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Stephen Spender Prize – frequently asked questions

I am still in secondary education but over 18. Do I have to submit to the adult category?
If you are aged up to 20 but still in secondary education, you can submit to the 18-and-under category.

If I'm studying in the UK or Ireland do I count as a resident?
For the purposes of this competition, yes.

I have received a prize or commendation in the Stephen Spender Prize/Spotlight Prize in a previous year. How long do I have to wait before I can re-enter?
There are no restrictions. You can enter again the following year!

Do you accept collaborations?
Yes, we accept collaborations so long as all the contributors are listed. If the collaboration involves entrants from more than one age group the entry will be judged in the category of the elder or eldest entrant.

How will I find out if I have won?
The winners will be notified by the end of September 2020 and invited to a reception in London later in the year, circumstances permitting with Covid-19 in the UK. All other entrants who have provided a valid email address will be notified when the results are announced on the Stephen Spender Trust website in November 2020.

Can an entry comprise more than one poem if the poems are short and the total does not exceed 60 lines?
No. Translations of separate poems must be submitted as separate entries.

The poem I wish to translate is 'stepped', i.e. a line is presented as unfolding in separate parts, over a few lines. How does this impact on the 60-line limit?
For this competition each 'step' counts as one line. If the poem is longer than 60 steps your options are therefore: either to bring the stepped parts together and present them as one line (so that there are fewer than 60 overall), or to submit an excerpt of the stepped poem (up to 60 lines).

Are epigraphs, dedications and line spaces between verses counted as lines?
No. The 60-line limit applies only to the lines of the original poem and translation.

Can I enter if I am not fluent in the language of the original poem?
If you don't speak or read the language of the original poem fluently and need to consult a literal, or a crib, it is important to include this fact in your commentary. If you have used an existing translation by someone else in any way (even for comparison) it is important also to include this information in your commentary. The Stephen Spender Prize accepts only original works of translation. If you have drawn extensively on another person's translation then you should not enter your translation for the prize.

What will the judges be looking for?
Our judges are looking for poems that read very well in English, as well as showing an accurate understanding of the original. They will look out for creative solutions to challenges, such as tricky vocabulary, metre or rhyme, and will be alert to the translator's use of particular metres or rhyme schemes in English – if the translator chooses to do so. You may also find some helpful suggestions in our feature with advice from previous Stephen Spender Prize judges.

Why do you require a commentary?
One of the aims of this competition is to shine light on translators and the translation process. We want to hear from you: what challenges you encountered during the translation process, and how you've solved them. Please note that the commentary guidelines are different for the youth prize this year, so please read them carefully here.

Do I need to clear permission from the copyright holder of the original poem before I submit my entry?
No. If you win or are commended we will be responsible for clearing permission to publish your translation and the original poem online and in the prize booklet.

May I submit more than one translation of the same poem?
Yes, so long as each translation is submitted as a separate entry.

May I submit a translation that I have submitted previously to this competition?

Does a translation that I've posted on Facebook, in a blog or in a school magazine count as having been published? What about if it has been read or sung in an online video?
If your translation has appeared anywhere in print or online, we consider it to have been published.

May I submit my translation to other competitions or publications at the same time as entering it in the Stephen Spender Prize?
Yes, but it's not a good idea. If you win or are commended in the Stephen Spender Prize you will need to withdraw your translation elsewhere. Similarly, if your translation wins another competition or is published elsewhere before the results of the Stephen Spender Prize are announced, you will have to withdraw your entry and your entry fee will not be refunded.

What will happen if my original poem and/or translation exceed 60 lines or my commentary exceeds 300 words?
Your entry will be invalid and your entry fee will not be refunded.

I sent the wrong version of my translation. Can I make changes to the version I sent you or swap it for another one?
No. If you want to submit a corrected or more recent version it will have to be as a separate entry.

Do you accept currencies other than sterling?
Payment must be in pounds sterling. Entries accompanied by payment in a currency other than pounds sterling will not be accepted.

Will my entry be returned after the judging process?
Entries will not be returned, so please keep a copy.

Do I need to complete an entry form for each entry?
You need fill in only one entry form for each batch of entries. Entries posted separately require separate entry forms.

I am a teacher and wish to submit multiple (for example, more than 10) entries online. Is there a way to do this without filling in the online submission form multiple times?
Please contact for assistance.

How can I pay if I'm entering by post?
Please pay using PayPal if you can, however, if you are not able to, we can still accept cheques, payable to the Stephen Spender Trust. We cannot accept cash. Please write your name and address on the back of cheques. Payment must be in pounds sterling. Entries accompanied by payment in a currency other than pounds sterling will not be accepted.

What happens if I forget to enclose the original poem or a commentary with my translation?
Your entry will be invalid.

How do I know that you have received my entry?
Email submissions will receive an automated reply. To receive acknowledgment of receipt of postal entries you will need to enclose a stamped addressed envelope or give your email address on the entry form. Entries are logged in batches, so please do not expect instant acknowledgment of postal entries.