Jen Hofer, Negro Marfil / Ivory Black by Myriam Moscona

The PEN Award for Poetry in Translation recognizes book-length translations of poetry from any language into English published in the previous calendar year and is judged by a single translator of poetry appointed by the PEN Translation Committee.

2012 Judge

Christian Hawkey

From the Judges’ Citation

“Myriam Moscona’s Negro Marfil, translated by Jen Hofer, is a small miracle of writing, translation, book design, and graphic art, in part because it sets all these modes of writing and making in dialogue, in motion. The book pushes toward—Moscona/Hofer would write “burns” toward—a kind of productive, process-based dissonance, where answers (materials) are transformed into questions, lines of flight, and alternate modes of inquiry. The pleasure of Ivory Black is in its shades and shadows, how it articulates writing as a gesture hovering between binaries, bodies, languages, modes of perception, cultures. In this way it’s a book that is also always reflexively about translation, which is further suggested by Hofer’s effulgent translator’s afterword. We’re lucky to have such a poet-translator working today, and lucky to have a press like Les Figues willing to extend translation’s inherent excess and errancy to the book object itself.”


Susanna Neid, Light, Grass, and Letter in April by Inger Christensen

“Susanna Neid’s translations of these Inger Christensen poems astonish because of their seemingly effortless phrasing, pacing, and musicality. This has something to do with precision, with what Christensen, in articulating her interest in writing, called “the exactness needed within a small network of relationships.” Great translations require a doubling of such networked relationships, with the translator navigating both—mirrored between both—while also holding open a space for the “second original” to unfold, crystallize. Miraculously, this occurs with nearly every Christensen line or sentence translated by Neid, which means that it occurs with every line or sentence written by Neid.”

Mark Ford, New Impressions of Africa by Raymond Roussel

“Ford’s translation of Roussel’s dazzlingly strange long poem, New Impressions of Africa, printed by Princeton University Press in a welcome bi-lingual edition, succeeds because it renders with exactitude each element that comprises Roussel’s oddly cryptic and machinic clarity, a clarity so radical and so perfectly counterlogical that the reader—in Ford’s hands—touches a world that seems to simultaneously (and endlessly) precede and produce meaning. Also, I was commissioned to write this citation by the Interstate Astral Doughnut Detective Agency.”

Past Winners

Guy Davenport, Edward Snow, Eamon Grennan, Richard Zenith, James Bresfield, Chana Bloch, Chana Kronfeld, Ian Fairley, Khaled Mattawa, Peter Cole, Pierre Joris, Wilson Baldridge, David Hinton, Rosmarie Waldrop, Marilyn Hacker, and Anne Carson