Category: Archive

Irish-American writers to honor William Kennedy

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

The Albany, N.Y.-born writer will receive the first Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award. The IAW&A said it intends to present the award in future years on the same day, O’Neill’s birthday. The Irish-American playwright, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1936, was born in a hotel in what is now Times Square in New York on Oct. 16, 1888.
The IAW&A was formed earlier this year. The founding board includes writers Peter Quinn, T.J. English and Malachy McCourt.
The group said: “The idea grew out of the successful effort made last summer to enlist support for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign through a full-page ad in the Irish Echo. Inspired by the breadth and enthusiasm of that response, we’ve formed a national, non-profit organization for mutual support, cooperation and encouragement.”
In its mission statement the group says it “supports free speech, the rights of immigrants, the equality and dignity of all – regardless of race, gender, religion or sexual orientation – and the process of peaceful, positive social change in the U.S., Ireland and around the world. While avoiding party affiliation and endorsing no candidates for public office, IAW&A is outspoken in defense of artistic freedom, human rights and social justice.
“As a national organization dedicated to fostering bonds of mutual support and shared purpose, IAW&A fills the vacuum that results from the fact that, despite the variety and vitality of creative expression within the Irish diaspora in America, individual artists and writers as well as arts organizations often exist with little or no knowledge of one another.
The statement continues: “IAW&A serves as a rallying point and sponsor for Irish Americans in the arts. In addition to staging its own events and keeping members abreast of each other’s projects and accomplishments, it works with local, regional and national cultural and artistic organizations to cross promote and spread awareness of performances, concerts, exhibitions and readings. It calls attention to the lifetime achievements of outstanding Irish-American writers and artists, holds fundraisers and solicits donations for members-in-need and, as resources permit, provides emergency assistance.
“We seek to motivate and spotlight new forms and new levels of creative expression; expand opportunities for imagination and dissent; fight racism, ethnic stereotypes and mindless conformity; and encourage the fullest participation of our community in the redeeming endeavor of the arts. As writers and artists, this is our duty. As Irish Americans, it is the most vital way we know to celebrate our heritage, explore our traditions and embrace the future.”
Its first Eugene O’Neill honoree will travel from his home outside Albany to accept his award. Kennedy, who was born in 1928, began his journalistic career following graduation from Siena College and service in the army. He worked initially in Puerto Rico where he became an early mentor to gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson. The pair remained friends until the latter’s death at age 67 in 2005.
Kennedy returned to his hometown where he made his name as an investigative reporter at the Times Union. His debut novel “The Ink Truck” was published in 1969. “Legs,” the first of his six-volume “Albany Cycle,” appeared in 1975. The late Noble laureate Saul Bellow described the Albany novels as a “distinguished group of books.”
Kennedy won the Pulitzer for “Ironweed” in 1984. The novelist himself wrote the screenplay for the film of the same name starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep.

IAW&A can be contacted by emailing iawritersandartists@gmail.com.

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