Collection of poems by Toon Tellegen wins British Poetry Society prize

Raptors, the English translation of Toon Tellegen’s collection, Raafvogels (Querido, 2006), has won the Popescu Prize, a biennial prize awarded by the renowned British Poetry Society for a recent English translation of a collection by a European poet. The £1,500 prize money is for the translator, Judith Wilkinson.

 In 2001, The Low Countries Yearbook featured an article on Tellegen’s work, including four poems and a story. You can find the article and the poems by following the hyperlinks.

Raptors was published in March 2011 by Carcanet Press. It was, after About Love and About Nothing Else (Shoestring Press, 2008), the second translation by Wilkinson of a collection of poems by Tellegen to be published in England.

 The jury, consisting of the British poet-translators Jane Draycott and Sasha Dugdale, wrote of Wilkinson’s translation: “Judith Wilkinson’s translation captures the weird spoken nature of Toon Tellegen’s ‘novel in verse’ and it matches the energy and rhetorical span of the original. These haunting monologues expand our understanding of the power of the voice in poetry.” They refer to the poet as “an entirely distinctive voice in European poetry”.

Heavenly Life

Besides Raptors there was another translation of a collection by a Dutch poet amongst the six nominated - Ramsey Nasr’s Heavenly Life (Banipal Books), translated by David Colmer. Only once before has a translation of a Dutch collection been nominated for the prize, in 2007, in fact, when the honour fell to Willem Groenewegen’s translation of Rutger Kopland’s poetry in What Water Left Behind (Waxwing Press, 2005).

In addition to his well-known animal stories Toon Tellegen has also written plays, novels and over twenty collections of poems, of which Schrijver en lezer (Querido, 2011) is the most recent. Judith Wilkinson, who lives in the Netherlands, is a British poet and translator of Dutch-language poetry by Miriam Van hee, Gerrit Achterberg, Toon Tellegen and others.

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