Translate a Poem

This workshop looks at a very short poem by the Hungarian poet János Pilinszky. As Mark Baczoni writes in his translation notes, it's a particularly challenging poem to render in English.

We invite you to submit your own translation of the poem. As always we welcome a variety of approaches: close translations, 'freer' versions, after-images and metamorphoses of all kinds.

Click here to read the translation notes.

Original poem

Négysoros (Quatrain)

Here is a poem by the great 20th-century Hungarian poet, János Pilinszky (1921-1981). It’s called 'Négysoros' (Quatrain).


         Alvó szegek a jéghideg homokban.
         Plakátmagányban ázó éjjelek.
         Égve hagytad a folyosón a villanyt.
         Ma ontják véremet.

This poem has been translated into English by Ted Hughes and his co-translator János Csokits and is published in their collection of Pilinzsky’s poems, The Desert of Love (Anvil, 1989). Read their translation and listen to an audio recording here.

Read full translation notes


You do not need to have translated poetry before to have a go at translating this poem, nor do you need to speak Hungarian - a 'literal' translation has been provided from which you may craft your final version.

Click here to read the translation notes.

» Submit your version

Poem in translation


Iron nails resting in the freezing sand.
Billboard nights soaked in abandonment.
You left the light on in the corridor.
Today my blood is spent.

» Read notes on translating this poem

Help on translating this poem

You do not have to be a published poet or translator to send in your version, or to have ever translated a poem before. We welcome submissions from all. You can submit your version using the form below. Please note that submissions via this form for this project will not be considered for publication in MPT Magazine, and you should consult our submissions guidelines if you wish to submit something for publication.


The principle driving Hughes and Csokits was literalness, as Hughes says in his introduction to their collection of Pilinszky’s poems The Desert of Love:

'As it is, we settled for literalness as a first principle…These translations, then, in the sense of being word for word are close to the originals, and will have served their purpose if they serve as pointers, to help a reader re-imagine the whole thing.'

Continue reading


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First listen to the poem read out by the poet. View video >>

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Poetry Translation Workshops

The MPT Editors have had the opportunity to run poetry translation workshops in schools, and as part of poetry courses such as Arvon, and poetry festivals including Aldeburgh over the last few years. They have also participated in a workshop organised by the British Council in Russia. MPT Board members such as Amarjit Chandan have also been involved in running poetry translation...

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Submit your version

Please attach your translation of the current poem here. We accept the following file formats: Word (.doc and .docx), Rich Text Format (.rtf). Please ensure that you have JavaScript enabled.

MPT cannot be held responsible for any adverse changes inadvertently made to poem formatting.

If you wish, add notes about your translation in the space provided below.

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