Poetry Centre

Weekly Poem for 14 December 2015

  • Lesson

    It was a shadowy yard, walled high with stones.
    The trees held early apples, dark
    wine-coloured skin, the perfected flavour of things
    ripe before their time.
    Clay jugs sat alongside the wall.
    I ate apples and sipped the purest water,
    knowing the outside world had stopped dead from heat.
    Then my father appeared and tweaked my nose,
    and he wasn’t sick and hadn’t died, either;
    that’s why he was laughing, blood
    stirring in his face again,
    he was hunting for ways to spend this happiness:
    where’s my chisel, my fishing pole,
    what happened to my snuffbox, my coffee cup?
    I always dream something’s taking shape,
    nothing is ever dead.
    What seems to have died fertilises.
    What seems motionless waits.


    by Adélia Prado; translated by Ellen Doré Watson


    The Poetry Centre recently announced the winners of its inaugural International Poetry Competition, which received nearly 900 entries from all over the world. In the Open category, the winner was Siobhan Campbell, with second place going to Claire Askew. There was a Special Commendation for Wes Lee. In the ESL category, the winner was Marie-Aline Roemer, with Armel Dagorn in second place, and a Special Commendation for Hanne Busck-Nielsen. You can read the winning poems and see the shortlist and longlist on the Centre’s website.


    ‘Lesson’ is copyright © Adélia Prado; translated by Ellen Doré Watson, 2014. It is reprinted from The Mystical Rose: Selected Poems by Adélia Prado, published by Bloodaxe Books (2014).

    This poem continues our series featuring work from collections shortlisted for The Poetry Society’s Popescu European Poetry Translation Prize 2015, judged by Olivia McCannon and Clare Pollard, and supported in 2015 by the British Council. The winner of the competition was Iain Galbraith, who translated Jan Wagner’s book Self-Portrait with a Swarm of Bees (Arc Publications, 2015). You can find out more about the competition and all the shortlisted books on the Poetry Society website.

    Poet & translator Ellen Doré Watson directs the Poetry Center at Smith College and has translated over a dozen books from the Brazilian Portuguese, most notably poetry by Brazilian Adélia Prado, including The Mystical Rose (Bloodaxe, 2014). She has also translated from the Arabic with co-translator Saadi Simawi. Recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Translation Fellowship, Watson serves on the faculty of the Drew University Graduate Program in Poetry and Translation and as Poetry & Translation editor of The Massachusetts Review. She was shortlisted for The Poetry Society's Popescu European Poetry Translation Prize in 2015 for her translation of The Mystical Rose by Adélia Prado (Bloodaxe Books). Read more about the book here.

    Adélia Luzia Prado de Freitas (Adélia Prado) was born in 1935 and has lived all her life in the provincial, industrial city of Divinópolis, in Minas Gerais (General Mines), the Brazilian state that has produced more presidents and poets than any other in the country. She was the only one in her family of labourers to see the ocean, to go to college, or to dream of writing a book. She attended the University of Divinópolis, earning degrees in Philosophy and Religious Education, and taught in schools until 1979. Adélia Prado has been the subject of dozens of theses and dissertations, as well as a documentary film and countless articles, profiles, and interviews in newspapers, literary supplements, and popular magazines, and her work has been translated into Spanish, Italian and English. In June 2014 Prado received the Griffin Lifetime Achievement Award in Canada. You can find out more about Prado on the Bloodaxe website.

    Bloodaxe Books is internationally renowned for quality in literature and excellence in book design, and its authors and books have won virtually every major literary award given to poetry, from the T.S. Eliot Prize and Pulitzer to the Nobel Prize. You can read more about Bloodaxe on the publisher’s website.

    Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.