Seán Hewitt awarded 2022 Rooney Prize for Irish Literature

Posted on: 27 October 2022

Seán Hewitt has been awarded the 2022 Rooney Prize for Irish Literature at a ceremony in Trinity College Dublin this evening [Thurs, 27th Oct].

The €10,000 Rooney Prize, awarded annually since 1976, celebrates an outstanding body of work by an emerging Irish writer under 40 years of age. It is administered by the Trinity Oscar Wilde Centre for Creative Writing in the School of English, Trinity.

Responding to the news of the award, Seán Hewitt said:

 “I’m so delighted to be the 2022 recipient of the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature. Publishing any book is always an exposing and quite terrifying thing, so this has arrived like a supreme reassurance. To be given such a prestigious award for a body of work is galvanising, and I’m very grateful to the judging committee for their close and kind attention, and to Peter Rooney and the Rooney family for their generosity. To look at the previous winners of the award and to see my name amongst theirs is a true honour.”

The poet and author, who is from Warrington, UK and lives in Dublin, published his debut collection of poetry, Tongues of Fire, in 2020 (Jonathan Cape). It won The Laurel Prize in 2021, and was shortlisted forThe Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award, the John Pollard Foundation International Poetry Prize and the Dalkey Emerging Writer Award. 

His memoir, All Down Darkness Wide, was published earlier this year by Jonathan Cape (UK and Ireland) and Penguin Press (USA). Seán is Teaching Fellow in Twentieth-Century British & Irish Literature in Trinity’s School of English and Poetry Critic for The Irish Times.

Announcing the 2022 winner, prize jury member Dr Rita Sakr, Maynooth University, said:

“In poetry and prose, Seán Hewitt’s work is visionary and gemlike. His language is graceful and dazzling as it communicates distinct yet also multifaceted forms of longing, grief, and liberating self-reflection, most powerfully captured in figurations of the vulnerability that humans and the natural environment experience together and alone. All of us on the judging panel were struck by the ways in which his writings give a precise, intimate sense of place, emotion and atmosphere while conjuring unbounded ways of sensing beauty and re-imagining community amidst the isolating darkness. We were highly impressed by this expansive creative gift that we know will keep on giving to Irish literature.”

 Benefactor of the prize, Dr Peter Rooney congratulated the winner:

“It is a great thrill to have Seán Hewitt as our 2022 Rooney Prize winner, especially as it marks the first time we have awarded the prize for a memoir. Seán’s writing is a poetic prose, captivating the reader and bringing them on a journey through his life often during difficult times. These hardships though are always matched with beautiful depictions of scenery and emotion. We are honoured to have Seán join our illustrious list of Rooney Prize winners.”

The Rooney Prize is the longest-established literary prize in Ireland. Previous winners include Kate Cruise O'Brien (1979), Neil Jordan (1981), Frank McGuinness (1985), Anne Enright (1991), Mike McCormack (1996), Claire Keegan (2000), Kevin Barry (2007), Lucy Caldwell (2011) and Doireann Ní Ghríofa (2016).

 Commenting on the Rooney Prize and its relationship with the Oscar Wilde Centre, Deirdre Madden, Co Director of the MPhil in Creative Writing, said:

“We are delighted that the Rooney Prize has its base in the Oscar Wilde Centre for Irish Writing. It is wholly fitting, given our task of nurturing and helping to develop new writers through our MPhil programme and our PhD in Literary Practice, both of which find their home in the Centre. We are proud of our MPhil alumni Sara Baume and Claire Kilroy who are past winners of the prize. 

“I myself was honoured with the award many years ago and know how important and validating it is for a writer to win such a prize at the early stage of their writing life. I also cherish memories of Dan and Pat Rooney who did so much for both writing in Ireland and for Irish American relations, especially in the north: wonderful and exceptional people, who are much missed. May they rest in peace. We in the Oscar Wilde Centre congratulate this year’s winner and look forward to many more years of connection with the Rooney Prize.”

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