Malika Booker and Guests (Kim Moore. and Nick Makoha)
At the Knowledge Centre, British Library, London 12 February, 2018
In for a penny, in for a tenner!
The theory was to meet an old colleague for a late lunch and discuss a few bits of poems to put in a collection, then move on in the evening to the above Poetry event. Part one got cancelled so I found myself travelling late afternoon into London on a football and evening-out slow-train. Exiting at King’s Cross as part of a crowd to be met by a bigger rush of commuters hurrying into the station. Mind you, the incoming crowds didn’t seem so big as they are in the morning rush-hour. I suppose I wasn’t at the height of the exodus timings.
So there I was, sitting in a branded coffee bar and making notes until nearer the start time in the theatre. I deliberately had no knowledge of her work as I think I prefer to see first then ‘look further’, as it were, if keen. It seems a bit odd. At this time of night I have a history of needing to join the home-goers no matter how crowded or stuffy the carriages. I always intend not to but it seems we all have a morbid mentality to crowd, whether morning or evening rush hour.
Then, it seemed I could feel the tension but not take part! Instead I had an hour or more spare to mull over items for this blog, local poetry events I might take part in and items to include in an anthology. Enough time to do little except confirm mental decisions already made.
Next scene is me sitting in the British Library theatre with a large (300+) audience. My first visit and sitting comfortably in high-backed seats. Photo is promo-shot before an audience arrives……
To see Maliker Booker and two other poets of her choosing for an evening event.
Intro. by Molly Rosenberg and straight into NIck Makoha reading: The Shepherd,Kingdom of Gravity, Bird in Flames, King of Myth and finally Black Death. A set of dark poems from his Kingdom of Gravity collection. All of which hinge in some way on his original country of birth, Uganda, which he left at the age of six. Where memory and story merge I cannot know but the stilling effect of his first poem established his presence and the audience’s appreciation. Images were mostly bleak but the message overall was of stories well told of damning and pointless actions. Giving voice to those without, wherever, of man against humanity. (Nick specifically pointed to the outrageous Idi Amin regime in Uganda as his starting point but actions such as those are worldwide). Yes, his words were often of hard stories but within were lines that caught sight of his ability to create lighter images too. I will review this collection “Kingdom of Gravity” in another blog. (in ‘poetryparc’)
Next on the stage, a contrast to the previous poet, was Kim Moore reading, mostly, from her collection “The art of Falling”. (A title not to be confused with Falling Awake by Alice Oswald from last year). Kim Moore lives in Cumbria now and went to university in Manchester so has progressed northwards in her life from her Leicester birthplace. She seems to have found a place on the reading/festival circuit with a confident, friendly presence and ability to find quick rapport with her audience. Likely helped by her previous life as a teacher of music. ‘Trumpet’, she said, but no doubt at least all brass instruments as many cropped up in one of her poems: Trumpet Teachers Curse. This was her second poem and one that strings out many memories, no doubt, from all ages of the audience with its description of schooldays and music.
Her initial poem was My People and others followed after Trumpet Teachers Curse: How I Abandoned my body to its Keeper, In that Year, Body Remember. Lastly, from a new sequence currently in preparation and titled; All the Men I Never Married: Number 1, Number 10
Her poems started with humour, touching chords of memory and slipped contrastingly into a more sombre one of abuse. You were caught out by the gentleness of her tone and even the apparent softness of words except the creeping knowledge of pain and hurt. Such as. ‘……his hand a stone/that fell from a great height. It / was not what I deserved.
Again, I look forward to reading her collection ‘ The Art of Falling’ and also her shorter pamphlet ‘If We Could Speak Like Wolves’
Thirdly, the poet Maliker Booker.
Confident, bangled, finger-nailed and an exuberant reader of her poetry.
Setting her stall with a reading of ‘Pepper Sauce’ and after the audience recovered, Saltfish, St Michael, Nine NIghts, Eve and finally The Conversation. Pepper Sauceoffering an old-fashioned, old world, form of punishment and Saltfish showing an internal battle at new-worlds massive failures.
Hers was a relaxed performance. Conversational with her audience, appreciative of their reactions to her poetry and thoroughly at home on the stage. For me her attachment to her Caribbean roots was effective and her thoughts for the immigrants of ‘Windrush’ helped link her present multi-cultural London presence with the content of her Caribbean. The remaining poems were not in her ‘Pepper Seed’ collection but contemplations/ retelling in today’s currency of Biblical stories and characters which have been completed or being worked upon. Nine NIghts particularly interesting. Eve went down well as a typical role for today, whether Caribbean or feminist it didn’t matter, amusing and with well-made pointers.
The last poem I have a problemwith: The Conversation. It is one Malika wanted to end on, one her mother liked. One we all liked and applauded. And my problem? I can’t remember anything about it!! except it was well worth hearing. Which makes it even more annoying! Why did it disappear so easily apart from still recalling the satisfaction of hearing it? Now I have to search it out!! My only excuse is that In the applause my mind drifted into comparing Malika to a favourite poet I have read and written about: Lorna Goodison,born in Jamaica, I believe currently their Poet Laureate.
It is not really fair to consider this too deeply here but my impression today is that Maliker Booker is a New Generation, UK version for Caribbean Poetry. Without looking at her wider output she seems to have a harder edge in her language. Or could I call it that she has a London, UK, edge as her voice of origin where Lorna Goodison has a tone softened by the colours of the Caribbean, maybe the climate? Okay, I may be talking out of the back of my head but that is the sense I get even if it is factually, climatically wrong.
All in all an evening of substantial poetry by three people with much to offer now and more in the future. With thanks to the Royal Society of Literature and British Library for the event.
I anticipate reviewing all three authors books in due course for ‘poetryparc’
recently filed on ‘wordparc’