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Pinter wins Wilfred Owen prize for poetry opposing Iraq conflict

John Ezard



Harold Pinter's verses against the invasion of Iraq - described as doggerel by some who agree with him and as worse by those who do not - have helped earn him one of the highest accolades for a modern writer on war.

He is to receive the Wilfred Owen award for poetry, named after the man acknowledged as the most influential war poet in English.

The honour is announced in the Wilfred Owen Association's newsletter today, the 90th anniversary of the outbreak of the first world war in which Owen was killed at the age of 25. He left dozens of poems observing and distilling what he called "the pity of war".

The award, a commissioned sculpture, goes biennially to a writer seen as continuing Owen's tradition. A previous winner is the Irish Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney.

The award will be presented to Pinter in the spring at a weekend festival in Shrewsbury, where Owen grew up.

Michael Grayer, the association's chairman, says the honour is partly in recognition of Pinter's lifelong contribution to literature, "and specifically for his collection of poetry entitled WAR, published in 2003".

The book consists of a speech, seven poems written immediately before last year's Iraq war, and one poem on the 1991 Gulf war.

"As one might expect, all are hard-hitting and uncompromising, written with lucidity, clarity and economy," Mr Grayer says. "The speech was widely reported in the press, and played a considerable part in galvanising public opposition to the war."

The most quoted poem - and most vilified by the American right - on Iraq is God Bless America:

Here they go again
The Yanks in their armoured parade
Chanting their ballads of joy
As they gallop across the big world
Praising America's God.
The gutters are clogged with the dead.

In the build-up to the war the association came under pressure from members to declare a view on the looming conflict. It decided not to but its newsletter published many poems, mostly against.

Beneath its announcement on Pinter, the newsletter quotes from a New York Times article which says: "The Bush administration has been loudly attacking the news media for misreporting the conflict.

"Owen would counter - in vivid, gripping images - that it is the White House which is dangerously distorting reality."

 

 

This article can also be found at

http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1275552,00.html

This story can also be found at the BBC at

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/arts/3534608.stm

You can also find the Harold Pinter archive at

http://www.haroldpinter.org/archive/index.shtml (highly recommended)

 

 

August 2004

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The Bombs by Harold Pinter

 

" There are no more words to be said
All we have left are the bombs
Which burst out of our head
All that is left are the bombs
Which suck out the last of our blood
All we have left are the bombs
Which polish the skulls of the dead ."

 

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