Poet James Fenton named 2015 PEN Pinter winner

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 15, 2015 7:07 PM

By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters) - English poet and journalist James Fenton, 66, inspired by the experience of war in creating some of his finest work, was named the 2015 recipient of the PEN Pinter literary prize on Tuesday.

The honor, bestowed annually by English PEN, the founding branch of the international writers' association, is named for the late playwright and Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter.

It is awarded to a writer who, in the words of Pinter's Nobel acceptance speech, casts an "unflinching, unswerving" gaze upon the world.

Born in Lincoln in 1949, Fenton is a disciple of W.H. Auden and held the chair of Oxford Professor of Poetry from 1994-1999.

He has written several collections of poetry, opera librettos, was an editor at the New Statesman and has also contributed as a journalist and critic to The Guardian, The Independent and the New York Review of Books.

One of Fenton's most acclaimed works, "The Memory of War" (1982), is a collection of poems that draws on his time as reporter on conflict and its aftermath in Vietnam and Cambodia in the 1970s.

"Throughout his long and distinguished career, James Fenton has spoken truth to power -- forcefully, fearlessly, and beautifully," Maureen Freely, President of English PEN, said in a statement.

"In this age of privatized art, it is increasingly rare for writers to retain this degree of public commitment, and ...James Fenton is one of the finest poets of his generation."

Fenton he felt greatly honored. "In particular, I am happy to be connected in this way with Harold Pinter, whose writings I have long admired," he said in a statement.

Fenton will receive his award on Oct. 6 at the British Library.

Former winners of the PEN Pinter Prize are: Salman Rushdie (2014), Tom Stoppard (2013), Carol Ann Duffy (2012), David Hare (2011), Hanif Kureishi (2010) and Tony Harrison (2009).

(Writing by Michael Roddy; Editing by John Stonestreet)