The 2015 SLS Jewish Lithuania Sutzkever Prize

Founded in 2013 in honor of the centennial of Abraham Sutzkever's birth, SLS Lithuania is proud to continue our SLS Jewish Lithuania Sutzkever Prize, to be judged this year by Andre Aciman.

The 2015 SLS Jewish Lithuania Sutzkever Prize will be awarded to an outstanding work of fiction or nonfiction addressing the theme -- Jewish or otherwise -- of memory, of tradition, of continuity, of the "old world." 

The winner will receive free tuition for the 2015 SLS Residencies program in Lithuania, as well as publication online.

Maximum 20 (double-spaced) pages per entry. Entrants must follow contest guidelines and pay the $17 reading fee. For full contest guidelines, and to enter, please visit our contest page.

 

Two Poems by Abraham Sutzkever

How?

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