Thursday 19th Nov 2020

Stephen Spender Prize




Continuing CH’s remarkable string of successes in The Stephen Spender Prize – a national poetry translation competition sponsored by the Guardian – Hannah (UF/Year 10) has this year won the junior section with her version of a Tamil poem that she calls ‘And Yet’. The competition website reports that there were over a thousand entries in the junior sections this year, so this is an amazing achievement.

Hannah described in the commentary that accompanied her entry how she liked the poem because it was so true to her experience of life in India. ‘When we visit my family are constantly fixing things for my grandparents. As soon as we arrive, my dad puts together a long list of all the things that need fixing; inevitably, when we return, there is another list, yet we all get by just fine, even if the monsoon winds blow through the gaps in the wall.’

Hannah found the poem on a website then worked with her mum on any tricky Tamil words then, in classic fashion, developed her literal version (what translators call a ‘trot’) into something more poetic, including for example the clever device of the repetition of ‘And yet’ in each stanza. ‘One difficulty was making sure that the poem sounded funny in English yet kept the specific Tamil problems in the translation,’ says Hannah.

Hannah received her prize at a virtual ceremony on 18 November. Her poem is published below and in the recent edition of ‘The Blue’, alongside some of the other entries by CH students this year. Hannah’s is another triumph for the literary hotbed that is Leigh Hunt B, which now has two firsts, two seconds and two commended in this competition in recent years!

The link below takes you to the online event; Hannah reads her poem at 16:37:



Manushya Puthiran (2001)

These doorbells –

Does it matter they don’t ring?

And yet—

None of my visitors

Have gone without today’s gossip.


The bathroom latch is broken, so what?

A year and a half has gone by.

And yet—

No one’s privacy has been invaded,

No daydreams interrupted.


The chair may have a broken leg,

Its balance a little rocky.

And yet—

To the startled guest,

Not a hint of disrespect.


For more than a week now,

My car-brakes have been failing.

And yet—

God keeps watch on this city.

Still I return home,

In one full piece.


I suffer a pain in my belly,

But what can I do?

Nowadays it returns frequently.

And yet—

If I recline at a certain angle,

I can just about bear the pain.


Predicaments may be endless

In most parts of our life,

And yet—

Tamil life is plain sailing,

A thread without knots.