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Scottish poet tastes success in Stephen Spender prize for poetry in translation

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Ian Galbraith wins the open category of the annual competition with his rendition of Quince Jelly by the Hamburg poet Jan Wagner

It was Stephen Spender, translator of Schiller, Rilke and Cavafy, who said: When you read and understand a poem, comprehending its rich and formal meanings, then you master chaos a little. It is in Spenders memory that hundreds of people enter the annual competition that bears his name, organised in association with the Guardian, by translating a poem of their choice, a process that requires mastery of the original text and thus a little triumph over the chaos of modernity. Their translation can be from verse in any language, ancient or modern, along with a brief commentary on the translation process. The competition is open to UK and Irish nationals and residents. Prizes are offered in three categories: 14-and-under, 18-and-under and open.

The three other judges (academic Susan Bassnett and poets WN Herbert and Stephen Romer) and I swiftly agreed on this years winner of the open category, Iain Galbraith, whose translation of Quince Jelly by the Hamburg poet Jan Wagner conveys Wagners sensuality, mastery of form and laser-eye for detail, while converting the whole into idiomatic English poetry. The aural delicacy and soft vowels of The Wind, from the medieval Welsh of Dafydd ap Gwilym, ensured second prize was awarded to Gwyneth Lewis, former national poet of Wales, while third prize went to Robert Hull, who skilfully captured the droll exasperation of Martial, a Spaniard writing Latin epigrams in imperial Rome.

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