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

Submissions have now closed for the 2020 Stephen Spender Prize.

This is an annual competition for poetry in translation, with categories for young people (14-and-under, 16-and-under, and 18-and-under) as well as an open category for adults. All entrants must be UK or Irish citizens or residents, or pupils at a British School overseas. Translate into English any poem from any language – ranging from Arabic to Uzbek, from Danish to Somali—and win cash prizes!

Read the full entry guidelines for the youth categories here.
Read the full entry guidelines for the open category here.

Closing date: 17 July 2020

The judges of the 2020 competition are:

Khairani Barokka Mary Jean Chan Daljit Nagra

Scroll down to download the booklet of winning entries from previous years

Are you interested in using poetry translation in the classroom or looking for some guidance about translating poetry? Read some general notes on translating poetry, consider the judges' advice to those thinking of entering the Stephen Spender Prize, see George Szirtes' categories of translated poetry, download our poetry translation activity sheets and read about a workshop translating African praise poetry with Albert Nyathi. More ideas for using translation with children can be found on the Translators in Schools and Modern Poetry in Translation websites.

Winner of the Stephen Spender Prize 2019, James Garza, reflects on the experience:

"I feel fortunate to be recognised by an organisation that has done so much to raise the profile of literary translation, and continues to do so much to promote the values of multilingualism and language-learning in primary and secondary education at a time of perilous cuts and downturns. How and why we translate—to say nothing of the texts we choose to translate—can be powerfully informative about ourselves and our societies, and winning the Stephen Spender Prize has given a boost to my confidence, and a resolve to further explore these issues in my own work."

The Westgate School in Slough submitted a record entry of 56 poems translated out of 25 languages. Head of MFL Nadia Siddiqui stated:

"The Stephen Spender Prize is a fantastic initiative that celebrates not only poetry, languages and translation in general, but multiculturalism, diversity and community spirit, which are exactly the things that students should be exposed to throughout our country."

Gabi Reigh won first prize in 2017 in the Open category for her translation from the Romanian of The Traveller by Marin Sorescu. Here she talks about her reasons for entering, and her choice of poem.

'The Traveller was the first poem I ever translated. I actually first read it in translation 15 years ago and I started to think about it again after I came back from walking the Camino de Santiago last year. I wanted to show it to the friends who had accompanied me on that walk, as I felt that so much of what we had experienced was echoed there, and because I couldn't find that translation anymore, I translated it myself. To me, translating comes from the same desire that I have when teaching English literature to bring something that I think is beautiful to someone who hasn't read before, as if to say: 'Isn't this amazing? Isn't this exactly what tiredness feels like, isn't this exactly what trees look like out of a train window?'

'I entered the Stephen Spender competition because I wanted more people to read this poem. However, as I was fully resigned not to see the £8 entrance fee again, I was incredibly delighted when I found out that I won. Attending the award ceremony was a truly gratifying experience because of the conversations I had with poets about my work. When translating the poem, I agonised over each word choice, endlessly rearranging lines to create particular rhythms and effects, and it meant a great deal to me to hear poets like Sean O'Brien remarking on how the poem sustained its shifts in tone or Alan Brownjohn noticing the use of understatement in certain lines.

'Since I found out that I won the competition, I've felt encouraged to translate more Romanian poetry and I have nearly finished Lucian Blaga's 'Poems of Light', which I will try to get published. As a teacher, I was also inspired by the wonderful work done by the young people who read their poems at the awards ceremony, and I will work with some of my students on entering translations for the Under 18 category of next year's Stephen Spender prize. I will also try to get involved in the Translators in Schools project, if an opportunity becomes available. Taking part in this competition has created for me a real desire to bring Romanian poetry to those who haven't read it before and to help other bilingual young people discover their native country's literary culture, and then share it with others.'
(Gabi Reigh, 2017)

Listen to Spoken Word Educator Catherine Brogan interview Weronika Lewandowska, whose translation of 'Museum' by Wizlawa Szymborska was commended in the 14-and-under category in 2014.

Alexia Sloane won the 2014 14-and-under category with her translation from French of a poem by Jean Dominique. Here she talks about why she entered and how she chose the poem.

'My best gift from the Stephen Spender prize is self-belief. Translation freed me from years of writer's block, renewed my confidence, and led to the publication of my first book...' (Jane Tozer, 2012). Read past winners' news.


Read the winning entries from previous years

Download a booklet:
2019 Stephen Spender Prize booklet
2018 Stephen Spender Prize booklet
2017 Stephen Spender Prize booklet
2016 Stephen Spender Prize booklet
2015 Stephen Spender Prize booklet
2014 Stephen Spender Prize booklet
2013 Stephen Spender Prize booklet
2012 Stephen Spender Prize booklet
2011 Stephen Spender Prize booklet
2010 Stephen Spender Prize booklet
2009 Stephen Spender Prize booklet
2008 Stephen Spender Prize booklet
2007 Stephen Spender Prize booklet
2006 Stephen Spender Prize booklet
2005 Stephen Spender Prize booklet
2004 Stephen Spender Prize booklet