Become a literary translator – new competition!

Become a literary translator for our new competition with The British Council: translator Don Cellini provides all the tools you need to create a new version of a poem by celebrated Mexican poet Pedro Serrano. Prizes include publication, poetry workshops and a stash of goodies.

Get inside the mind of a literary translator and then write your own version of ‘Película’ or ‘Film’ by Pedro Serrano, which has never before been translated into English! Don Cellini has provided a literal translation from the original Spanish, which you can use as the jumping-off point for your own more poetic version – so you don’t need to speak Spanish yourself.

What does a translator do?

We asked Don to tell us more about the art and craft of translation.

… translators have to constantly be making decisions: How does this word sound? Is there a better choice? Does it convey the same meaning in both languages? Is this image clear to someone reading in my culture in the 21st Century? Is the line similar in length to the original? …

Read the rest of Don’s discussion of translation.

There are lots of great tips for starting your own translation and checking how it is working.

Translating fireflies

Don has translated Pedro’s poem ‘Luminaria’ and talks through his process for producing a final translation for publication.

… When I see the word cascabel I think of a popular Christmas song named ‘Cascabel’ or ‘Jingle Bells’. But that would take our poem about fireflies in a different direction. Fortunately, cascabel also means a small or tiny bell…

Read ‘Luminaria’ and about Don’s process of translation.

It’s a wonderful insight into the process of translation and the various poetic decisions the translator has to make as they go along – and an invaluable resource as you start your own piece.

firely 6576 by Terry Priest
firely 6576 by Terry Priest

Writing your own translation

As a starting point for your own translations Don has produced a literal version of Pedro’s poem ‘Película’ for you to use to create your own, poetic translation.

…papel abierto al caldo de los ácidos,
la frialdad del foco develado…

…paper open to the juice of the acids,
the coldness of the bulb uncovered…

Read the rest of the poem.

Work through it line by line as Don does, considering which elements of the literal translation are working, and which parts could be presented in a more impactful, musical way. You can keep to the letter of the text, or use it to jump off into your own creative interpretation. You will be creating the first English translation of Pedro’s poem!

Resource for teachers

We have produced a new free, downloadable lesson plan to support the prize, which explores both ‘Luminaria’ and ‘Película’ and encourages students to create new translations, thinking particularly about descriptive language and imagery. We would love to receive class sets of entries, and if the winner is school-aged then they will receive a poet visit to their school – so please do encourage your students to enter!

How to submit your work

Work through the above, reading Don’s comments on the process of translation and his translation of ‘Luminaria’. Then, starting with the literal translation of ‘Película’, choose the best way to present the ideas and imagery in the poem. What will you call it? Will it be the literal translation ‘Film’ or something more creative, like The Rebellious Novice instead of The Sound of Music?

Send your translation to [email protected] in the body of an email, with your name, age and address. If you would like confirmation we have received your poem, please ask for it. The closing date is midnight on Sunday 12 July 2015.

The prize is open to writers aged 25 and under from the UK.

By entering, you give permission for Young Poets Network and the British Council to reproduce your poem in print and online in perpetuity, though copyright remains with you.

We will add you to the Young Poets Network emailing list – please let us know if you’d rather we didn’t.


The winning poet will receive a poet visit in their school, or mentoring from a poet, as well as publication on Young Poets Network and the Poetry Society website, and a parcel of poetry prizes. Runners-up will also be published on these websites and get a parcel of poetry treats including books and posters. Plus you will be able to say you are the first translators into English of one of Pedro Serrano’s poems!

This challenge is now closed – but you can read the wonderful winning poems by following the links on the top right hand side of this page.

The challenge is now closed – but you can read the wonderful winners and be inspired to write your own poem to submit to one of our Poetry Opportunities!

Competition partners:


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Published May, 2015

4 thoughts on “Become a literary translator – new competition!

    1. Hi Tanmay, I’m afraid this competition is only open to writers from the UK. New competitions for poets from all round the world will be posted on Young Poets Network soon though!

  1. I am assuming this competition is not open to New Zealanders. Pity I didn’t read that before writing my entry!

    1. Hi Lucy, I’m afraid not but I hope you will feel like it was a valuable exercise. Feel very free to send us the poem anyway as we’d love to read it.

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