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The Stephen Spender Prize 2020 for poetry in translation
in association with the Guardian

Polish Spotlight 10-and-under category, winner

Read the judges’ comments
Download the 2020 booklet
Email to request a free hard copy of the booklet (UK addresses only)
Read the winning entries from previous years


Aaron Ferguson

From dog to dog flea bobs


From dog to dog
Flea bobs
Nip nip nips
nip nip nips
Flea bobs
Very high
Beyond the Cheops Pyramid
Better than grasshopper
And dog runs after dog
Once backwards
Once crosswise
Once opposite
Once against
Running around the park
Dogs among the trees
And Flea
Nip nip nips
Bobs
From one ridge to another
Like an Apache chasing mustangs
There's no better rave for the flea gangs
Than to hop from dog to dog
From Tail to Tail
From coat to coat
High and far
Like in a game
Like in the Olympics
Flea
The Athlete
Acrobat and Ballerina
She just tenses a little
And hops
Far far away
Like from the Earth to the Moon
Even to its dark side
Such Dog and Flea Theatre
Everyone would like to see
Well yes, such Circus de Flea
wouldn't be bad to see
But we can only spot
two dogs
that chase each other
around the park
Only sometimes
either one or another
gets up or sits down
looks around
Or briskly scratches
its collar line
To get rid
of the flea from its spine

Translated from Polish by Aaron Ferguson
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Z psa na psa skacze pchła


z psa na psa
skacze pchła
hop hop hopsa
hop hop hopsa
pchła skacze
bardzo wysoko
jak przez piramidę Cheopsa
lepiej niż pasikonik
a pies psa goni
a pies za psem leci
raz w tył
raz w skos
raz naprzeciw
raz wbrew
biegają sobie w parku
psy pośród drzew
a pchła
hop hop hopsa
skacze
z jednego grzbietu
na drugi
jak Indianin który łapie mustangi
nie ma dla pcheł lepszej balangi
niż przeskakiwać z psa na psa
z ogona
na ogon
z jednej psiej sierści
na drugą
i wzwyż i w dal
jak na zawodach
jak na olimpiadzie
pchła
jak lekkoatletka
cyrkówka i baletnica
tylko się trochę napręży
i skacze
daleko daleko
jak z ziemi
na księżyc
a nawet na drugą stronę księżyca
na taki psi i pchli teatrzyk
każdy by sobie chętnie popatrzył
no tak na takie cyrki pchle
popatrzeć by nie było źle
ale widzimy
tylko dwa psy
co latają za sobą
po parku
tylko czasami
jeden albo drugi
staje siada
pysk odwróci
i łapą energicznie
drapie się po karku
by pchłę
z siebie zrzucić

Zbigniew Machej

Reproduced by kind permission of Biuro Literackie

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Translation commentary

I speak two languages and understand that direct translation doesn't always work. Words may not work in the same sentence in a different language, so I had to find the right ones and make them fit and rhyme. During this task the biggest challenge was finding the right words in English that would also make sense and rhyme like the original. I felt the pressure of trying to create a poem from translation that would also make sense, that an author or poet might sometimes feel and I thoroughly enjoyed the task set.

Aaron Ferguson