Heaney Wins David Cohen Prize

19th March 2009

It was announced last night that Nobel Prize-winning Irish poet, author and playwright Seamus Heaney has been awarded the £40,000 David Cohen Prize for Literature.

The David Cohen Prize is a literary prize awarded every two years to a writer, novelist, short-story writer, poet, essayist or dramatist in recognition of an entire body of work, written in the English language. Previous winners include Derek Mahon, Harold Pinter, Doris Lessing, and V.S. Naipaul.

On receiving his prize this evening at a ceremony at the British Library, Heaney said: “First of all there’s the list of the previous winners, a roll call of the best; there’s the fact that you don’t enter for it but are chosen from the wide field of your contemporaries; and then there’s the verification of that reference to ‘lifetime achievement’” He called it “a lovely reward when offered by a panel of such distinguished writers and readers”.

The David Cohen prize judges – poet laureate Andrew Motion, novelist Rose Tremain, poet and critic Robert Crawford, Guardian journalist Maya Jaggi and Malawian poet Jack Mapanje – felt that the “self-renewing force of his writing, and the sheer scale of his achievement”, made the award of the prize “an absolutely right and proper act of recognition”.

Those who wish to be reminded of Heaney’s talent need only read his poem “In the Attic”, which was published last month in The New Yorker.

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