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:
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,
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."