– Judges praised Rosen’s work, saying he ‘has a rare, invaluable gift: the ability to address the most serious matters of life in a spirit of joy, humour and hope. Fearless in holding power to account.’
Writer and performance poet Michael Rosen has been awarded the PEN Pinter Prize 2023. He will receive the award in a ceremony co-hosted by the British Library on 11 October 2023, where he will deliver an address.
The prize will be shared with a Writer of Courage: a writer who is active in defence of freedom of expression, often at great risk to their own safety and liberty. The co-winner, selected by Michael Rosen from a shortlist of international cases supported by English PEN, will be announced at the event on 11 October.
Michael Rosen was chosen by this year’s judges: Chair of English PEN, Ruth Borthwick; poet, educator and writer Raymond Antrobus; and Executive Director of international touring theatre company, Complicité, and writer Amber Massie-Blomfield.
Ruth Borthwick said: ‘Michael Rosen is one of our most tenacious and fearless writers. He is one of our most significant contemporary poets writing for young people. In over 140 books, he has championed a way of writing for children which reflects their everyday worlds, using humour and wordplay to validate their imaginative ways of thinking and being, and which has informed his succinct interventions into the lifeless way that children are taught literacy in schools. Even Covid couldn’t silence him! We are thrilled and honoured that Michael Rosen is our 2023 PEN Pinter Prize winner.’
Raymond Antrobus commented: ‘Michael Rosen – poet, survivor, storyteller, educator, broadcaster, former children’s laureate, passionate linguist, gifted humanist, national treasure and ambassador of gibberish. Rosen’s remarkable and incontestable impact on English language, literature and literacy is singular and worthy of momentous rewards.
Like Pinter, Rosen is often interested in dramatising the absurdity of realism with an eye and heart on the underrepresented voices and bodies of our (often divided) society. We are all honoured, as are our children, to have the work of this poet to share with this generation of readers and beyond, to bring them all together. Michael Rosen, thank you, thank you.’
Amber Massie-Blomfield added: ‘Michael Rosen has a rare, invaluable gift: the ability to address the most serious matters of life in a spirit of joy, humour and hope. Fearless in holding power to account, his work is nevertheless a lesson in humanity, and how in times of vulnerability we may discover the best version of ourselves. What a role model for the many millions of children whose worlds he has had a hand in shaping – and for their grown-ups too. We need more like him.’
Michael Rosen said: ‘I feel greatly honoured to have been offered the PEN Pinter Prize. It immediately brings to mind the many people all over the world incarcerated, tortured or executed for being brave enough to write about what they perceive to be injustice. We might say that such punishments serve to prove the injustice that the writers expose, or to show the weakness of the regimes who’ve inflicted these cruelties, but nevertheless, the pain and suffering is all too real and ever-present. There is also a more personal reason for me to feel honoured to receive the Prize: I have been a huge admirer of Harold Pinter’s work since I was a teenager and was fortunate to meet him on some occasions when he too spoke about injustice.’