Poet James Fenton wins PEN Pinter free-speech prize

Poet and journalist James Fenton named 2015 recipient of PEN Pinter literary prize

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

James Fenton - a British poet and journalist - has won the Pen Pinter Prize, which celebrates freedom of speech. 

Fenton worked as as a political journalist and war correspondent, and was an Oxford professor of poetry. 

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

The English Pen Jury praised Fenton as "one of the finest poets of his generation." 

The jury also highlighted his “Blood and Lead” poem which opens  “Listen to what they did. / Don’t listen to what they said. / What was written in blood / Has been set up in lead.” 

The award takes its criteria from the late writer Harold Pinter’s Nobel speech. 

Pinter said in his 2005 Nobel acceptance speech that he believes “that despite the enormous odds which exist, unflinching, unswerving, fierce intellectual determination, as citizens, to define the real, truth of our lives and our societies is a crucial obligation which devolves upon us all. It is in fact mandatory.”

Pinter added, “If such a determination is not embodied in our political vision we have no hope of restoring what is so nearly lost to us - the dignity of man.” 

Fenton said he was greatly honoured and touched to be chosen as this year’s PEN Pinter winner. 

He added, “In particular, I am happy to be connected in this way with Harold Pinter, whose writings I have long admired.” 

Fenton will receive the award at a ceremony to take place on October 6 at the British Library.

The prize will be jointly awarded to an international writer who has faced persecution, but the second winner will be announced at an October ceremony. 

The Pen Pinter Award has previously been awarded to writers including Salman Rushdie, Tom Stoppard and Carol Ann Duffy and Hanif Kureishi.

TRTWorld and agencies