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Announcing the Winners of the 2019 Poems in Translation Contest

By The Editors of Words Without Borders

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. We are thrilled to announce the four winning poems, selected by the editors of WWB and guest judge Mónica de la Torre. The winning selections will be published in Poem-a-Day and in Words Without Borders every Saturday this September. Congratulations to our winners:

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

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.’”

“Tomboy” by Claudia Masin, translated from Spanish by Robin Myers

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.“

“Roommate, Woman” by Lee Young-ju, translated from Korean by Jae Kim

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.”

“Cloth Birds” by Dorothy Tse, translated from Chinese by Natascha Bruce

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.”

Join WWB and AAP on September 17 for World in Verse: A Multilingual Poetry Reading,” a celebration of the contest winners. With readings by Mónica de la Torre, Jacob Rogers, and others to be announced. Free and open to the public. This is an official Brooklyn Book Festival Bookends event. More information here.

Tuesday, September 17, 7:00–8:30PM
Word Up Community Bookshop—Librería Comunitaria
2113 Amsterdam Ave
New York, NY 10032
Free and open to the public

Published Aug 28, 2019   Copyright 2019 The Editors of Words Without Borders

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