The recipient of the “Golden Wreath” award for 2020, the main award of the “Struga Poetry Evenings” is the Israeli poet, novelist and essayist Amir Or.
As dictated by tradition, this decision is announced by the Managing Board and the Directorate of the “Struga Poetry Evenings” festival during the Ceremonious meeting which takes place at the Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts (MASA), however, respecting the protection measures against COVID-19, we will only be issuing a press release to the media.
The award will be bestowed upon the laureate during the poetry reading “Bridges”, one of the central events of this year’s festival edition, which will be held from the 26th to the 31st of August.
In her explanation regarding the decision, PhD Elizabeta Sheleva, President of the Managing Board of the “Struga Poetry Evenings”, notes:
“Amir Or is an intriguing author who stems from and furthers an exquisitely rich, intriguing and influential literary and cultural tradition – the Jewish tradition, which has been continuously building itself through the centuries as a distinctive palimpsest and synthesis of fruitful geopolitical intersections and multitudes of creative practices.
When first seeing and reading the works of Amir Or, you are captivated by their vibrancy and energetic charge, their ceaseless yearning and the radical search for what is new and unknown, the extraordinary suggestiveness of the lyrical intonation, as well as the multilayered symbolism of antique mythology, which potently pierces through the dialogically shaped verses and the pleading addresses towards the lyrical You – towards the Other.
The poetry of Amir Or is stunning, intelligent, a poetry which stirs the reader while basking itself in its succulent, fresh, imperative language, a poetry with a dynamic, dancing rhythm of the verse, with complex, emotional and spiritual unrest, derived “directly from the thigh”.
Amir or, a leading Israeli poet, novelist and essayist, has been recognized as a major new generation voice in world literature. He is the author of 13 volumes of poetry, the latest being Loot – selected poems 1977-2013 (2013) Wings (2015) and Child (2015). His poems have been translated into 50 languages and appeared in poetry journals, anthologies and literary sites, as well as in 33 books in Europe, America and Asia. His novels include The Song of Tahira (2001), a fictional epic in metered prose and The Kingdom, a novel about the life of King David.
He translated into Hebrew 10 prose and poetry books, including The Gospel of Thomas; Limb Loosening Desire – an anthology of erotic Greek poetry, Stories from the Mahabharata; and modern poets like Seamus Heaney, Ann Sexton, Shuntaro Tanikawa, Jidi Majia, Fiona Sampson, and Ansatassis Vistonitis. His selected translations From The Hebrew Side was published in 2017. For his translations from ancient Greek he received the Honorary Prize of the Israeli Minister of Culture.
Or was born in Tel Aviv, 1956. His grandparents have emigrated from Poland in the 1930’s and came to Israel as Zionist pioneers. He is descendant of a renowned Rabbis dynasty, among them Elimelech of Lizhensk and Rashi, whose family line goes back to King David. In his twenties Or lived for several years in the Nederlands and India, where he has studied meditation and personal growth techniques. After returning to Israel, he founded a meditation and therapy center and a spiritual commune in Jerusalem. He studied Philosophy and Comparative Religion in the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and lectured there on Ancient Greek Religion.
In 1987 Or debuted with I Look Through The Monkeys’ Eyes for which he was awarded the Harry Harshon Literary Prize of the Hebrew University. His books Faces , Ransoming The Dead , So!  and Poem  were soon to follow. He published numerous papers, articles and essays on literature, society, comparative religion and the classics, and has wrote a poetry column in Ha’aretz daily. His selected essays, Discourse, was published in 2018 (Hakibutz Hameuhad publishers, TA).
In 1990 Or founded the Helicon Society for the Advancement of Poetry in Israel. In 1993 he set up the Arabic-Hebrew Helicon Poetry School, developed the school’s pioneering integrated methodologies of teaching creative writing, and taught it in Israel, U.S.,Europe and Japan. In 2001 he founded the Sha’ar International Poetry Festival and has been its Artistic Director.
Or has served as Editor-in-Chief of Helicon‘s journal and its series of poetry books. He has edited other literary journals as well, and several anthologies of Hebrew verse in European languages. For his editorial contributions, he was awarded the 2017 Culture Minister Literary Editing award.
Or has been national coordinator for the U.N. sponsored UPC venture, “Poets for Peace” a founding member of the World Poetry Movement and of the Eurpean Association of Writing Programs.
In his salutatory address to the Macedonian public, Amir Or notes:
I can’t tell you what excitement and delight the news of my winning the prize stirred in me. Struga has been interwined with my writing journey for over 20 years, since my book Drowning, He Breathes Living Water was published in the 2000 Pleiades series, long before my selected poetry was published in Serbian or Bulgarian. I have witnessed with awe this annual gathering of prominent representatives of our international republic of poetry, when Bonnefoy, Transtromer and my friend W.S. Merwyn won the illustrious wreath of poetry, and nothing like returning here as the 2020 laureate could make me feel that my work was awarded here with the ears and hearts that poetry deserves.
Coming back to Struga and Ochrid, I know I am among people that read poetry, have cultivated a taste for it, and have the need and respect for the art of poetry, people who understand its deeper meaning and unique significance of wisdom, beauty and dialogue, of imagination and creativity and of the freedom to think-and-feel for ourselves.