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The Stephen Spender Prize 2020 for poetry in translation
in association with the Guardian – terms and conditions


1. Entrants must be UK or Irish citizens or residents (for the purposes of this competition, this includes boarders from overseas at a UK school), or pupils of British Schools overseas. There are four categories: Open (adult); 18-and-under, for entrants still 18 on the closing date, as well as entrants still in secondary education up to the age of 20; 16-and-under, for entrants still 16 on the closing date; and 14-and-under, for entrants still 14 on the closing date.


2. Entrants are invited to submit an English translation of a published poem from any language, together with the original poem and a commentary of no more than 300 words (guidelines for the commentary are at 4a and 4b below). The submitted translation should be no more than 60 lines long, so entrants may submit an extract if their chosen poem is longer. Self-translation is not accepted.

3. Each translation must be the original work of the entrant and not a copy or substantial copy of someone else's translation; it must not have been previously published or broadcast.

4. a) For the youth age categories, a commentary of no more than 300 words should give three examples of difficult decisions the entrant had to make when translating the poem, and explain how they overcame them. Please note that the commentary will be judged on content rather than style. For example, the commentary could discuss:

  • A particular word of phrase which presented a challenge to translate
  • A cultural reference which needed to be adapted in translation
  • Any particular problems presented by the style/form of the original poem.

4. b) For the open, adult category, a commentary of no more than 300 words should briefly cover such matters as:

  • Your reason for translating this particular poem
  • Problems encountered in translating between the language of the original and English
  • Problems encountered in translating the poem you have chosen
  • Your approach to the poem. For example, if the original is in a particular form — rhyme or a regular metre –have you or have you not attempted to preserve that form in English?

5. Entries will be judged without the panel of judges knowing the identity of the competitors, so the translator's name must not be on the translation, original poem or commentary, only on the entry form, or entered in the online form.

6. Entries may be sent either online or posted, and must arrive no later than midnight (UK time) on Friday 17 July 2020. Postal entries, which should be in black type on A4 paper, single-sided and not stapled, should be accompanied by an entry form and sent to

The Stephen Spender Trust,
PO Box 1618,
Oxford, OX4 9LW,
United Kingdom.

Online entries must be made by completing the online form and sending the original and translated versions of your poem, together with your commentary, as WORD documents to making the subject of your email either SST Poetry Prize or SST Polish Spotlight plus the age category you are entering (for example: SST Poetry Prize Open, or SST Poetry Prize 14 and under)

7. If the entrant is under 13, a parent or guardian must complete the consent form, and enclose it with the entry if sending by post, or send it via email together with the other documents. Teachers, librarians and youth leaders should not use the consent form, but should comply with their own organisation's GDPR policy.

8. Competitors may submit as many entries as they like, so long as each entry in the Open category is accompanied by an entry fee of £8.00 (pounds sterling). Anyone eighteen or under on 17 July 2020 is exempt from this charge.

9. Please pay the entry fee by PayPal if you can. If you are unable to, however, we can still accept cheques, made payable to the Stephen Spender Trust.

10. For acknowledgment of receipt of postal entries please enclose a stamped addressed envelope or give your email address on the entry form. Email submissions will receive an automated reply.

Adjudication and prizes

11. The winners of the Open category will receive £1,000 (first), £750 (second) and £500 (third); the winners of the 18-and-under category will receive £200 (first), £100 (second) and £50 (third); the winners of the 16-and-under category will receive £125 (first), £75 (second) and £40 (third); the winners of the 14-and-under category will receive £75 (first), £50 (second) and £25 (third).

12. The Prize will be administered by the Stephen Spender Trust and judged by Khairani Barokka, Mary Jean Chan, and Daljit Nagra. Their decision will be final and the organisers will not enter into any correspondence about the results.

13. The organisers reserve the right to change the judging panel without notice and not to award prizes if, in the judges' opinion, such an action is justified.

14. The results will be announced on the Stephen Spender Trust website in November 2020. The winners will be notified earlier, by the end of September 2020, and will be invited to a reception in London in November 2020, circumstances with Covid-19 in the UK permitting.

15. The winning entries and any others the judges wish to select will be published in a booklet. The copyright of each prize-winning and commended translation and commentary will remain with the translator but the Stephen Spender Trust will have the right in perpetuity to publish and/or broadcast the translations and commentaries.

16. By entering the prize you give permission for the Stephen Spender Trust to hold the personal information you have given for the purpose of the 2020 Prize. The personal information that you provide will be securely stored by the Stephen Spender Trust and will be used for no other purpose than this Prize activity, nor knowingly passed to any other organisation or person not associated with or authorised by the Trust.

Polish Spotlight

This prize is for the translation of a Polish poem, which entrants will choose from the curated selection we provide, into English. The same conditions apply as to the main youth prize, but the age categories are:




There will be a cash prize of £100 for the winner in each category. Winning and commended poems will be published in the Stephen Spender Prize booklet.