Anne Carson to receive $63K PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature

The Canadian poet will receive the award during a virtual celebration on Thursday, April 8, 2021.

Carson will receive the award during a virtual celebration on Thursday, April 8, 2021

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 06: Author Anne Carson speaks onstage as The Shed announces the first seven commissions of its 2019 inaugural season on March 6, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for The Shed) (Craig Barritt/Getty Images for The Shed)

Canadian poet Anne Carson is the recipient of the 2021 PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature.

The $50,000 US ($62,937.50 Cad) prize recognizes "a living author whose body of work — either written in or translated into English — represents the highest level of achievement in fiction, nonfiction, poetry and/or drama, and is of enduring originality and consummate craftsmanship."

"The writer's work will evoke to some measure Nabokov's brilliant versatility and commitment to literature as a search for the deepest truth and highest pleasure — what Nabokov called the 'indescribable tingle of the spine.'"

Carson has won numerous awards and accolades, including a Guggenheim, a Lannan Foundation fellowship and a MacArthur "genius grant."  With her 2001 book, The Beauty of the Husband: A Fictional Essay in 29 Tangos, she became the first woman to receive England's T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry.  She also also won Canada's inaugural Griffin Prize in 2001 for her collection Men in the Off Hours

Her other books include Autobiography of Red, Antigonick and Red Doc>.

Carson was selected by a jury comprised of Lily Hoang, Jhumpa Lahiri, Neel Mukherjee, Elif Shafak and Justin Torres.

Eleanor speaks with Canadian poet, essayist, Greek and Latin scholar, and librettist, Anne Carson - on stage at Montreal's Blue Metropolis Festival.

The jury citation was submitted in the form of a poem:

"For crossing boundaries again and again.
"For her rejection, interrogation, and redefinition of inherited forms and genres.
"For her uncanny weaving of the classical and the avant-garde.
"For her transformative translations.
"For startling us.
"For her heterodoxy, hybridity, and hilarity.
"For her gravity and her wit.
"For her playful erudition.
"For returning us to the queer affective resonances of antiquity.
"For making the unimaginable duet of philology and grief sing.
"Because she is poikilos, 'scintillat[ing] with change and ambiguity.'"

Carson will receive the award during a virtual celebration on Thursday, April 8, 2021.

The PEN/Nabokov Award is one of five career prizes being given out on Thursday.

It is also recognizing playwright and director George C. Wolfe, artist and performer Daniel Alexander Jones, poet, actor and musician Kwame Dawes and translator Pierre Joris.

"Among this year's winners are revolutionaries, icons, and trailblazers," PEN America's Jane Marchant, director of the Literary Awards program, said in a statement. "By poetry, translation, screenwriting, dramaturgy, performance writing, and the art of editing, these honorees transform the arc of the literary canon and infuse it with striking originality."

We revisit Michael Enright’s 2016 interview with renowned Canadian poet Anne Carson. They spoke about her fascination with grammar and syntax ("the secrets of life are embedded in grammar,") and why she calls writing "an attempt at catastrophe."

PEN America is a nonprofit organization that celebrates literature and freedom of speech.

Founded in 1922, PEN originally stood for "poets, essayists and novelists," though their name is no longer an acronym. 

With files from the Associated Press

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