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Raised in Northern California, Mira Rosenthal received her MFA from the University of Houston and her PhD from Indiana University. Among her awards are fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the MacDowell Colony, the American Council of Learned Societies and Stanford University, where she was a Wallace Stegner Fellow in poetry. Her first book, The Local World, won the Wick Poetry Prize in 2011. While on a Fulbright Fellowship to Poland she discovered her passion for translating contemporary Polish literature. She is the translator of two volumes of poetry by Tomasz Rózycki, most recently Colonies that received the PEN Translation Fund Award and was nominated for the Robert Fagles Translation Prize. Her poems, translations and essays have been published in many literary journals and anthologies, including PloughsharesAmerican Poetry ReviewHarvard ReviewSlatePN ReviewA Public Space and Mentor and Muse: Essays from Poets to Poets.

Colonies

Zephyr Press
2014 Shortlist
United States

Judges’ Citation

In Mira Rosenthal’s translation of this work, English-speaking readers can themselves confront the sonnet as something supple, fresh and a little bit strange.

The sonnet, or ‘small song,’ arose in 13th-century Italy. It was successfully transplanted into English, through the supple voice of Thomas Wyatt, well before the birth of William Shakespeare. In Eastern Europe, however, the sonnet flowered much later. In Polish in particular, when it finally appeared, it met both popular acclaim and stiff-necked critical resistance. So the sonnet in Polish is, or can be, even now, a contentious and lively form. Tomasz Rózycki’s sonnet sequence Kolonie (Colonies), first published in Polish in 2006, demonstrates this clearly. In Mira Rosenthal’s translation of this work, English-speaking readers can themselves confront the sonnet as something supple, fresh and a little bit strange. Rózycki’s quirky and self-deprecating humour permeates the poems. So does his sense of the fundamental homelessness of 21st-century human beings. Nine of these 77 sonnets begin with some variation on the line ‘When I began to write, I didn’t know …’ and blossom into wry and hilarious reflections on the writing life. Others exude a heart-rending nostalgia for a world that is constantly being translated from meaning into money, and thus constantly destroyed.