Heaney wins award for literary heritage

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The Independent Culture

Seamus Heaney, winner of the 1995 Nobel Prize for Literature, will today be honoured with the Wilfred Owen award for poetry at a ceremony in Shrewsbury.

Seamus Heaney, winner of the 1995 Nobel Prize for Literature, will today be honoured with the Wilfred Owen award for poetry at a ceremony in Shrewsbury.

Heaney, who also received the Whitbread prize for his translation of the epic poem Beowulf, has won the award for his poetry and for promoting the work of war poet Owen.

"We wanted to give something to a poet who had links with Wilfred Owen," said Helen McPhail, one of the organisers. "Heaney often refers to Owen as being part of his literary heritage. He mentioned him at Ted Hughes' memorial service." Mr Hughes was a vice-president of the Wilfred Owen Association.

The award is not a monetary one, but Mr Heaney will receive the symbolic Owen gunmetal paperweight, before taking part in a public discussion with Peter Florence, director of the Hay-on-Wye festival.

The award was introduced by the association to raise the profile of the war poet, who died aged 25 shortly before the First World War ended. It also aims to encourage future poets.

The ceremony, which will take place on the anniversary of the war poet's death, marks the high point of a three-day event centred on Mr Owen's life and work, which included the iconic poems Anthem of Doomed Youth, and Futility, and Around Oswestry. The former teacher spent only five weeks on the front line, but it is this time that prompted his war poetry.

Shocked by the horrors of war, Mr Owen went to Craiglockhart War Hospital near Edinburgh, Scotland. But in August 1918, after his friend, the great war poet, Siegfried Sassoon, had been severely injured and sent back to England, Mr Owen returned to France. He was killed seven days before the war ended on 11 November.

* The BBC yesterday announced its schedule of programmes to mark Armistice Day on 11 November, and Remembrance Sunday on 12 November. Features include live coverage of the two minute silence, televised coverage on BBC1 of the British Legion Festival of Remembrance from the Albert Hall in the presence of the Queen, and programmes about the Great War hosted by the author Pat Barker.

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