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About Michael J. Rosen
Books by Michael J. Rosen

Michael J. Rosen

About Michael J. Rosen

An Interview with Michael J. Rosen

More About Michael J. Rosen

Michael Rosen was born into a London Jewish family, the son of two distinguished educators - Connie and Harold Rosen. Michael's childhood was rich in books, stories and conversation; on one camping holiday, Harold Rosen memorably read his family the unabridged version of Little Dorrit. Michael's childhood ambitions were to be an actor (a desire fuelled by weekly visits to the Questors Theatre in Ealing) or a farmer. He has strong memories about the way he was taught poetry at school - "There was a ritual about it... almost semi-religious... some people were made to feel a failure because they couldn't learn it."

Michael attended Middlesex Hospital Medical School for a year but transferred to Wadham College, Oxford to study English Literature. At Oxford, he started to realise his ambition of acting (as well as writing and directing). Michael still says that if he wasn't a poet, he'd like to be an actor. Anyone who has seen him in performance knows that he already is!

The narrowness of his course of study proved a source of dissatisfaction and Michael began looking outside his recommended reading to contemporary working, class ballads. He retains a passion for street rhymes, popular songs and folk stories.

Michael's first play, Backbone, was performed at London's Royal Court Theatre in 1969. His next stop was the BBC, where he worked on Play School, schools TV and radio drama. In 1973, Michael joined the National Film School and encountered "the freakiest people I've ever met."

Michael Rosen has been writing poetry since the age of 18. His first collection, Mind Your Own Business, was published in 1974. Although it was not planned as a collection for children, it appeared on Andre Deutsch's children's list. This, says Michael, was a turning point - "Suddenly it all fused: the writing, the performing, the popular audience. It was just incredibly exhilarating."

He quickly made a name for himself with his collections of humorous verse for children, including Wouldn't You Like to Know, You Tell Me and Quick, Let's Get Out of Here. Poetry critic Morag Styles has no hesitation in identifying Rosen as "one of the most significant figures in contemporary children's poetry." He was, says Styles, one of the first poets "to draw closely on his own childhood experiences... and to 'tell it as it was' in the ordinary language children actually use."

Michael was fundamental in opening up children's access to poetry: both through his own writing and with important anthologies such as Culture Shock. He was one of the first poets to make visits to schools throughout the UK (and further afield in Australia, Canada and Singapore). In 1993, Michael gained an MA in Children's Literature from Reading University.

He has also had a very distinguished broadcasting career, presenting such programmes as BBC Radio 4's Treasure Islands, BBC Radio 3's Best Words and Meridian - the World Service Arts programme.

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