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David Colmer Wins James Brockway Prize 2021

3 June 2021

The James Brockway Prize – an oeuvre prize for translators of Dutch-language poetry – has been awarded to David Colmer. This distinction, established and organised by the Dutch Foundation for Literature, is valued at 5,000 euros and will be presented (online) at the upcoming edition of the Poetry International Festival in Rotterdam, on Saturday 12 June at 3.15 p.m. (BST).

David Colmer has published more than fifteen poetry translations in recent years, including books by Hugo Claus, Cees Nooteboom, Paul van Ostaijen, Ester Naomi Perquin, Annie M.G. Schmidt and Menno Wigman

From the jury report: “Colmer’s work displays great sensitivity to the specific demands of each poem. He is a very versatile translator, able to work with both free verse and traditional forms. He is particularly at ease with the colloquial, contemporary voice and does not hesitate to produce slang when the Dutch requires this. (…) He is a bold translator; he never automatically chooses the obvious but tries to tease out the maximum from every line. He instinctively knows when to opt for restraint and simplicity and when to take creative risks. His translations are never prosaic and work as poems in their own right, with their own rhythmic flow.”

David Colmer. Photo: Victor Schiferli.

Colmer is an Australian translator of Dutch literature across a range of genres. He has won many awards for his translations, most notably the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award (both with novelist Gerbrand Bakker), the Vondel Prize, and Australian and Dutch awards for his body of work. Later this year, his translation of Radna Fabias’s Habitus will be published in the U.S.A. by Deep Vellum/Phoneme.

The jury for the current award was made up of David McKay (translator Dutch-English and winner of the Vondel Prize 2017), Judith Wilkinson (poetry translator Dutch-English and winner of the Brockway Prize 2013) and Claire Lowdon (British author and literary critic for various newspapers and magazines, including the Times Literary Supplement).

Besides the winner, the following translators received an honourable mention:

  • Sophie Collins, for The Following Scan Will Last Five Minutes by Lieke Marsman (Liverpool University Press, 2019)
  • Donald Gardner, for In Those Days by Remco Campert (Shoestring Press, 2014)
  • Laura Watkinson, for Leave a Message in the Sand by Bibi Dumon Tak (Eerdmans, 2020)

An overview of David Colmer’s translations can be found at the Foundation’s Translations Database.

James Brockway

On 15 December 2000 poet and translator James Brockway died. With his translations he had opened the doors to the poetry of Rutger Kopland, Hans Lodeizen, M. Vasalis, Gerrit Achterberg and many other Dutch poets for English readers. In 1966 he was awarded the prestigious Martinus Nijhoff Prize for his translations and in 1997 the Dutch Queen granted him a Knight’s Order on the same account. Brockway left half of his legacy to the Dutch Foundation for Literature to stimulate the translation of Dutch poetry. Previous winners were Daniel Cunin (French, 2018), Ard Posthuma (German, 2015), Judith Wilkinson (English, 2013), Francisco Carrasquer (Spanish, 2011), Jan M. Myskjin and Pierre Gallisaires (French, 2009), Gregor Seferens (German, 2007) and Francis Jones (English, 2005).