|Pinter awarded Wilfred Owen prize for poetry opposing Iraq conflict.|
|The Guardian – Wednesday 4 th August 2004
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 90 th anniversary of the out break 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.”
By John Ezard
|Visions of War|