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The Stephen Spender Prize 2019 for poetry in translation
in association with the Guardian

Polish Spotlight 10-and-under category, winner

Read the judges’ comments
Download the 2019 booklet
Email to request a free hard copy of the booklet (UK addresses only)
Read the winning entries from previous years


Roksana Tkaczyńska

In School


SMALL BOY
Hey, you school, boring school!
Nothing in you is good or cool.
I'd rather play toys and games,
Than sit like a statue with lots of names
Or gaze at a book in microscopic print.

SOMEONE'S VOICE
What a shame to be ignorant!

SMALL BOY
The trees have been growing for long,
The sparrow is singing a song,
The butterfly's flying around,
The flowers are growing really round,
But I am stuck in school, whatever the month!

SOMEONE'S VOICE:
Life is not easy for the ignorant!

SMALL BOY
The school bench is uncomfortable and tough,
I wish someone would pull me off it, rough,
I wish I could spend a few moments,
Chatting with guys who win tournaments.
To run into a meadow… into a pool…

SOMEONE'S VOICE:
Only lazy boys get bored in school!

Translated from the Polish by Roksana Tkaczyńska
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W szkole


CHŁOPCZYK
Ej ty szkoło, nudna szkoło!
Wcale w tobie niewesoło.
Tu rozmyślasz o zabawce,
A tu siedź kamieniem w ławce
I patrz w książkę z drobnym drukiem.

GŁOS
Ale brzydko być nieukiem!

CHŁOPCZYK
Rozwinęły się już drzewa,
Lada wróbel sobie śpiewa,
Lada motyl sobie leci,
Gdzie mu kwiatek się zakwieci,
A ty w szkole… w zimie, w lecie!

GŁOS
Ale głupim źle na świecie!

CHŁOPCZYK
Ławka twarda, niegodziwa
Czasem aż mnie coś podrywa,
Żeby chociaż kilka chwilek
Jak ptak bujać, jak motylek,
Żeby wybiec w łąkę… w pole…

GŁOS
Próżniak, kto się nudzi w szkole!

Maria Konopnicka

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Translation commentary

I chose this poem because it's about school and I LIKE to go to school to learn. It was hard because there were words in Polish that you can't translate or they don't seem to work in English. I still enjoyed translating this poem because I love challenging things and I actually found it easier this time round after taking part in last year's competition.

Roksana Tkaczyńska