Michael Rosen: It is important that we hear the voice of refugees


Michael Rosen said it was important “to hear the voice of refugees” after receiving a grand prize for children’s poetry for his collection on migration.

The acclaimed writer on Monday won the Center for Literacy in Primary Education (CLiPPA) award for On The Move.

The poems reflect his childhood with a Polish Jewish family that grew up in London and also explore modern global experiences of migration.

Discussing why he wanted to convey these topics to young readers, Rosen told the PA News Agency, “Kids are in the world, they watch TV every night, they hear people say it. are people on dinghies or Germany took number X from people, they hear the whole Brexit argument, people say we can’t control immigration.

“It’s just a channel, they hear it from the mass media.

“Well, I think it’s important that we hear the voices of refugees, we hear the voices of people who have refugees in their families, and I happen to be one of them, and, as it turns out, I write children’s books. “

Rosen said the collection has been in the works for 40 years, with the earliest drafts of some of the poems dating back to 1980.

Although he has written countless other works, he considers this to be his first thematic collection.

Speaking about the purpose behind the labor of love, Rosen told PA, “It was very personal trying to put on paper what I discovered over the past 20-25 years that had happened in my own family, and the slow pace of this process and realization.

“What’s great about poems is that they capture the slow flow really well, because you can write a little bit after 10 years and another after five years and then they come together in a book, and it’s like a sequence of discoveries.

“So, realizing that when people talk about refugees like any other, I realize that refugees were my family, that if my mother or my father had been in France or Poland, well, either I wouldn’t exist. , either they were in flight themselves or worse.

“So it’s that kind of amalgamation of current experience and current ways of talking about refugees with what has happened in my family life.

The writer said he hopes the collection will inspire greater empathy among the younger generation.

“It’s a way of dealing with cultural differences in a non-aggressive, non-patronizing, non-superior and non-different way,” he said. “So hopefully that opens a door for the kids to explore. “

The collection was released in 2020 and has been illustrated by esteemed artist Sir Quentin Blake, who has collaborated on numerous Rosen projects since 1974.

The children’s author spent around 40 years writing the poems for On The Move (Ian West / PA)

The 75-year-old fell seriously ill with Covid at the time of the collection’s publication and was in a medically induced coma while undergoing treatment.

He has confirmed that parts of him have recovered, including his legs and lungs, which means he can now walk and breathe properly, and he has relearned to use his voice after a tracheostomy. However, he said his eye and left ear were not functioning well and believed the damage could be permanent.

Rosen said he did not suffer from depression but was going through “depressing times”, which he describes as being stuck in a “lonely hallway that leads straight back to the hospital”.

However, he said receiving the CLiPPA accolade was a “moment of pure joy,” adding, “To see people so kind and grateful is kind of contrary to this lonely hallway.”

He said all writers hope readers enjoy their work and spark conversations.

“Beyond that, your peers decide it’s great, so that’s an amazing statement, isn’t it?” I don’t see anything better, ”he added.


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