Introducing The Sarah Maguire Prize

By: Alireza Abiz,

The Poetry Translation Centre launched the Sarah Maguire Prize for Poetry in Translation on 12th September 2019 to recognise and encourage quality translation of poetry into English. Sarah Maguire founded the PTC in 2004 and passionately championed poetry translation until the end of her life in 2017. The Sarah Maguire Prize honours the legacy of this brilliant poet by encouraging publication of poetry in translation, hoping to attract new audiences to exciting international poetry.

Poetry translation appears to be very marginal in the West, especially in anglophone cultures. This marginalisation is mainly as a result of quantity, rather than quality or significance. Poetry carries rich cultural information and linguistic creativity and has been a major medium for dialogue of cultures and civilisations throughout history. Although this marginality might be disheartening to some poetry lovers, it has in fact protected poetry from the process of commodification; becoming a mere ‘product’ in the ‘publishing industry’. Poetry translation is not a lucrative investment and therefore most publishers are small independent publishers following their passion rather than financial gain. Freed from the pressure to make a profit, poetry translation is more likely to encourage experimental strategies that can release creative energies.

Translation of poetry is a labour of love. We in the PTC know this very well and awarding the Sarah Maguire Prize is our way to acknowledge and appreciate this love. Translating poetry from other cultures, especially from those less represented in the anglophone world, not only gives translated poets more exposure, it also enriches English poetry. English poetry can benefit hugely from the wealth of knowledge, imagery, metaphors, syntax and poetic traditions in other cultures and languages; something that has for long been ignored in the hegemonic anglophone cultures. The small number of translated poetry titles tend to come through other major European languages and very little is available from the poetry written in other parts of the world. We believe this trend is wrong and needs to change if we want to have a better understanding of poetry.

Like any other literary prize, we hope that the Sarah Maguire Prize will attract more attention and a larger readership to poetry translation in general and to poetry translation from under-represented cultures in particular. We also hope that it will stir conversations around the topic of poetry translation into English that will eventually lead to a more ‘universal’ approach to poetry in the UK and other anglophone cultures. We would like to see this prize encouraging more publishers to consider publishing high-quality translations from leading international poets.

The Poetry Translation Centre’s objective is to make available to the public contemporary poetry from non-European countries. As a PTC initiative, the Sarah Maguire Prize awards poetry translation from Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. The prize will be held biennially so entries for the 2020 prize will have to have been published between 1st January 2018 and 31st December 2019. The prize money of £3,000 will be equally split between the poet and their translator(s).

All publishers anywhere in the world are welcome to enter their books. Books for consideration must be English translations of poetry by a living poet from Africa, Asia, the Middle East, or Latin America.

Alireza Abiz
Chair of Judges

Find out more about The Sarah Maguire Prize here.