Author and translator Thomas E. Kennedy, whose writing was featured in “Hunt, Gather,” is the recipient of this year’s Dan Turèll Medal. The Dan Turèll Society presents this honor to Kennedy as an “ambassador of Danish literature in the English-speaking world.” As he is a past contributor to Broad Street Magazine, we are thrilled to share this achievement with our readers. Read his essay “Prix Fixe–the table next to yours,” and his Truth Teller Spotlight interview.
In 1977 in the poetry collection Big City Blues, with the poem “Gennem Byen Sidst Gang,” Dan Turèll marched directly into the Danish language and into Danish hearts with a lyric that since has become iconic for the all too prematurely dead writer and is often cited as a picture of departure and the fleeting nature of life. And by the tireless efforts of the American-born Danish-resident, writer and translator Thomas E. Kennedy, to promote Dan Turèll (and numerous other Danish poets and writers) in the English-speaking world, Turèll’s lyric is spreading in recent years far beyond Denmark’s boundaries, now under the title “Last Walk through the City.”
Thomas E. Kennedy has himself lived in different parts of the world. He was born in 1944 in New York City’s borough of Queens and decided already as a 17-year-old that he would be a writer. But first he would have to have something to write about. After serving his compulsory service in the Army in the early ‘60s, he embarked on the American highways, lived many places, lived his life and educated himself. In 1974, he moved to France and two years later continued to Denmark, where he based himself.
In 1981, Thomas E. Kennedy’s first short story appeared in a literary journal, in 1988 he published his first book, and in the ensuing years published more than 30 books: novels, story and essay collections and literary studies. Included among the many titles are the so-called Copenhagen Quartet, four independent and very different novels where the author – like Dan Turèll – moves through the Danish capital, not for the last time, but again and again and in all directions. The four deeply original volumes, where the reality of Copenhagen is contemplated with fresh eyes, were published first from the small Irish press Wynkin de Worde between 2002-2005, and afterward, the far larger publisher Bloomsbury re-published them in both USA and the UK in strongly revised editions (and with new titles): In the Company of Angels (2010), Falling Sideways (2011), Kerrigan in Copenhagen, A Love Story (2013), and Beneath the Neon Egg (2014).
Simultaneous with writing his own books. Thomas E. Kennedy has performed the comprehensive and unselfish work of spreading awareness of Dan Turèll in the English-speaking world. He has read his translations to audiences in the USA and UK and has published both poems and introductions to the Danish poet in a large number of international literary magazines. In addition, the CD An Introduction: Dan Turèll+Halfdan E meets Thomas E. Kennedy has been issued by Plantsounds Records (2013) on which Kennedy reads his translations of twelve of Dan Turèll’s lyrics to Halfdan E’s music (including, naturally, “Last Walk through the City”). And in the course of the spring, Kennedy’s translation of a 24-page excerpt of Vangede Pictures (1975) will be published in the widely acclaimed American periodical New Letters (no. 83, 2016).
In addition, the micro-publisher Rod & Co plans to publish Thomas E. Kennedy’s Copenhagen Quartet in Danish in the course of the coming time. The first volume, which is entitled I selskab med engle, will appear in March. The publication of the volume will be launched on Wednesday, March 2nd, 4.00 to 6.00 pm in Absalon Community Center (Sønder Boulevard 73, Copenhagen V) with readings from the book by the translator, Frej Larsen, as well as authors Line-Maria Lång and Per Smidl.
The ceremony where the medal will be presented to Thomas E. Kennedy will take place on Dan Turèll’s birthday, Saturday, March 19th, 3.00 p.m. Place: Dan Turèll Collection, Vangede Bibliotek, Vangede Bygade, 2820 Gentofte, Denmark.
The recipients of The Dan Turèll Medal are persons who in their artistic work correspond to Dan Turèll’s writings and spirit. The medal has been executed by medalist and artist Barry Lereng Wilmont, who has published a number of art books together with Turèll – and who most recently stands behind the limited edition, bilingual book: Gennem Byen Sidst Gang/Last Walk through the City (2010) with Thomas E. Kennedy’s translation of the poem accompanied by four original lithographs.
On the special occasion of the 70th year from Dan Turèll’s birth, the medal this year has been cast extraordinarily in silver.
The Dan Turèll Medal was presented for the first time in 2012 to playwright Astrid Saalbach, in 2013 to rap lyricist Per Vers, in 2014 to the poet Rasmus Halling Nielsen, and in 2015 to detective writer Jesper Stein. The prize itself was founded in 1994 and consisted in the first years of a necktie from Dan Turèll’s clothes closet.
The medal is awarded by the Dan Turèll Society, whose board consists of editor Jacob Ludvigsen, author Lars Movin, as well as librarian and the initiative taker for the Dan Turèll Collection/Vangede Library, Peter Strøm.
True stories. Honestly.
Photo Credit: Mark Hillringhouse