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Lemn Sissay wins PEN Pinter Prize 2019

AWARDED: Lemn Sissay

POET AND playwright Lemn Sissay has been awarded a prestigious prize for his work.

Sissay took home the PEN Pinter Prize, an awarded created in 2009 by the charity English Pen and inspired by playwright Harold Pinter. He was awarded by the judges who praised his ability to "forge beautiful words and a thousand reasons to live and love".

According to The Bookseller, Sissay said he accept the award as a "sign" he should continue his work.

Recalling an encounter with Pinter, Sissay said: “I met Harold Pinter when I was 36. We were on stage at The Royal Court. I was too intimidated or self-conscious to speak to him. And so I will now. Thank-you.

“What I like about this award is that it is from a great writer and a great organisation. I accept it as a sign that I should continue. All I have is what I leave behind. All I am is what I do.”

Sissay was chosen by this year’s judges: writer, translator and chair of English PEN Maureen Freely; culture correspondent at the Economist Fiammetta Rocco and author Niven Govinden.

Freely said: "In his every work, Lemn Sissay returns to the underworld he inhabited as an unclaimed child. From his sorrows, he forges beautiful words and a thousand reasons to live and love. On the page and on the stage, online or at the Foundling Museum, this is an Orpheus who never stops singing."

He will receive the award at a public ceremony at the British Library on Thursday 10th October, where he will deliver an address that will be published by Faber.

Awarded an MBE for services to literature, Sissay has also won a NESTA New Radical Award for his work as a poet and children’s rights campaigning. He is also Chancellor of The University of Manchester and Poet Laureate of Canterbury. His memoir, My Name is Why (Canongate), will be published on 29th August.

Former winners include Half Of A Yellow Sun author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Margaret Atwood, Sir Salman Rushdie, Sir Tom Stoppard and Dame Carol Ann Duffy.

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