 'windless … waveless'. In fact I translated 'mar sin olas' as 'waveless sea' because it imitates the compactness of the Spanish.

'Absoluto que parpadea' is perhaps a slightly cryptic phrase and it proved recalcitrant at first. However, I decided eventually that the best way to render it would be 'all that blinks' as it is the same amount of words as the Spanish and conveys the meanings effectively.

There is a heavy rhyme scheme in the Spanish, however I thought that this could not be reasonably achieved without being forced to detract from the power and beauty of the original language.

'Páramo' is a grassy plain or tundra, often translated simply as 'páramo'. However, I translated it as 'a plain' because I felt that anything longer would take away from the rather sudden ending to the poem. Here of course it is difficult for a translator as there is no short equivalent in English except for the same word, a loanword. I hope I have managed to recreate the lucid beauty of the poem.

Alexis Richards