Lemn Sissay Wins the PEN Pinter Prize

Poet and Playwright Lemn Sissay Wins the PEN Pinter Prize. Lemn Sissay said: ‘What I like about this award is that it is from a great writer and a great organisation.’ (Photo: Lemn Sissay photographed in Canterbury Cathedral/The Observer)

The Guardian

Judges laud ability to forge beautiful words from sorrows as he sees it as sign to continue

Lemn Sissay has won the PEN Pinter prize, set up in memory of playwright Harold Pinter. Sissay, 52, who was an official poet for the London 2012 Olympics, grew up in care and has spoken about how he was imprisoned, bullied and physically abused by staff. He later made documentaries about the search for his family.

Writer Maureen Freely, one of the judges, 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.”

Sissay, who was FA Cup poet in 2015, 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.”

Lemn Sissay: ‘A childhood in care almost broke me – I needed to shine a light on it’

The poet, performer playwright, artist and broadcaster will receive the award at a ceremony at the British Library on 10 October.

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Related:

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