Press Release: 2007

The Corneliu M Popescu Prize for European Poetry Translation 2007 uncovers Estonian treasure.


Ilmar Lehtpere (pictured) wins the Corneliu M Popescu Prize for European Poetry Translation 2007 with his translation of Drums of Silence by Estonian Kristiina Ehin.

The judges Anne Born and Francis Jones had a tough time picking this year’s overall winner, but after much deliberation they agreed that the prize should be awarded to Lehtpere.

Lehtpere had a bilingual upbringing in Estonian and English. His translations of Estonian poetry have appeared in various literary journals in Europe and America. With The Drums of Silence Lehtpere provides a faithful and precise translation from the original Estonian, allowing the poems to graduate with sincerity and literary authority to another life in a new language.

Kristiina Ehin is one of Estonia’s most beloved poets, having won the country’s most prestigious poetry prize. Her work reflects the influence of the traditional Estonian folk song, which dates back over two thousand years. It is honest, uncompromising, deeply personal, universal and utterly free from poetic fashion and convention. In Ehin's poetry the judges found an approach to describing the natural world that was at once shamanic, drawing on deep historical traditions, and extremely of the moment all - reflected beautifully by Lehtpere’s translations.

What impressed the judges so much about this translation was that “the translator is clearly bilingual and could capture both languages’ subtleties; poetically familiar in one sense but strange in another”. They were also delighted to have encountered a female poet from a culture that is relatively ‘new’ to British and even other European readers. Both judges agreed that this book would challenge cultural assumptions and celebrate the sophistication of poets and poetry all over Europe.

The Poetry Society was delighted with our judges’ decision. Ehin and her translator Lehtpere are both emerging voices. Their work and the work of Oleander Press gives voice to an identity that is only just beginning to flourish in the European consciousness, let alone on the shelves of lovers of poetry in English.

The Corneliu M Popescu Prize for European Poetry in Translation was founded by the Poetry Society and the Ratiu Family Charitable Foundation to pinpoint the wealth of excellent poetry available across the continent. It is named after Corneliu M Popescu who translated the work of one of Romania’s leading poets, Mihai Eminescu, into English. On 4 March 1977, at the age of 19, Popescu was tragically killed in an earthquake.




Notes to Editors

The four other shortlisted translators were

  • George Messo for his translation of İlhan Berk’s A Leaf About To Fall
  • Willem Groenewegen for his translation of Rutger Kopland’s What Water Left Behind
     
  • Martin Crucefix for his translation of Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duino Elegies
  • Robin Robertson for his translation of Tomas Tranströmer’s The Deleted World

 

  • The next Corneliu M Popescu Prize for European Poetry Translation will be in 2009, the year the Poetry Society will celebrate its centenary.
  • For further information about the Poetry Society visit www.poetrysociety.org.uk
  • For more information about the Ratiu Family Charitable Foundation UK visit www.ratiufamilyfoundation.com