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Patti Smith to Receive PEN America Literary Service Award

Rocker, poet, and memoirist will be honored at the American Museum of Natural History on May 19th

Patti Smith

Erik Pendzich/Shutterstock

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

PEN America is an organization that unites literature and human rights while protecting creative expression; the annual award is given to an individual making an impact on culture and the human condition. Previous recipients include Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Toni Morrison, Philip Roth, and Margaret Atwood. In addition to Smith, the organization will also honor Frank A. Bennack Jr., Executive Vice Chairman of Hearst. (Tables for the event are on sale now, individual tickets will become available in March.)

“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 President 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.”

Smith has a slew of West Coast performances lined up in March, with shows at Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles on March 6th and two nights at the Fillmore in San Francisco on March 8th and 9th. After an evening at Seattle’s Paramount Theater, she’ll make a stop in Washington, DC before heading to Australia and Europe.