Corneliu M Popescu Prize for Poetry in Translation


The 2013 prize was won by Alice Oswald for her excavation of Homer's Iliad, Memorial (Faber). The competition was judged by Karen Leeder and David Wheatley, who selected the winner from a shortlist of seven books.


The 2011 prize was won by Judith Wilkinson for her translation of Raptors by Toon Tellegen. The competition was judged by Jane Draycott and Sasha Dugdale who selected the winner from a shortlist of six books.


The 2009 prize, judged by Elaine Feinstein and Stephen Romer, was won by Randall Couch for his translation of Madwomen (Gabriela Mistral). For more information on the 2009 competition, click here, or find out more about the 2009 shortlist.


The 2007 prize, judged by Anne Born and Dr Francis Jones, was won by Ilmar Lehtpere for his translation of  Drums of Silence  (Kristiina Ehin). For more information, click here.


The 2005 prize, judged by Alan Brownjohn and Mike Phillips, went to Adam J Sorkin and Lidia Vianu for their translation of The Bridge (Marin Sorescu), which is published by Bloodaxe books. 


Judges Fleur Adcock and Alan Brownjohn awarded the 2003 prize to David Constantine for his translation of Hans Magnus Enzensberger's Lighter than Air, published by Bloodaxe. He received his prize as part of the W G Sebald lecture at the South Bank Centre.


One day in late autumn 1982 an unexpected letter and a fascinating book arrived at the offices of the Poetry Society in Earl's Court Square. I was Chairman of the Society at that time and thought it might be well worth following up.

Our correspondent, Ion Ratiu, was a Romanian living in London who was in contact with the father, in Bucharest, of a 19 year old translator, Corneliu M. Popescu. The son had translated into English verse a substantial part of the work of the greatest of Romanian poets, Mihai Eminescu.

The saddest fact revealed in the book, a handsome Romanian edition of his work, was that Corneliu had died in the earthquake of 4 March 1977, the worst European earth tremor in our lifetime. Mr Ratiu was hoping the Poetry Society might commemorate the achievement of this prodigiously talented young man with some kind of publication or award.

I went with Brian Mitchell, then Director of the Society, to see Mr. Ratiu. After a delightful meeting we left his office with the munificent promise of a subsidy covering all the expenses of what we had suggested: a European Translation Prize for a book that rendered the work of a European poet into English.

It happened I was making a British Council visit to Romania in spring 1983, so I thought I could publicise the Prize in Corneliu's own country. But I met some degree of apprehension, and embarrassment. The Romanian Communist authorities wondered why a Romanian exile in Britain should be subsidising such an award… Still, when they realised that it would be honouring a famous Romanian poet without carrying any political implications, they agreed to smile on the idea.

Tony Harrison was the winner of the inaugural prize, and was the first in a line of distinguished translators which included Ewald Osers and Francis Jones. Later, the British Council and the Arts Council of Great Britain took up the provision of funding. Eventually our first benefactor, Mr Ratiu, returned to Romania and became a presidential candidate and a distinguished senator (he died in 2000). Corneliu's father, Mihai Popescu, who died in 1996, had great joy in attending almost every presentation, in London, of the biennial European Poetry Translation Prize in memory of his dead son.

Mihai would be delighted to know that the Prize given in Corneliu's name will yet again be awarded in 2003. Our warmest gratitude is due to the Ratiu Family Charitable Foundation for making it possible next year – by emulating the original kindness of Ion Ratiu twenty years ago.

Alan Brownjohn

Click here to read an article by Alan Brownjohn published in the Guardian.

Email: Sophie Baker
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