Michael Rosen, former Children’s Laureate (2007 – 2009), poet and author of more than 200 books for children and adults has been awarded the 2023 PEN Pinter Prize for what the judges described as his ‘rare, invaluable gift: the ability to address the most serious matters of life in a spirit of joy, humour and hope’. It is the second consecutive year that a children’s author has won the award. The 2022 PEN Pinter Prize was awarded to Malorie Blackman.
Established in 2009 in memory of Nobel-Laureate playwright Harold Pinter, the PEN Pinter Prize is awarded annually to a writer of outstanding literary merit resident in the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Commonwealth or former Commonwealth who, in the words of Pinter’s Nobel Prize speech, casts ‘an unflinching, unswerving’ gaze upon the world and shows a ‘fierce intellectual determination […] to define the real truth of our lives and our societies’.
Rosen 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’ said judge and chair of English PEN Ruth Borthwick.
Alongside Borthwick on this year’s judging panel were poet and educator Raymond Antrobus, and writer and theatre director Amber Massie-Blomfield.
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.’
Massie-Blomfield added: ‘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.’
The PEN Pinter Prize is 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. This co-winner will be selected by Michael Rosen from a shortlist of international writers selected by English PEN’s Writers at Risk Committee. Both winners will receive their award in a ceremony co-hosted by the British Library on 11th October, where Michael Rosen will deliver an address.