Announcing the Abraham Sutzkever Centennial Translation Prize
In honor of the centennial of Abraham Sutzkever's birth, SLS Lithuania is proud to announce a poetry translation contest, to be judged by Ed Hirsch.
We understand 'translation' in the widest possible sense. All entries must either translate one of Sutzkever's Yiddish poems, or respond to a previously translated Sutzkever poem. By 'respond', we mean your poem should be an artistic reaction to one of Sutzkever's - this can be a thematic tangent, or a re-translation, or really anything, as long as the poem's inspiration clearly comes from Abraham Sutzkever's poetry. Please indicate in your entry which Sutzkever piece your poem is responding to. We have included two translated poems below.
The winner will receive a full scholarship at SLS Lithuania, as well as a $500 travel stipend. The winning entry will be translated into Lithuanian, and read at a celebration in Vilnius on the centennial, on July 15, 2013.
Limited one entry (three poems) per participant. Entrants must follow contest guidelines and pay the $17 reading fee (includes one year subscription to Fence Magazine). For full contest guidelines, and to enter, please visit our contest page.
Edward Hirsch is the author of five books of poetry and the acclaimed How to Read a Poem. He writes frequently about poetry for leading magazines and periodicals, among them American Poetry Review, DoubleTake (where he is editorial advisor in poetry), The New York Times Book Review and The New Yorker. He has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Prix de Rome, the National Book Critics Award, and an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award for Literature. In 1998 he was granted a MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship. He teaches at the University of Houston.
Two Poems by Abraham Sutzkever
How will you fill your goblet
On the day of liberation? And with what?
Are you prepared, in your joy, to endure
The dark keeing you have heard
Where skulls of days glitter
In a bottomless pit?
You will search for a key to fit
You jammed locks. You will bite
The sidewalks like bread,
Thinking: It used to be better.
And time will gnaw at you like a cricket
Caught in a fist.
Then your memory will resemble
And ancient buried town
And your estranged eyes will burrow down
Like a mole, a mole….
Vilna Ghetto, February 14, 1943
Translated by Chana Bloch
The Lead Plates at the Rom Press
Arrayed at night, like fingers stretch through bars
To clutch the lit air of freedom,
We made for the press plates, to seize
The lead plates at the Rom printing works.
We were dreamers, we had to be soliders,
And melt down, for our bullets, the spirit of the lead.
At some timeless native lair
We unlocked the seal once more.
Shrouded in shadow, by the glow of a lamp,
Like Temple ancients dipping oil
Into candelabrums of festal gold,
So, pouring out line after lettered line, did we.
Letter by melting letter the lead,
Liquefied bullets, gleamed with thoughts:
A verse from Babylon, a verse from Poland,
Seething, flowing into the one mold.
Now must Jewish grit, long concealed in words,
Detonate the world in a shot!
Who in Vilna Ghetto has beheld the hands
Of Jewish heroes clasping weapons
Has beheld Jerusalem in its throes,
The crumbling of those granite walls;
Grasping the words smelted into lead,
Conning their sounds by heart.
Vilna Ghetto, September 12, 1943
Translated by Neal Kozodoy