Stephen Kessler Receives the 2010 Harold Morton Landon Translation Award

Written by

Tony Hoagland

Posted on

Apr 08 2010
New York, April 8—The Academy of American Poets announced today that Stephen Kessler has been chosen by the translator Edith Grossman as the recipient of the 2010 Harold Morton Landon Translation Award. Kessler is being recognized for his translation of Luis Cernuda's Desolation of the Chimera (White Pine Press). 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, Grossman wrote:

"Luis Cernuda, a major twentieth-century poetic voice in Spanish, was closely associated with Federico García Lorca and the other members of what is called the Generation of 1927. His later works have been rendered into English with sensitivity, understanding, and grace by translator-poet Stephen Kessler. The poems in Desolation of the Chimera reflect the intense passion and despair of Cernuda's writing. They are nothing less than a gift to the English-language reader."

Stephen Kessler is a poet, prose writer, editor, and translator whose work has appeared widely in independent literary and alternative presses in the United States since the late 1960s. His recent books include The Sonnets by Jorge Luis Borges (Penguin, 2010), for which he was editor and principal translator, The Mental Traveler (Greenhouse Review Press, 2010), Moving Targets: On Poets, Poetry & Translation (El Leon Literary Arts, 2008), Eyeseas by Raymond Queneau (Black Widow Press/Commonwealth Books, Inc, 2008), which he translated with Daniela Hurezanu, and Burning Daylight (Littoral Press, 2007). His previous translations include books by Fernando Alegría, Vicente Aleixandre, Julio Cortázar, Ariel Dorfman, Pablo Neruda, and César Vallejo, among others. He lives in Northern California where he edits the quarterly literary newspaper the Redwood Coast Review.

Luis Cernuda was born in Seville in 1902 and came of age in Madrid among his contemporaries Rafael Alberti, Vicente Aleixandre, Federico García Lorca, Jorge Guillén, Pedro Salinas, and other members of the creative cohort known as the Generation of 1927. Cernuda left Spain during the civil war in 1938 and never returned, teaching first in London and Glasgow, and from 1947 to 1952 in the United States at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, before moving to Mexico where he died of a heart attack in 1963. His previous books available in English translation include a Selected Poems, translated by Reginald Gibbons, and his collected prose poems, Written in Water, translated by Stephen Kessler, which received a Lambda Literary Award. Triply marginalized in his lifetime as a poet, an exile, and an openly gay man, Cernuda, who was also a prolific and respected critic, is today considered by many in Spain to be among the most influential writers of his generation.

Edith Grossman is the acclaimed translator of Gabriel García Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, Carlos Fuentes, and many other distinguished Spanish-language writers. Her translation of Don Quixote (Harper Perennial, 2005) is widely considered a masterpiece. The recipient of numerous prizes for her work, she was awarded the Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation by PEN American Center in 2006 and an award in literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2008. In 2009 she held a Guggenheim Fellowship and was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She lives in New York City and has two sons, both of whom are musicians.

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; American Poet, a biannual literary journal; and our 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.