The Corneliu M Popescu Prize for European Poetry Translation has once again exceeded all expectations, with just under eighty collections being submitted. The standard of entries was so high that judges Anne Born and Dr Francis Jones faced a tough task in drawing up the shortlist.
The prize was founded by the Poetry Society and the Ratiu Foundation to pinpoint the wealth of excellent poetry available across the continent.
The prize is named after Corneliu M Popescu who translated the work of one of Romania's leading poets, Mihai Eminescu, into English. On 4 March 1977, at the age of 19, Popescu was tragically killed in an earthquake.
The Corneliu M Popescu Prize was initiated in the early 1980s by Ion Ratiu. Ion Ratiu was a well known Romanian politician, a successful businessman, a great philanthropist, a champion of democracy, and a supporter of the arts. He was a dedicated promoter of the study of Romanian language, culture and civilisation around the world. In his memory, this year’s competition was launched on 17 January 2007, the seventh anniversary of his passing away.
The prize is awarded every other year. The winner of the 2005 competition was the volume ‘The Bridge’ (Puntea) by Marin Sorescu, translated from Romanian by Adam J Sorkin and Lidia Vianu, Bloodaxe Books 2005. The first Corneliu M Popescu Prize was bestowed upon Tony Harrison for his translation of ‘The Oresteia’ by Aeschylus, in 1983.
When asked about the importance of the Prize, this year’s judges, Anne Born and Dr Francis Jones, both point out that the Prize is unique in that it is the only poetry-specialised translation prize, and that it gives poetry enthusiasts the opportunity to discover, appreciate and enjoy exciting poetry from countries whose writers are not so widely read.
Both translation experts and practising poets, Born and Jones add that the award serves to highlight the interaction between poets and translators and raises the profiles of international poets and of the translators, who live in the shadow of those whose work they reveal to a wider audience.
The Award Ceremony will take place on Friday 7 September 2007 at The Swedenborg Society. There will be a reading from each of the five shortlisted books.
The shortlisted collections are:
A Leaf About to Fall
(Ilhan Berk, tr. George Messo - Salt Publishing, 2006). Turkish
Ilhan Berk has been called a literary Midas: everything he touches turns to poems. A Leaf About to Fall: Selected Poems shows us, for the first time in English, the full linguistic range and imaginative power of Turkey's greatest experimental poet.
With over 200 poems drawn from more than half a century of work, A Leaf About to Fall offers a unique and indispensable portal into the world of Ilhan Berk. Berk's poems quiver and spark with a language always pressing out against its own skin: sensual, erotic, strange and intimate, relaxed and humorous; poems in which smells, tastes, sights, sounds and touch become the preludes for a reawakening of history, the body, the very world around us.
If Berk himself is concerned with re-engaging a lost sensory world, then for many A Leaf About to Fall will be a journey of discovery.
The Drums of Silence
(Kristiina Ehin, tr. Ilmar Lehtpere - Oleander Press, 2007). Estonian
Kristiina Ehin is one of the most beloved poets in Estonia, a country where there is still widespread interest in poetry and a long tradition of great female poets. Winner of that country's most prestigious poetry prize for her work written during a year spent as a nature reserve warden on an uninhabited island, Ehin's work reflects the influence of the traditional Estonian folk song, which dates back over two thousand years. It is honest, uncompromising, deeply personal, universal, and utterly free from poetic fashion and convention.
What Water Left Behind
(Rutger Kopland, tr. Willem Groenewegen - Waxwing Press, 2005) Dutch
What Water Left Behind is the fourth collection from Waxwing Poems. It is a selection of poems by the rgeat contemporary Dutch poet, Rutger Kopland, translated into English by Willem Groenewegen who has already won awards for his translations from the Dutch.
Groenewegen describes the tone of Kopland's work as "'light-handedness' evoking deeper and often existential matters" and notes how the poet "seems always at pains to take the weight off words, no matter how sad the subject matter"
The Deleted World
(Tomas Tranströmer, tr. Robin Robertson- Enitharmon, 2006) Swedish
In this, his 75th year, Tomas Transtörmer can be clearly recognised not just as Sweden's most important poet, but as a writer of international stature whose work speaks to us now with undiminished clarity and resonance. Long celebrated as a master of the arresting, suggestive image, Transtörmer is a poet of the liminal: drawn again and again to thresholds of light and water, the boundaries between man and nature, wakefulness and dream. A deeply spiritual but secular writer, his scepticism about humanity is continually challenged by the implacable renewing power of the natural world. His poems are epiphanies rooted in experience: spare, luminous meditations that his extraordinary images split open - exposing something sudden, mysterious and unforgettable.
(Rainer Maria Rilke, tr. Martyn Crucefix- Enitharmon) German
Perhaps no cycle of poems in any European language has made so profound and lasting impact on an English-speaking readership as Rilke's Duino Elegies. These luminous new translations by Martyn Crucefyx, facing the original German texts, make it marvellously clear how the poem is committed to the real world observed with acute and visionary intensity.
Completed in 1922, the same year as the publication of Eliot's The Waste Land, the Elegies constitute a magnificent godless poem in their rejection of the transcendent and their passionate celebration of the here and now.
Troubled by our insecure place in this world and our fractured relationship with death, the Elegies are nevertheless populated by a throng of vivid and affecting figures: acrobats, lovers, angels, mothers, fathers, statues, salesmen, actors and children. This bilingual edition offers twenty-first century readers a new opportunity to experience the power of Rilke's enduring masterpiece.
More details at www.poetrysociety.org.uk/content/competitions/popescu