PEN America Literary Awards Poetry in Translation

Founded in 1996, the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation recognizes book-length translations of poetry from any language into English. The award confers a $3,000 prize to the translator of the winning book. Eligible books may have up to two translators. 

All winners, finalists, and longlisters for this award are eligible to receive PEN America’s official emblems. If you are a publisher and interested in obtaining PEN America’s award emblem, please write to awards@pen.org. For more information, please visit our FAQ page.

Submissions for the 2023 cycle are now open and will close on August 1, 2022. Submit here.

Featured Winner

Judges: Caro Carter, Michael Favala Goldman, Parisa Saranj

Everything I Don’t Know, Jerzy Ficowski (World Poetry Books)

Translated from the Polish by Jennifer Grotz and Piotr Sommer

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From the judges’ citation: “This translation stands out not only for the excellence and breathtaking beauty of each poem, but for the cohesion of the entire collection, assembled from eleven of Jerzy Ficowski’s fifteen books of poetry written over the course of five decades. Masterfully translated from the Polish by Jennifer Grotz and Piotr Sommer, Everything I Don’t Know brings to readers the extraordinary work of Ficowski (1924-2006), a poet, writer, and translator himself, whose poetry has long been overlooked despite—or perhaps because of—his unique brilliance. From the first to last page, Ficowski’s lyrical and ever empathetic voice sings, his uncompromising tenor never cracking, even as he shifts from musings on honeybees to recollections of the Holocaust. Grotz and Sommer have accomplished the truly herculean task that all translators must face when bringing a largely unknown author into another language—they have crafted a distinct, consistent, yet fluid voice for Ficowski that evolves with the passage of time and pages. Everything I Don’t Know is a poetic page turner, both delightful and painful to read, in which Grotz and Sommer brilliantly display how Ficowski navigates style and form as adeptly as he does the human experience.

In “Fingerprints,” we read, “Sharpen memory / until it pricks.” Ficowski chiseled both his own experience and that of others, such as the Jews and Roma with whom he spent significant time, to a fine point, which is both delightful and painful to read. With brilliant skill, Grotz and Sommer have delivered Ficowski’s notoriously difficult-to-translate verses to the English language.”

2021 Finalists

Exhausted on the Cross, Najwan Darwish (New York Review Books)
Translated from the Arabic by Kareem James Abu-Zeid
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Everything I Don’t Know, Jerzy Ficowski (World Poetry Books)
Translated from the Polish by Jennifer Grotz and Piotr Sommer
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I Name Him Me: Selected Poems of Ma Yan, Ma Yan (Ugly Duckling Presse)
Translated from the Chinese by Stephen Nashef
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Outgoing Vessel, Ursula Andkjær Olsen (Action Books)
Translated from the Danish by Katrine Øgaard Jensen
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Ova Completa, Susana Thénon (Ugly Duckling Presse)
Translated from Spanish by Rebekah Smith
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History

Previous Winners

2021 Steve Bradbury for his translation from the Chinese of Raised by Wolves: Poems and Conversations, Amang (Phoneme Media)

2020 Kristin Dykstra and Nancy Gates Madsen for their translation from the Spanish of The Winter Garden Photograph by Reina María Rodríguez (Ugly Duckling Presse)

2019 Richard Sieburth for his translation from the French of A Certain Plume by Henri Michaux (NYRB)

2017 Simon Armitage for his translation from Middle English of Pearl: A New Verse Translation (Liveright/W.W Norton & Company)

2016 Sawako Nakayasu, for her translation from the Japanese of The Collected Poems of Chika Sagawa (Canarium Books)

2015 Eliza Griswold, I Am the Beggar of the World: Landays from Contemporary Afghanistan by Anonymous (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

2014 Karen Emmerich & Edmund Keeley, Diaries of Exile by Yannis Ritsos (Archipelago)

2013 Molly Weigel, The Shock of the Lenders and Other Poems by Jorge Santiago Perednik (Action Books)

2012 Jen Hofer, Negro Marfil/ Ivory Black by Myriam Moscona (Les Figues Press)

2011 Khaled Mattawa, Adonis: Selected Poems by Adonis and Khaled Mattawa (Yale University Press)

2010 Anne Carson, An Orestia by Auschylus, Sophocles, Euripides (Faber & Faber)

2009 Marilyn Hacker, King of a Hundred Horsemen by Marie Étienne (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

2008 Rosmarie Waldrop, Lingos I-IX by Ulf Stolterfoht (Burning Deck)

2007 David Hinton, The Selected Poems of Wang Wei by Wang Wei (New Directions)

2006 Wilson Baldridge, Recumbents by Michel Deguy (Wesleyan Poetry Series)

2005 Pierre Joris, Lightduress by Paul Celan (Green Integer)

2004 Peter Cole, J’Accuse by Aharon Shabtal (New Directions)

2003 Khaled Mattawa, Without an Alphabet, Without a Face: Selected Poems of Saadi Youssef (Graywolf)

2002 Anne Twitty, Islandia by Maria Negroni (Station Hill)

2001 Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld, Open Closed Open by Yehuda Amicha (Harcourt)

2000 James Brasfield and Oleh Lysheha, The Selected Poems of Oleh Lysheha (Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute)

1999 Richard Zenith, Fernando Pessoa & Co (Grove)

1998 Eamon Grennan, Selected Poems by Giacomo Leopardi (Princeton)

1997 Edward Snow, Uncollected Poems by Rainer Maria Rilke (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

1996 Guy Davenport, editor and translator, 7 Greeks (New Directions)

Eligibility

Who is Eligible:

  • Eligible titles must be original book-length poetry translations, by a single original author, published between January 1, 2022 and December 31, 2022, by a U.S. trade publisher.
  • Eligible books will be translated by up to two living translators. Books may have no more than two translators.
  • Eligible books must be previously published in a language other than English.
  • Translators may be of any nationality. U.S. residency or citizenship is not required.
  • Books may have no more than two translators.
  • If you submit a book for this award, you may not submit it for any additional PEN America Literary Awards, with the exception of the PEN Open Book Award. Please note that the PEN/Faulkner Award is not considered a PEN America Literary Award.

NOT Eligible:

  • Prose (nonfiction or fiction).
  • Self-published books.
  • Reprints or retranslations, unless the work can be said to provide a significant revision of the original translation.
  • Books with more than two translators.
  • Translations-in-progress are not accepted; to submit a translation-in-progress, please see the PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grants.

Submission Guidelines

  • PEN America will only accept submissions from publishers or literary agents. Authors may not submit their own book for this award.
  • On the submission form, please select the award you are submitting to.
  • Please submit verified email addresses on the submission form. Your order cannot be processed without an email address, and this information will be used to later contact you regarding your submission.
  • Upload a PDF file of the galley or final manuscript on the book submissions form. Following pandemic-related protocols, book award submissions will be read as PDF files. Please upload the file saved as BOOKTITLE_AUTHORNAME. For the judges’ convenience, please upload a book file WITHOUT watermarks. Each book file will be kept confidentially between the Literary Awards team and the awards judges. Please note that if a book is longlisted, PEN America may request a physical copy be sent to the judging panel.
  • Upload a high-resolution book jacket photo. This may be used later if the book is longlisted, a finalist, or a winner.
  • Please download the declaration of eligibility. Complete all fields and have the editor or publisher sign to confirm the book’s eligibility. Please upload this document along with the rest of your application on the submission form.
  • Each submission is $85. Please note that due to health concerns surrounding COVID-19, we are asking that all submissions payments be made via credit card. Submission fees are not refundable.
  • Submission fees may be waived for publishers whose annual net sales are less than $2 million. In order to have fees waived, have a company official write a letter on company letterhead stating that the press’s annual net sales are less than $2 million. Please send this letter as a PDF attachment to awards@pen.org. Do not submit before emailing this document to the Literary Awards team, as they will provide you with an alternative submission method.
  • Once the submitted book is received and reviewed for eligibility by PEN America, it will be passed along to the judges. Please add awards@pen.org to your address book, as it will be the main point of contact from PEN America.

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