Patti Smith to receive PEN America Literary Service Award

The literature and human rights organisation will recognise Smith’s ‘unflinching determination to protest injustice and speak truth’

Patti Smith will receive the 2020 PEN America Literary Service Award. The musician, poet, and author will be awarded at the organisation’s annual gala at the American Museum of Natural History, New York City, on May 19.

PEN America is an organisation dedicated to literature and human rights. In a press release, PEN America say that they are recognising Smith “for her prolific and multifaceted career, across which she has written arrestingly lucid memoirs and poetry; paired vital literary and raw punk sensibilities in her music; and, through it all, demonstrated an unflinching determination to protest injustice and speak truth”.

Previous winners of the annual award, which is given to individuals impacting culture and the human condition, include Stephen King, Toni Morrison, Philip Roth, and Margaret Atwood. 

“In all of Patti Smith’s thrilling incarnations – rock goddess, poet, eloquent witness to the bohemian New York of her youth – she has testified to the transformative power of literature in her own life, and used her stardom to encourage reading and writing in the legions who revere her,” PEN’s Jennifer Egan said in a statement. “A polestar of my own teenage years, she set an example of badass female artistry, coupled with deeply principled humanity, that I’m still trying to live up to.”

Patti Smith will be touring around the world in 2020, with dates in Europe kicking off in late March.