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Seamus Heaney poetry prize to be launched today

The new PEN Heaney Prize will be launched later today to recognise outstanding poetry with a focus on social engagement.

The estate of Seamus Heaney has announced the launch of a new annual prize for a single volume of poetry by one author published in the UK or Ireland.

Seamus Heaney is recognised as one of the most important poets of his generation and had a long association with PEN (Poets, Essayists, Novelists) and its commitment to support writers and their freedom of expression across the world.

Speaking to RTÉ News, Seamus Heaney’s son Mick said: “English PEN approached us about a year ago to discuss this and given that estate had been conscious that they wanted to do something to support poets and given that Dad had such a long association with PEN – it just made sense to us.

“He was always interested in that balance between social justice, and with the artist and the poet being true to themselves so it was fitting to work with PEN, as their values align with ours,” he said.

Mick Heaney added: “We are really looking forward to the competition process now but a little nervous too, but as my Dad said, “walk on air against your better judgement” so that’s what we are doing with this new prize.”

The inaugural prize will be judged by poets Nick Laird, Paula Meehan and Shazea Quraishi and they will be joined by Catherine Heaney, representing the Estate of Seamus Heaney, who will act as non-voting Chair of the judging panel.

The prize of £5,000 (€5,853) will be awarded to a poet of outstanding literary merit that engages with the impact of cultural or political events on human conditions or relationships and is being run in conjunction with Irish Pen/Pen na hÉireann and English PEN.

PEN is one of the world’s oldest human rights organisations, promoting the freedom to write and read, and offering support for writers to bear witness to the political and social landscape they live and write in.

Submissions are now open for publishers from the UK and Ireland. They will close at 11.59pm on 3 June 2024.

Poetry collections published between 1 January and 31 December 2023 are eligible. Details are available on the group’s website.

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