New York, March 26, 2009—The Academy of American Poets announced today that Avi Sharon has been chosen by the poet and translator John Balaban as the recipient of the 2009 Harold Morton Landon Translation Award. Sharon is being recognized for his translation of C. P. Cavafy's Selected Poems (Penguin Classics, 2008). The Harold Morton Landon Translation Award is given to the best book of poetry translated from any language into English published in the previous year, and carries a prize of $1,000.
On selecting this volume for the award, Balaban wrote:
Avi Sharon's considerable gifts as a classicist are one asset; his ear for poetry still another. Both talents merge in his new translation to offer us a Cavafy that is accessible in an almost conversational way, without losing its rhythmic current or its exquisite historical associations.
Avi Sharon received a B.A. from Emory University, in Atlanta, GA, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Classics from Boston University, where he studied under Donald Carne-Ross and William Arrowsmith. He has written widely on Greek literature, ancient and modern, mostly in the journal Arion, and has translated a number of Greek writers into English, including Yannis Ritsos, George Seferis, Odysseas Elytis, and Alexandros Papadiamantis, among others. His translation of Plato's Symposium was published in 1998 by Focus Press. Sharon works on Wall Street and lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two sons.
C. P. Cavafy, born in 1863 in Alexandria, Egypt, was perhaps the most original and influential Greek poet of the twentieth century. After spending his adolescence in England, Cavafy became so comfortable with English that he wrote his first verse in his second language. He spent thirty years working for the Ministry of Public Works, and he remained virtually unrecognized in Greece until late in his career. He never offered a volume of his poems for sale during his lifetime, instead distributing privately printed pamphlets to friends and relatives. Cavafy's poems were first published in book form without dates before World War II, and were reprinted in 1949. He received the Order of the Phoenix from the Greek dictator Pangalos in 1926. He continued to live in Alexandria until his death in 1933.
John Balaban's honors include the Academy of American Poets' Lamont prize, a National Poetry Series Selection, two nominations for the National Book Award, the William Carlos Williams Award, and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. He is the author of twelve books of poetry and prose, most recently, Path, Crooked Path (Copper Canyon Press, 2006). He is a translator of Vietnamese poetry, and a past president of the American Literary Translators Association. In 2008, in a ceremony at the National Library of Vietnam, Balaban received a medal from the Ministry of Culture for his work in translation and in preservation of ancient texts.
The Harold Morton Landon Translation Award was established at the Academy of American Poets in 1976 and is given to an American for a published translation of poetry from any language into English. Previous winners include Robert Fagles, David Ferry, Robert Fitzgerald, David Hinton, Anslem Hollo, Edmund Keeley, Galway Kinnell, Rika Lesser, Charles Martin, W. S. Merwin, Stephen Mitchell, Susanna Nied, Robert Pinsky, Andrew Schelling, Charles Simic, Louis Simpson, W. D. Snodgrass, Edward Snow, and Rosmarie Waldrop. The award was established by Mrs. Harold Morton Landon in memory of her husband.
The Academy of American Poets is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 1934 to foster appreciation for contemporary poetry and to support American poets at all stages of their careers. For over three generations, the Academy has connected millions of people to great poetry through programs such as National Poetry Month, the largest literary celebration in the world; Poets.org, the most popular site about poetry on the web; the Poetry Audio Archive, capturing the voices of contemporary American poets for generations to come; American Poet, a biannual literary journal; and an annual series of poetry readings and special events. The Academy also awards prizes to accomplished poets at all stages of their careers—from hundreds of student prizes at colleges nationwide to the Wallace Stevens Award for lifetime achievement in the art of poetry. For more information, visit www.poets.org.