English PEN today announces the winner of the 2012 Golden PEN Award as Linton Kwesi Johnson.
The award is given annually to an accomplished writer resident in Britain whose body of work has had a profound impact on readers and who is held in high regard by fellow writers and the literary community. It is important that the writer’s ethos is consistent with, and supportive of, the values upheld by PEN.
The winner is elected by the Trustees of English PEN, who represent a membership of over 1,300 writers, journalists and literary professionals. The award will be presented to Linton Kwesi Johnson, along with a golden pen and a cheque for £1,000, at the English PEN Christmas Party for members, following its AGM, on Monday, 3 December at the Free Word Centre, 60 Farringdon Road, London. Previous winners of the award include Iris Murdoch, Harold Pinter, Doris Lessing, John Berger, Salman Rushdie and Margaret Drabble.
Linton Kwesi Johnson is widely regarded as the father of ‘dub poetry’, a term he coined to describe a way a number of reggae DJ’s blended music and verse. His first book of poems Voices of the Living and the Dead was published by the Race Today imprint in 1974. In 2002 he became the second living poet – and the only black poet – to be published in the Penguin Modern Classic Series.
A profile of Linton Kwesi Johnson was published in the Independent on Sunday yesterday.
Gillian Slovo, President of English PEN, said ‘Linton Kwesi Johnson is an artistic innovator, a ground-breaker who has used poetry to talk politics and who first gave voice to, and who continues to give voice to, the experience of moving country and of living in this one.’
Linton Kwesi Johnson said he was both surprised and humbled to receive the award because his poetry belongs to a ‘little tradition’ of Caribbean verse. ‘I hope that by conferring on me this award, English PEN will involve more black writers in its important work and that more black writers will support English PEN.’