Kamini Roy/PEN Pinter Prize – Poetry News Roundup October 14th

We begin the week here on My Poetic Side with a look at the Google Doodle dedicated to the Bengali poet Kamini Roy. We also have the 2019 winners of the PEN Pinter Prize.

Google Doodle Celebrates Kamini Roy

On Saturday the Google doodle was dedicated to celebrating the 155th birth anniversary of the Bengali poet Kamini Roy.

Born in Bassanda on 12th October 1864 Kamini Roy was a pioneer. She was one of the first girl students to receive a formal education in British India, she was also one of the first Indian women to graduate from university with honours and was almost certainly one of the first Indian feminists. In addition to being a poet, she was also an editor and an activist.

At school, she excelled in maths but later went on to study Sanskrit. She excelled in many of the literary arts and published a number of poetry collections and essays whilst holding down a teaching job. Her first poetry book was published in 1889.

Kamini Roy was one of the founding members of an organisation that devoted itself to the plight of women’s suffrage, the Bangiya Nari Samaj.

A statement was released along with the doodle which declared that Roy was a major figure in helping to advance the feminist cause in the Indian subcontinent. She was also instrumental in helping Bengali females to be allowed to vote in 1926. In 1929 she was awarded the Jagattarini medal for her many literary achievements.

PEN Pinter Prize 2019

The British poet Lemn Sissay has named Befeqadu Hailu, the writer and activist from Ethiopia as the international writer of courage for this year.

Sissay was named as the recipient of the PEN Pinter award back in June and as such, it was his role to select a fellow writer to share the prize. The award which is named in part for the writer Harold Pinter is given to a writer who has, in Pinter’s words, an “unflinching, unswerving” gaze on the world, someone who has real determination.

As well as being an activist and a writer, Hailu is as one of the co-founders of Zone 9, a blogging platform. As a result of his work he has been jailed 4 times, spending a total of 596 days in prison – he has however never been convicted of any of the charges he was jailed for. Zone 9 strives to give people a place where they can speak out against violations in human rights in Ethiopia.

Before Sissay chose Hailu to be the joint recipient of the prize he spoke to a number of Ethiopians about his. To many in his country, he is considered a modern-day hero, loved by his own generation and younger people as well – it was clear to Sissay that he had to be his winner.

The prize has previously been shared between David Hare and the author of Gomorrah, Roberto Saviano and James Fenton who chose Raif Badawi the Saudi dissident.



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