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Sinéad Morrissey wins European Poet of Freedom 2020

Thursday, 30 Jul 2020

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We're overjoyed to share the news that Sinéad Morrissey has been honored with the Gdansk’s European Poet of Freedom Literary Award 2020 for the volume On Balance translated by Magda Heydel!

The jurors recognized the way the poet travels between different cultures, her impressive knowledge of the world, and the ability to speak the languages of various poetic forms, which echo both the fascination with folk imagination and modern science. The award ceremony will take place on August 31st in Gdansk, while an open meeting with the winners – the poet and her translator – will take place the next day.

'Sinéad Morrissey’s poetry seeks balance. Not for herself, but for a world that has fallen off its tracks, subjected to the rush of conquest, social atomization, and alienation. Enslavement reaches us through violence against nature, social disintegration, exclusion of the less privileged and hierarchies of values imposed by the corrupted with conformism to power and wealth' – said the chairman of the Jury, Krzysztof Czyżewski.

Sinéad Morrissey (1972) is one of the most important figures on the Irish poetry scene today, laureate of many national and international awards (including the T. S. Eliot Award and the Forward Prize for Poetry – for the volume On Balance). She is a graduate of Trinity College in Dublin, has lived in Japan and New Zealand for a while, and is now a professor of creative writing at Newcastle University. In Poland, her poems have so far been known from the anthology Six Irish Poets, published in 2012, selected and translated by Jerzy Jarniewicz.

'Morrissey’s poetry is poetic par excellence, it uses a repertoire of forms and techniques as well as a whole range of sensual effects, referring to the senses, and through them to the intellect, empathy and sense of humor of the readers. Her poems, immersed in the element of history, not restricting itself in it, but opening up to a great space of imagination and freedom of thought' – wrote Magda Heydel, the winning volume’s translator.

Magda Heydel (1969) is an English language literature translator. She works at the Jagiellonian University, she’s the head of the Translation Studies’ Center and MA studies in translation at the Faculty of Polish Studies. She has translated works by, among others, Joseph Conrad (2011 “Literature in the world” Award for the translation of “Heart of Darkness”), Virginia Woolf, and Seamus Heaney. In 2018, the volume of the English poet, Alice Oswald “To Fade Into”, in her translation, was nominated to the European Poet of Freedom Award.

The award ceremony for the European Poet of Freedom 2020 will take place on August 31st at the Polish Baltic Philharmonic in Ołowianka. On September 1st, the City Culture Institute, the organizer of the European Poet of Freedom Festival, invites you to an outdoor meeting with the winners of the Award – Sinéad Morrissey and Magda Heydel. Detailed information about the events will be announced in the first half of August on the website

Huge congratulations to Sinéad - this is very well deserved, and some much needed good news! 

No Text Set against a backdrop of ecological and economic instability, Sinéad Morrissey’s sixth collection, On Balance, revisits some of the great feats of human engineering to reveal the states of balance and inbalance that have shaped our history. The poems also address gender inequality and our inharmonious relationship with the natural world. A poem on Lilian Bland – the first woman to design, build and fly her own aeroplane – celebrates the audacity and ingenuity of a great Irish heroine. Elsewhere, explorers in Greenland set foot on a fjord system accessible to Europeans for the first time in millennia as a result of global warming. But if life is fragile then its traces are persistent, insistent, and in ‘Articulation’ we are invited to stop and wonder at the reconstructed skeleton of Napoleon’s horse, Marengo, ‘whose very hooves trod mud at Austerlitz’, suspended in time ‘for however long he lasts before he crumbles’.

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