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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 August, 2004, 15:25 GMT 16:25 UK
Pinter scoops Owen poetry prize
Harold Pinter
Pinter spoke at an anti-war march in London's Hyde Park
Playwright Harold Pinter is to receive the Wilfred Owen award for poetry for a collection of work criticising the war in Iraq.

The prize, a commissioned sculpture, is awarded every two years by the Wilfred Owen Association to a writer deemed to be continuing Owen's tradition.

Owen, who died in the First World War aged 25, is regarded by many as England's finest war poet.

Irish Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney is among the award's previous winners.

The Bombs by Harold Pinter from War courtesy of Faber and Faber
There are no more words to be said
All we have left are the bombs
Which burst out of our head
All that is left are the bombs
Which suck out the last of our blood
All we have left are the bombs
Which polish the skulls of the dead

Spring ceremony

Michael Grayer, chairman of the Wilfred Owen Association, said the honour was "specifically for his collection of poetry entitled War" but also partly in recognition of Pinter's lifelong contribution to literature.

Pinter's 2003 collection contains eight poems and one speech.

"As one might expect, all are hard-hitting and uncompromising, written with lucidity, clarity and economy," Mr Grayer said.

"The speech was widely reported in the press, and played a considerable part in galvanising public opposition to the war," he added.

The award will be presented to Pinter in March at a festival in Shrewsbury, where Owen was born and grew up.

Tragic death

The winning announcement was made in the Wilfred Owen Association's newsletter on Wednesday, the 90th anniversary of the outbreak of World War One.

Owen enlisted in the 3/28th London Regiment in 1915.

He spent time on the front line at Serre, France, in 1917, which inspired his poem The Sentry.

Later that year he met fellow war poets, Siegfried Sassoon and Robert Graves, and wrote the poems Anthem for Doomed Youth and Dulce et Decorum Est.

Politically active

He was killed in action on the banks of the Sambre-Oise canal, near Ors, just days before the war ended in November 1918.

Pinter began his writing career with poetry, and had his first collection published in 1950.

He began writing for the stage in 1957 and went on to produce his now famous plays such as The Caretaker, The Homecoming and The Betrayal.

Pinter is well-known for his left-wing political views - he joined other artists such as Blur and Ken Loach in sending a letter to Downing Street outlining their opposition to war on Iraq in 2002.

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