Page last updated at 11:04 GMT, Thursday, 19 March 2009

Heaney wins top literary award

Seamus Heaney
Seamus Heaney has won the David Cohen prize for literature

The Northern Irish poet Seamus Heaney has received the David Cohen prize for literature.

The award, worth 40,000, was presented at a gala ceremony hosted by the British Library in London on Wednesday.

It honours a living writer from Britain and Ireland for a lifetime's achievement in literature.

Mr Heaney, who was born in County Londonderry, joins a list of previous winners which includes VS Naipaul and Harold Pinter.

Having previously won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995, Mr Heaney 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.


Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion, who was chairman of the judging panel, presented the prize.

He said that for the last "40-odd years" Mr Heaney's poems "had crystallised the story of our times, in language which has bravely and memorably continued to extend its imaginative reach".

"At the same time, his critical writing, his translations and his lecturing have invigorated the whole wider world of poetry," he added.

"Setting his name alongside previous winners does honour to the Cohen Prize, even as it honours him."

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

The last winner of the prize in 2007 was another poet from Northern Ireland, Derek Mahon.

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