Roster of Breakthrough Literary Visionaries to Receive 2021 PEN America Career Achievement Prizes
Anne Carson, Kwame Dawes, Daniel Alexander Jones, Pierre Joris, and George C. Wolfe will receive their honors at Literary Awards Ceremony April 8
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(New York, NY) — PEN America today announced its 2021 career achievement award winners, to be honored at the PEN America Literary Awards Ceremony on April 8 at 7pm ET. This year’s honorees are Anne Carson, Kwame Dawes, Daniel Alexander Jones, Pierre Joris, and George C. Wolfe. As part of its Literary Awards program, PEN America annually honors distinct, lifelong contributors to literary and artistic excellence, selected by panels of independent, dedicated judges at the forefront of their fields.
“Among this year’s winners are revolutionaries, icons, and trailblazers,” said PEN America’s Jane Marchant, director of the Literary Awards program. “These writers ask complex questions and refuse simple answers; through language they confront preconceived patterns, ideas, and notions, and challenge the world and its people to be better. They transcend barriers, languages, and cultures, and pointedly address urgent topics for conversation. They are bright lights, guiding us in directions we must follow.”
George C. Wolfe will receive the PEN/Mike Nichols Writing for Performance Award, honoring a writer whose transformative work enlightens and inspires audiences in the tradition of venerated comedian and filmmaker Mike Nichols. Wolfe is a director, playwright, and producer whose career across stage and screen has “continually transformed and pushed the boundaries of American culture,” the confidential panel of judges wrote. A celebratory tribute to Wolfe will be introduced by actor Michael Potts at the Literary Awards Ceremony.
Canadian poet, essayist, and translator Anne Carson will receive the PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature, granted to a living author whose body of work represents the highest level of achievement and is of enduring originality and consummate craftsmanship. Lauded artist, musician, and director Laurie Anderson will present the award at PEN America’s live event. The judging panel—Lily Hoang, Jhumpa Lahiri, Neel Mukherjee, Elif Shafak, and Justin Torres selected Carson for her “gravity and her wit,” “playful erudition,” and ability to make “the unimaginable duet of philology and grief sing.”
Multidisciplinary artist and playwright Daniel Alexander Jones will receive the PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award. Judges Jeremy O. Harris, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, and Leigh Silverman write that Jones’ “consummate talents have taken the work he has done primarily as his alter ego Jomama Jones from theaters in SoHo to concert halls in Europe. In a time when conservatism, queerphobia, and anti-Blackness moved not only through our country but throughout our industry, Jones has continued perfecting a dramaturgy all his own.” Those judges will also present the award during the ceremony.
Editor of the literary journal Prairie Schooner Kwame Dawes is the recipient of the biennial PEN/Nora Magid Award for Magazine Editing. The award honors an editor whose high literary standards and taste have contributed to the excellence of the publication they edit. Judges Patrick Cottrell, Carmen Giménez Smith, and John Jeremiah Sullivan call Dawes “a bold and visionary editor” who has “proved the ongoing validity of the literary journal and taken it to new places.”
Pierre Joris will receive the PEN/Manheim Award for Translation, bestowed every three years by a subcommittee of the PEN America Translation Committee to a translator whose body of work demonstrates a commitment to excellence. The committee wrote that Joris’ work “has long been and remains essential in mapping currents and countercurrents of global modernity.” Renowned writer and translator Lydia Davis will present the award during the April 8 ceremony.
All five winners will be celebrated at the PEN America Literary Awards Ceremony, taking place virtually on Thursday, April 8. PEN America has previously announced the Finalists for its annual literary prizes, as well as its roster of winners for its emerging writers prizes. The annual book prize winners will be announced during the live ceremony, with remarks from winners, musical performances, tributes to members of the literary community lost this past year, and celebrations for the career achievement winners.