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Interview with Michael Rosen

Michael Rosen is one of Britain's leading children's poets. He has five children and lives in East London. He started writing as a teenager, when his mother needed some poems for Radio programmes she was making. While at university he wrote a play which was staged at the Royal Court theatre in London. He comments: "Sometimes I go into schools, sometimes I'm on the radio, sometimes I write, sometimes I lie in bed thinking of all the things I would write if I got out of bed. Some people are worried about whether what I write is 'poetry'. If they are worried, let them call it something else, e.g. 'stuff'." Michael Rosen, whose first book was published in 1974, was interviewed by Adrian Prandle of Hexham Middle School in Northumberland, England.

How do you get started and how long does it take to write a poem?

They start sometimes with a memory or thought. For instance, I saw a typewriter recently and it made me realise that you no longer hear them. This started me writing 'The Old Jazz of a Typewriter'. It's a jazz poem about the noise typewriters make. Some poems I can write straight away, others work on for ages, sometimes even years.

What do you find the most enjoyable part of writing poems?

That sense of getting it right, when you've captured a moment, a feel, a sound. You know when you have, when you've shaped it. Sometimes this happens when you cut or change a poem. It feels good.

What made you want to write the 'Eddie' poems? Are your experiences of looking after children similar?

Eddie's my son, so my experiences are similar. He had such a huge personality. He was so funny and frustrating. People would always be interested in my telling stories about him so I did.

Which three words would you use to describe you and your poetry?

'Spoken' and 'Bitter-sweet' and I can't get the third into one word. It's this way of looking at things from the inside out, to get something from a different point of view. To get inside what seems ordinary and writing from that perspective makes things quite different from what they seemed from the outside.

What is your favourite poem and who is your favourite poet?

The favourite poem is called 'The People,Yes!' and it was written by my favourite poet, Carl Sandburg.

What kinds of things would you advise a young poet to write about?

Write about anything that matters to you, anything that intrigues you. Look for things that seem quirky or off the wall. Always be willing to use the sounds of words and phrases and sentences that you hear around you. Everything that's in the air is there for us to use. Borrow it, break it up, move it around. It's there to play with.

Thank-you very much Michael Rosen!

Read more interviews of leading authors by children.

YoungWriter was a magazine published from 1995 to 2003 by Kate Jones.
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