A winner of the Members' Poems competition on the theme of 'Light', in the autumn issue of Poetry News, judged by Liane Strauss.

The poets who watched the sky at night

by Will Kemp

What were they like – Lu-Yu, Yang-Ti, Kojiju –
sitting by their bamboo house under the moon,

unable to sleep, reflecting on how that pale flower
in the stream cannot be caught in a jar?

Did they use lanterns or the brightness of the dark
to stir those brushes as pine cones dropped

in the jade woods by Yen Chao, then sleep by day
dreaming of the flight of moths in silk light?

And in those small hours, did they draw water
from the well with two faces, thinking how

the stars flicker like camp-fires across a plain
or blossom borne away on the Spring River?

Iain Galbraith
Iain Galbraith. Credit: Kevin Lake for The Poetry Society

Iain Galbraith has won The Poetry Society’s Popescu European Poetry Translation Prize 2015 for his translation of Jan Wagner’s collection Self-Portrait with a Swarm of Bees, published by Arc Publications in 2015. The prize was judged this year by Olivia McCannon and Clare Pollard and supported by the British Council.

Self-Portrait with a Swarm of BeesOf the winning collection, the judges said:

“Galbraith converts every challenge (formal, lexical, metrical) into an opportunity, matching Wagner’s ingenuity and investment at everystep, having  internalized the ‘primal syntax’ so completely that everything he writes hits the mark. The result is a perfect sufficiency: a set of poems in English that somehow inhabit the same skin as the German, with their own autonomous heart and lungs.

They appear in yet another wonderful bilingual edition from Arc’s Visible Poets Series, with an illuminating introduction by Galbraith that reveals the living beauty and efficiency of his translation’s inner workings.”

Writing about the process of translation, Galbraith himself describes how “No word can afford to relax, except as enacted relaxation; each earns its place by association alone, and the whole becomes more than its sum of tiny decisions.”

The winner was chosen from a shortlist of six collections by seven translators. The judges also commended a further five collections, reflecting a strong and fascinating collection of eligible books translated from 19 languages.

Read more about the prize and the shortlist on the Popescu Prize pages of the website, and on our Press Release.

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