Olympic Games Poet Receives Award/War Poetry Safeguards/BrechtFest – Poetry News Roundup January 23rd

In today”s Poetic Side news round-up, we have the Olympic Games poets award, the call for the WWI poets to remain on the curriculum and BrechtFest IV.

University of Leicester Award for Olympic Games Poet

Lemn Sissay, the official poet of the 2012 London Olympic Games, has received an award from the University of Leicester. On Thursday last week, he was awarded his Doctor of Letters in a special graduation ceremony. In 2014 he was appointed MBE for his services to literature, and this was followed in 2021 with an OBE for services to literature and charity.

Sissay is a playwright, poet, performer and memoirist. During the Olympic Games, he was commissioned to write three poems, all of which have been carved into wood and are now on display at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, which is in London.

Brought up in care until the age of 12, Sissay’s mother came to the UK from Ethiopia when she was pregnant and put him up for adoption. His early life experiences inspire much of his work. In 2018 he won a legal case for the treatment that he suffered in care.

His first poetry book was published when he was just 18, and since the age of 24, he has been a full-time writer.

In 2013 he adapted Refugee Boy by Benjamin Zephaniah for the stage. This text is now read in classrooms all over the country and is a text of choice in the national curriculum.

Author Calls for Safeguarding of First World War poets in the Curriculum

Neil McLennan, a former head of history who is now a writer, has spoken out against the Exam boards for the “diversity push” that has been recommended for English literature papers. The changes will see the likes of Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen being dropped in favour of a more diverse and modern collection of poets, including some who are disabled, Black or LGBT poets.

He believes that by setting aside the poets of the First World War we are setting aside a vital voice from history that helps to understand the events of the time. Something that can also help many of those studying history at GCSE level as well.

Siegfried Sassoon was very outspoken about the war, writing to The Times newspaper about his concerns at the war being prolonged and stating that he believed that they were no longer fighting for the same purposes as at the beginning of the war.

Writing about both poets in his most recent book McLennan looks to debunk several common misconceptions about them, as well as looking at the events that saw the start of the friendship between the established poet and the one who was shortly to publish his first poems.

BrechtFest IV

The Always Lounge in New Orleans will be hosting BrechtFest IV. From February 6th to February 7th, the festival will look at the life and work of the German playwright and poet Bertolt Brecht.

One of the 20th century’s most influential playwrights, Brecht was also a poet and the writer behind Mack The Knife, which went on to become a recording by Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. It was later a pop song performed by Bobby Darin.

A percentage of the money raised by the event will go to benefit Innocence Project, New Orleans.

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