2009 Stephen Spender Prize announced

February 7, 2009

The Stephen Spender Memorial Trust and the Times of London announce their 2009 prize for poetry in translation with a lovely article on Spender and his vision of translation as a way to bring together an international community of poets:

Spender believed passionately that translation was not merely a matter of pouring words, like so much engine oil, from one linguistic container to another. Poetry, he believed, was a sign of how human beings could aspire to a universal language.

Not everyone agreed. Dylan Thomas’s path crossed Spender’s in Italy, in 1947. “I met Spender in Florence, a few weeks ago,” Thomas wrote. “He is on a lecture tour. It is very sad. He is bringing all the European intellectuals together. He said in a lecture, ‘All poets speak the same language’. It is a bloody lie: who talks Spender?”

I’ve got to admit, much as I love the grand, hopeful visions, I’ve got a soft spot for crotchety cynicism, too.



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