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from the September 2019 issue

The Winners of the Words Without Borders—Academy of American Poets Poem-in-Translation Contest

This year, we partnered with the Academy of American Poets for our first ever poetry in translation contest. We received 717 poems from 282 poets from 87 countries translated from 55 languages. The four winning poems will be published in Words Without Borders and the Academy of American Poets’s “Poem-a-Day” throughout the month of September. Published alongside the poems will be the original language texts and recordings of both the original poems and their English language translations.

The winning poems and their date of publication are:
 

“Cloth Birds” by Dorothy Tse, translated from Chinese by Natascha Bruce—September 7, 2019

Judge's citation: “‘Cloth Birds’ sustains a compelling tension between highly bureaucratized life and life forms resisting control: a hawker, happy people, branches shooting from tree stumps. Thanks to Natascha Bruce’s light-handed rendition, the poem is strange and ominous, and the narrative it tenuously sketches out stands in sharp contrast with the hard language of city officials and health inspectors.”
 

“An Apocryphal History of the Discovery of Migration” by Alba Cid, translated from Galician by Jacob Rogers—September 14, 2019

Judge's citation: “Alba Cid’s poem is two or three poems, given its nesting structure, reminiscent of Borges. Fragments of a misremembered letter speak of storks so resilient that they bore ‘both weapon and wound’ as proof of their long-distance migration—they almost seem fictional. Like the Pfeilstorch, the letter in the poem travels a vast physical distance, as does Jacob Rogers’s luminous translation from the Galician. I read it as a poignant meditation on exile and translation, where ‘pain and lightness are distributed in equal parts.’”

“Roommate, Woman” by Lee Young-ju, translated from Korean by Jae Kim—September 21, 2019

Judge's citation: “‘Roommate, Woman’ presents a darkly symbiotic relationship between the speaker and a roommate allegorized through detached and dislocated body parts. Lee Young-ju’s poem’s concision defies the larger narrative it suggests where bodies and houses are rearranged and disfigured, perhaps violently, and Jae Kim’s translation captures the poem’s grotesque yet tender overtones with remarkable precision.”
 

“Tomboy” by Claudia Masin, translated from Spanish by Robin Myers—September 28, 2019

Judge's citation: “I’m drawn to the way in which Claudia Masin questions our acceptance of our bodies’ limitations. The body is ‘what can never be touched’ and a ‘lattice  / of little filaments.’ The speaker imagines bodies defying the forms they were given, and that seems perfectly apt for what translation manages to do. While in transmission, the poem’s gone past language and changed form. Robin Myers’s version of ‘Tomboy’ points to a beautiful conundrum.”

Read more from the September 2019 issue
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