The Romanian Cultural Centre in London

The Ratiu Foundation is happy to announce that the Winner of the Corneliu M Popescu Prize for Poetry in Translation 2011 is Judith Wilkinson for her translation of Raptors by Toon Tellegen.

Tellegen’s poem sequence about a dysfunctional family marks a major Dutch writer at the height of his powers, and a “sustained tour de force” of translations.

Judges Sasha Dugdale and Jane Draycott said: “Toon Tellegen’s Raptors gives mythic shape to the experiences of a child growing up in a dysfunctional family… His complex, often surreal and always highly affecting poems exhibit an understanding of the power of the story in which the dream-like psychology, the marvellously nuanced telling of a family’s malaise set him apart as an entirely distinctive voice in European poetry.”

The sequence of poems that makes up Raptors assembles, piece by piece, an image of a family dominated by a capricious, abusive father whose “ominous, manic energy” takes its toll on each of them separately as well as on the family unit. Each poem begins with the phrase, “My father”. Surreal images, darkness and humour, clinical observation and deep psychological insight inform this portrait of a family, and ‘father’, invented by Toon Tellegen:

My father a lonely dead man among countless immortals,
no one died as often, as daily and disastrously
as he did
and those who saw him die became uneasy and awkward.

Toon Tellegen (born 1941) is a novelist, playwright, memoirist, and prolific and popular children’s writer, but considers himself first and foremost as a poet and has written more than 20 collections. He has won numerous prizes and awards, including two in 2007 for his entire body of work. An opera, The Cricket Recovers, based on his children’s stories, was performed in Britain in 2005. He worked as a GP until his retirement.

Judith Wilkinson is a British poet and translator, concentrating on contemporary Dutch and Flemish poetry. Her first collection of translations from the work of Marian Van Hee, Instead of Silence, was a Poetry Book Society recommendation and she has also received several Pushcart nominations. In 2008 she won the David Reid Poetry Translation Prize. She lives in Groningen, the Netherlands.

Of Raptors, she said: “I remember how excited I was when I first read Toon Tellegen’s Raafvogels… I immediately knew I wanted to translate the book. Having the opportunity to do so was a joy and a privilege.”

“I’m grateful to Toon Tellegen, I’d like to thank the Dutch Foundation for Literature for providing a grant, and I’m very grateful to Carcanet Press for publishing the book. I feel enormously fortunate to have received this prize.”

Special commendation: the judges would also like to draw special attention also to Jennie Feldman and Stephen Romer’s translation of Into The Deep Street: Seven Modern French Poets, “as an important light shed on a group of key French poets of the last 70 years, each acute translation a work of great subtlety and clarity offered like a window alongside its original.”

Organised by the Poetry Society and sponsored by The Ratiu Foundation, the Corneliu M Popescu Prize is given biennially to a collection of poetry translated into English from another European language.

The winner of this year’s £1,500 award was announced at a celebratory close reading event at the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival, Suffolk, on Saturday 5 November.

Raptors is published by Carcanet, at £12.95.

Previous winners include David Constantine’s translation of Lighter than Air by Hans Magnus Enzensberger (in 2003); Marin Sorescu’s The Bridge translated by Adam J Sorkin and Lidia Vianu (in 2005); Kristiina Ehin’s Drums of Silence, translated by Ilmar Lehtpere (in 2007), and Gabriela Mistral’s Madwomen, translated by Randall Couch (2009).

Note: Illustration above © Ioan Atanasiu Delamare