Former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen has penned a new poem to mark the 75th anniversary of the publication of Anne Frank’s Diary.
The poem is titled Sonnet for Anne Frank; Rosen wrote in this form, he said, because the sonnets have “a certain dignity” and “give you time to think”.
Rosen directly addresses Frank in writing the poem, “you’ve squeezed so much life into this loft”, but that “every time we read we struggle to enjoy/your love of life while knowing how it’s over.”
Rosen said, “I have an unresolved dilemma in the poem, which is that in the diary you read a person who is so alive and so hopeful and the details and issues of life from the point of view of a teenager, but it’s almost impossible to read it without thinking about his terrible fate. So there is a terrible paradox between the living spirit of the newspaper and the knowledge you have.
“[The poem] makes space for the reader to dwell on this paradox, which is in its own way quite painful. You laugh a lot with Anne Frank, and you think she’s having fun at the neighbors’ expense, and then you suddenly have this simultaneous feeling of being appalled at the terrible end.
“And that’s why it ends with the word ‘done’.”
Frank received a blank diary for her 13th birthday on June 12, 1942, and wrote in it while she and her family hid in a secret annex above her father Otto’s workplace in Amsterdam.
After the Nazis discovered the family, Otto’s secretary, Miep Gies, found the diary in the annex. When the war was over, Gies gave it to Otto, the only family member to survive the Holocaust, and he decided to publish it, as Anne had wished. When translated from Dutch to English, the title of the book became The Diary of a Young Girl.
The poem was commissioned by the Anne Frank Trust, an educational charity that teaches young people to challenge prejudice.
Rosen, who has been a longtime supporter of the trust, is currently Professor of Children’s Literature at Goldsmiths, University of London. He was a laureate for children from 2007 to 2009.
In addition to much-loved children’s poems and the classic picture book We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, his books include The Missing: The True Story of My Family in World War II, which was published in 2020 and charted family members who died in the Holocaust.
Sonnet for Anne Frank by Michael Rosen
Since you took us to that attic
no room in the attic has been the same.
Wherever we go – at home or at others –
every time we dive and dive under the beams
you’re in the shadows, writing pages
laugh, cry, eat, dare to love
imagine a better world than yours.
How you wrote leads us to believe that we know you.
You squeezed so much life into that loft
that we lean on and love you for it
yet the real world – not the one you imagined –
no longer allowed you to live and write.
Every time we read, we struggle to appreciate
your love of life knowing how it ended.