Seán Hewitt of Trinity’s School of English has been awarded the Rooney Prize for Literature 2022.
Hewitt, a teaching fellow in twentieth-century British & Irish literature, received the €10,000 prize which recognises “an outstanding body of work by an emerging Irish writer under forty years of age”.
Established in 1976 by Dr Daniel Rooney, the prize is coordinated by the Trinity Oscar Wilde Centre for Creative Writing in the School of English.
Speaking after being awarded the prize, 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.”
He continued: “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,” Hewitt added.
Born in the UK in 1990, Hewitt earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Cambridge, and a master’s and PhD from the University of Liverpool.
His debut poetry collection, Tongues of Fire, published in 2020, won The Laurel Prize in 2021, and was shortlisted for The Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award, the John Pollard Foundation International Poetry Prize and the Dalkey Emerging Writer Award.
Hewitt’s memoir All Down Darkness Wide was published earlier this year to critical acclaim.
Announcing the winner, prize jury member Dr Rita Sakr of Maynooth University called Hewitt’s work “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,” Sakr said.
“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.”
Sakr continued: “We were highly impressed by this expansive creative gift that we know will keep on giving to Irish literature.”
The selection committee included literary agent Jonathan Williams, poet Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Director of Trinity Centre for Literary and Cultural Translation and Professor of French Michael Cronin, novelist and playwright Carlo Gébler, Executive Director of Literature Ireland Sinéad Mac Aodha, and Assistant Professor of English Maynooth University Rita Sakr.
The Rooney Prize is the longest-established literary prize in Ireland. Previous recipients of the award 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).