Page last updated at 08:14 GMT, Thursday, 19 March 2009

Heaney collects lifetime honour

Seamus Heaney. Picture by Graham Jepson
Seamus Heaney won the TS Eliot Prize in 2006

Irish poet Seamus Heaney has been awarded the David Cohen Prize for Literature, honouring him for his lifetime's work.

The £40,000 award, given to a writer from the British Isles, was presented by Poet Laureate Andrew Motion at a ceremony in London.

The 69-year-old, whose first collection of poems appeared in 1966, said it was "a lovely reward".

Past winners include fellow Nobel Laureate Doris Lessing.


Heaney, who won the Nobel Prize in 1995, paid tribute to previous recipients, calling them "a roll call of the best".

"There's the fact that you don't enter for it but are chosen from the wide field of your contemporaries," he added.

Motion called Heaney a "venerated public figure", with a "reputation is so exalted judging panels might be expected to feel some trepidation about bestowing another prize on him".

"But the self-renewing force of his writing, and the sheer scale of his achievement make the award an absolutely right and proper act of recognition," he added.

As the winner of the Cohen Prize, Heaney has chosen an organisation supporting young writers to receive the £12,500 Clarissa Luard Award.

Other winners of the biennial award include Harold Pinter, Beryl Bainbridge, Muriel Spark and VS Naipaul.

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