Herbert Literary Award Winner Announced – Poetry News 13th March

Today in our poetry news round up, we take a look at the winner of the 2024 Zbigniew Herbert International Literary Award.

Herbert Literary Award Winner Announced

Yang Lian, a Chinese poet, has been announced as this year’s winner of the Zbigniew Herbert International Literary Award. The Polish award is named after Herbert, who was one of the greatest Polish poets of the 20th Century.

In the statement that was released from the Zbigniew Herbert Foundation, they described the Chinese poet as: “one of China’s most eminent living poets and an unwavering freedom of speech campaigner.”

Yang Lian was born in 1955 in Switzerland and raised in Beijing. He now lives in Berlin.

He is considered to be one of the foremost representatives of the Misty Poets, this group of authors are so called because they have, since the 1970s been writing in a more modern poetry style which they instil with some of the ideas that have been banned officially following the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution of China.

The foundation feels that there is a very close link between the poetry of Lian and Herbert with the two poets having a similar understanding of art through the creative references to tradition that they use within their poetry and also the unceasing dialogue that can be found there.

Lian chose to emigrate from China following the Tiananmen Square protest in 1989. However, he remined true to his upbringing and was still a Chinese language poet as well as being critical of governments that were oppressive.

To date, only a few of his poems have actually been published in Polish. None of his books have been translated in full into Polish.

The winner of this year’s award was selected by an international jury that included essayists, poets, publishers and translators. The award will be presented to Yang Lian during a ceremony which will take place on 23rd May in Warsaw.

The Zbigniew Herbert International Literary Award, which was inaugurated in 2013  recognises “outstanding artistic and intellectual achievements that are inspired by the value and ideals which were championed by Herbert”. Lian joins a long list of previous winners including Charles Simic, W.S. Merwin and Agi Miszol.

This year is a special one for the foundation as they will be celebrating the centenary of the birth of the poet which will fall on 29th October 2024, there will be a programme of events including literary and educational undertakings. The events are being held under the auspices of UNESCO and there will also be a new publication of the poets work in Britain, the US and Slovenia.

Herbert’s works have been translated into forty different languages. Following the 1981 imposition of marital law in Poland many of his poems were recited at Solidarity meetings which were held in secret.

Herbert died in 1998 at the age of 73.

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