Selden Memorial Translation Prize 2019

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The 2019 Kyoko Selden Memorial Translation Prize in Japanese Literature, Thought, and Society

The Department of Asian Studies at Cornell University is pleased to announce the 2019 prize honoring the life and work of our colleague, Kyoko Selden. The prize will pay homage to the finest achievements in Japanese literature, thought, and society through the medium of translation. Kyoko Selden's translations and writings ranged widely across such realms as Japanese women writers, Japanese art and aesthetics, the atomic bomb experience, Ainu and Okinawan life and culture, historical and contemporary literature, poetry and prose, and early education (the Suzuki method). Recognizing the breadth of Japanese writings, classical and contemporary, and with the aim of making such materials more widely available, we ask that prize submissions be of unpublished translations. Collaborative translations are welcomed. In order to encourage classroom use and wide dissemination of the winning entries, prize-winning translations will be made freely available on the web. The winning translations will be published online at The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus.

Prize selections will take into account both the quality of the translation and the significance of the original work. In cases where a text already published in English is deemed worthy of retranslation, new translations of significant texts are accepted (please provide date and place of earlier publication). Applicants should submit the following hard copies to the Kyoko Selden Memorial Translation Prize, Department of Asian Studies, 350 Rockefeller Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853:

  • One copy of an unpublished translation
  • One copy of a statement of up to 1,000 words explaining the significance of the text. Although we do not require that the translator has already obtained permission to publish the translation from the copyright holder, please include in the statement information about whether preliminary inquiries have been made or whether or not the work is in the public domain.
  • One printed copy of the original Japanese text
  • A brief c.v. of the translator
  • In addition, please send electronic copies of all the above sent as attachments to

The maximum length of a submission is 20,000 words. In case of translation of longer works, submit an excerpt of up to 20,000 words. Repeat submissions are welcomed. Please note that the closing date for the prize competition this year will be August 1, 2019. For the 2019 competition, one prize of $1,500 will be awarded in two different categories: 1) to an already published translator; 2) to an unpublished translator. The winners will be informed by November 1, 2019.

For further information, please visit the Asian Studies website: or send questions to 

Previous winners

2019 Winner

"The Maiden's Betrayal" (Otome no mikkoku, 2010)

Written by Akiko Akazome
Translated by Michelle Kyoko Crowson

Michelle Kyoko Crowson is a PhD candidate in the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of Oregon. Her research interests include Japanese Literature by women writers, World Literature, and Translation Studies. Her dissertation explores the domestic and international circulation of Early Modern female haikai poet Kaga no Chiyo. Her translation of Akazome’s novel was made possible with support from the Oregon Center for Translation Studies and the Bread Loaf Katharine Bakeless Nason Scholarship.

2018 Winners

“A Famous Flower in Mountain Seclusion” (Sankan no meika, 1889)

Written by Nakajima Shōen
Translated by Dawn Lawson

Dawn Lawson is Head, Asia Library, University of Michigan.

“An Artificial Heart” (Jinkō Shinzō, 1926)

Written by Kosakai Fuboku
Translated by Max Zimmerman

Max Zimmerman graduated from Cornell as a member of the Class of 2015, with a major in Asian Studies.  He currently works at Nikkei America.

 Honorable Mention goes to Bruce Allen, Faculty of Seisen University, Tokyo, for his translation of Chapter Four of Ishimure Michiko's historical novel about the Shimabara Rebellion, Birds of Spirit (Anima no tori, 1999).

2017 Winners

“Tale of the Enchanted Sword” (妖剣記聞, Yōken Kibun, 1920)

Written by Izumi Kyōka
Translated by Nina Cornyetz

Nina Cornyetz is Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at The Gallatin School for Individualized Study, New York University. Her most recent book is Traveling Texts and the Work of Afro-Japanese Cultural Production: Two Haiku and a Microphone, co-edited with William H. Bridges IV (Lexington, 2015).

“The Torrent” (奔流, Hon’ryū, 1943)

Written by Taiwanese writer Wang Changxiong  (王昶雄, also known by his Japanese name, Ō Chōyū), who lived from 1916 to 2000.
Translated by Erin Brightwell

Erin L. Brightwell is an Assistant Professor of Pre-modern Japanese Literature at the University of Michigan. In her research, she is particularly interested in issues of language and identity as well as the circulation of texts, motifs, and intellectual traditions both within and beyond Japan. She holds an MA in Chinese from the University of Washington (2007) and a PhD in Classical Japanese Literature from Princeton University (2014).

2016 Winner

"Hishoku"(Not of Color) 

Written by Ariyoshi Sawako
Translated by Polly Barton

Polly Barton, awarded the prize in the “previously published translator” category, is a translator of Japanese literature and nonfiction. Born in London, she studied philosophy before traveling to Japan, and now lives and works in Osaka. She holds an MA in the Theory and Practice of Translation from SOAS, University of London, and was awarded first prize in the inaugural JLPP Translation Competition for her translations of Natsuki Ikezawa and Kobo Abe.

2015 Winners 

"Muddy River"(Doro no kawa) 

Written by Miyamoto Teru
Translated by Andrew Murakami-Smith 

Andrew Murakami-Smith is an Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Language and Culture, Osaka University. He was awarded a Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1997, writing his dissertation on "Dialects and Place in Modern Japanese Literature." He has translated into English some 20 works of fiction, poetry, and essays relating to Osaka and the Kansai region. His translation of Kamizuka Shoken's "Skin of the Pike Conger Eel" (Hamo no kawa) received the William F. Sibley Translation Prize in 2012-13. Has also worked as a translator in a lawyer's office and in a patent lawyer's office. 

2014 Winners 

Sagoromo(Sagoromo monogatari) 

Written by Rokujo no Saiin Senji (1039-1036)
Translated by David Pearsall Dutcher 

David Pearsall Dutcher has lived in Japan for many years, where he has held teaching positions in various universities and worked as a free-lance translator and editor. He is co-editor of Kenkyūsha's New College Japanese-English Dictionary (5th Edition, 2002) and a contributor to The Kenkyūsha Dictionary of English Collocations(1995). His translations of poetry by Kaneko Misuzu (1903-1930), Something Nice: Songs for Children, were published by JULA Press in Japan in 1999. Dutcher received his Ph. D. from Harvard University in 1999. 

So Happy to See Cherry Blossoms (Mankai no sakura ga mirete ureshii na, 2012) 

Editor/Poet, Madoka Mayuzumi
Translated by Hiroaki and Nancy Sato 

Hiroaki and Nancy Sato work collaboratively on the translation of Japanese poetry. Hiroaki Sato is former President of the Haiku Society of America and winner of the 1982 PEN Translation Prize. In addition to his translations of works by Basho, Miyazawa Kenji, Hagiwara Sakutarō, Mishima Yukio, and many others, he has published anthologies of Japanese poetry such as From the Eight Islands: An Anthology of Japanese Poetry (with Burton Watson, 1987), One Hundred Frogs: From Renga to Haiku in English(1995), andJapanese Women Poets: An Anthology (M.E. Sharpe Press, 2008). 

About Kyoko Selden

Scholar, teacher, editor, poet, writer, calligrapher, musician, photographer, and prolific translator of modern and contemporary Japanese writings---passed away on January 20, 2013, in Ithaca, New York, after a brief illness. 

Kyoko SeldenOver the course of her long career as a faculty member at Cornell University, Kyoko Selden was editor and translator of well-known anthologies that introduced many significant works and authors to international readers for the first time. Deeply interested in music and music education, she was the primary translator of writings by the influential music educator, Suzuki Shin ichi. With Noriko Mizuta, she edited one of the first anthologies of modern Japanese women's fiction, Japanese Women Writers (1991), followed by a welcome addition, More Stories by Japanese Women Writers, published in 2011. The 2-volume, Annotated Japanese Literary Gems (co-edited with Jolisa Gracewood and Lili Selden) made available for classroom teaching literary complex and challenging Japanese texts, such as those by Nakagami Kenji, Tomioka Taeko, and by Kyoko's friends, the authors Hayashi Kyoko and Tawada Yoko. 

Kyoko Selden also played a path-breaking role in translating work on Ainu history and culture: co-translating with daughter Lili Selden the Ainu author Kayano Shigeru's Our Land Was a Forest (1994), and Honda Katsuichi's Harukor: An Ainu Woman's Tale (2000). With her life-time companion and collaborator, Mark Selden, Kyoko published in 1989 the anthology Atomic Bomb: Voices from Nagasaki and Hiroshima, a book that included translations done by her students at Cornell. 

Indeed, Kyoko was a cherished teacher of generations of Cornell students, with whom she shared her vast knowledge of the intricacies of modern and classical Japanese and Chinese literary languages. Colleagues and scholars within and outside of Cornell regularly turned to her for help with knotty problems of translation.


Contribute to the prize fund

Click here to contribute to the Kyoko Selden Memorial Translation Prize Fund 

Contributions may be made to the Kyoko Selden Memorial Translation Prize through this online link, or can be sent c/o Department of Asian Studies, 350 Rockefeller Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853.