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A primary aim of the Stephen Spender Trust is to continue Stephen Spender's work in the field of literary translation by helping contemporary writers of prose and poetry reach an English-language readership and by facilitating translation projects which otherwise would not be viable. For several years the Trust gave away up to £5,000 a year in grants for translation projects. Sadly, the grants programme had to be suspended in 2006 and applications for grants are not currently being accepted.

Grants to date

1. The Poetry Trust

Following its sponsorship of the Arabic writers Mourid Barghouti (Palestine), Khaled Mattawa (Libya) and Fadhil Al Azzawi (Iraq) in previous years, the Trust was delighted to help bring to the 2005 Aldeburgh Poetry Festival Israel's premier poet Aharon Shabtai, together with his PEN Award-winning translator, the US-born and Jerusalem-based poet Peter Cole. Both poets not only read their own poetry but also took part in debates — Shabtai on the role of poetry, Cole on translating poetry.

2. The Poetry Trust

Iraqi poet Fadhil Al Azzawi, born in 1940 in Kirkuk in northern Iraq, has lived in Leipzig since 1977, while Khaled Mattawa, his Libyan-born translator, teaches Creative Writing at the University of Michigan. The Stephen Spender Memorial Trust contributed to the cost of bringing both poets to the 2004 Aldeburgh Poetry Festival, where they joined a line-up of overseas poets from America (Tony Hoagland, Paul Muldoon), Canada (Margaret Atwood), Germany (Hans Magnus Enzensberger), Ireland (Michael Longley) and New Zealand (Elizabeth Smither). We were delighted to see Fadhil and Khaled again at our inaugural translation prize party in November 2004, where they read to an audience of over a hundred.

3. Modern Poetry in Translation

A grant was made in 2003/4 to ensure the continuing success of Modern Poetry in Translation as co-founder Daniel Weissbort handed over the editorship after 30 years to David and Helen Constantine. David Constantine wrote: ‘The hallmark of our age seems to be instability and ferment, the voluntary and enforced movement of large numbers of people, over Europe and worldwide. People moving with their languages. In that context translation must matter more and more. We shall look for the poets who are capable of telling us what life is like now with so much in flux and underway for good or ill. We shall try to give access to voices that need it and merit it. Poetry and translation will be in alliance, to that end. And we believe, like Hughes and Weissbort in the 1960s, that the shock of the foreign is vitally necessary to poets whose mother tongue is English. In Britain we risk becoming parochial and, indeed, xenophobic, step by step with the march of English towards supremacy among the languages of the world. The notion that everybody speaks English, or ought to, damages us even more than it insults everyone else. We want MPT to be an active agent in those two chief responsibilities: through translation giving a voice to the real conditions people live in now; and furthering poetry in English by confronting it with what is new, unsettling and inspiring from abroad.’

4. Aldeborough Poetry Trust

Mourid Barghouti, the exiled Palestinian poet, appeared at the 2003 Aldeburgh Poetry Festival. A grant from the Stephen Spender Memorial Trust helped fund his travel from Egypt, the publication of a pamphlet of his poetry entitled A Small Sun and a packed itinerary which included meetings with British and Arabic writers, publishers and promoters and a reading at the Troubadour in London. At Aldeburgh Barghouti took part in a panel discussion entitled ‘ What’s the Point of Poetry?’, sharing the platform with British poet Ian McMillan, Irish poet Paul Durcan and the American director of the Dodge Poetry Festival, Jim Haba. Naomi Jaffa, the director of the Aldeburgh Poetry Trust, described Barghouti’s contribution as ‘articulate, sophisticated, elegant and passionate’. The next day Barghouti shared a three-handed reading with the Irish poet Anne-Marie Fyfe and America’s Pulitzer Prize winning Stephen Dunn, performing movingly in both English and Arabic.

5. Great Women Poets Tour

In April 2003 four great women poets – Nina Cassian, Elaine Feinstein, Liz Lochhead and guest poet and introductory speaker Carol Ann Duffy – performed in Manchester, Bristol, Oxford and London. The tour was organised by Siân Williams with the aim of making poetry in translation visible through a series of high-profile events and translation workshops in schools. The Trust funded the workshop aspect of the tour undertaken by Nina Cassian and Elaine Feinstein.


In 2003 the Stephen Spender Memorial Trust collaborated with the British Centre for Literary Translation (BCLT) to bring a young Hungarian writer, Peter Zilahy, to take part in a week-long workshop, where he met other writers and translators and had his work translated. Full bursaries were given to two young translators from Eastern Europe, Justyna Goszczynska (Poland) and Gentian Coçoli (Albania), to enable them to come to the Third International Literary Translation Summer School; the Trust also funded a one-month residency at the BCLT for the Russian translator Dmitry Simanovsky in January 2003 and paid for the Ukrainian writer Andrei Kurkov to come to the Essex Book Festival in March 2003. [Made possible by the generosity of the Open Society.]


In November 2002, leading Polish poet Ewa Lipska - recognised as one of one of the key critical voices of Poland's post-war generation - took part in the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival. The Trust contributed towards the cost of bringing her over from Poland. [Made possible by the generosity of the Open Society.]


Issue No. 20 of Modern Poetry in Translation featured 70 Russian women poets and was launched at a reading at Poetry International at the South Bank in October 2002. A grant from the Stephen Spender Memorial Trust made it possible for each poet to be paid an honorarium. [Made possible by the generosity of the Open Society.]


The Way We Are is a multilingual anthology of writing by children and young people from Waltham Forest, launched in January 2002 as a follow-up to the award winning Forest Whispers. A grant from the Stephen Spender Memorial Trust paid for the inclusion of poems translated from twenty-five languages. Over 50 nursery, infant, junior, primary, secondary and special schools in Waltham Forest contributed to The Way We Are.


The Trust's grant to the Harvill Press helped to offset the translation costs incurred in publishing Memories of the Unknown, a bilingual selection of the work of Dutch poet Rutger Kopland in the late James Brockway's translation.


Modern Poetry in Translation (co-founded by Stephen Spender's old friend Ted Hughes) received a grant for its publication of a special 300-page issue. Called Mother Tongues, this issue was devoted to translations of non-English poetry written in England. Bengalis mingled with Russians, Indians with Iranians, Somalis with Czechs in this ground-breaking anthology. The Mother Tongues tour to Sheffield, Cambridge, Oxford and London, which saw poets reading their poems in first English and then the original language, received national press coverage.


The Trust's first grant funded two special editions of Index on Censorship devoted entirely to banned literature. 'Lost Words', Index 6 1996, carried censored fiction by contemporary writers. It was the source and background to an evening of banned fiction at the South Bank Centre on 3 December 1996 when readers included Harold Pinter, Doris Lessing and Liu Hongbin from China. In the following year 'Banned Poetry', Index 5 1997, collected stifled works by poets from across the world and resulted in readings from the issue to mark National Poetry Day. In the USA Borders Books hosted readings in more than 20 stores during Banned Books Week.