Malika Booker A Graph Review. 66 to highpoints 68
my copy here has a different cover and no title page but first printing seems to have been 2013.
published by Peepal Tree Press
978 184523211 5
A collection of 43 poems, divided between five titled sections. The last ‘Epilogue’ contains but one poem on the last page: My Mother’s Blues, a short elegy, if I can say that, which in an odd way settles this reader into a quiet contemplation of the whole after the rough-riding throughout the collection.
My overall impression, the aftertaste if you will, of reading this first collection is of seriously hard lives for the women of Guyana and Grenada. The harsh behaviour, treatment and conditioning towards them and their girls. And of the brutish behaviour of their menfolk. The searching for love from a grandmother, a mother runs through, echoing round the other contents of death and loss in varying ages. The book flinches at nothing. What it does offer is that behaviour is repetitious through generations; also that love can, as we know, take many forms for many reasons. It would also seem religion has a foot in both camps. Harsh love is often here and it’s recognition and explanation gives us a degree of understanding but a large dose of……’If only……’
This was her first collection and it catches references from the style of Lorna Goodison and Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze though of a tougher breed of a new-generation born in the UK. Malika Booker has focused her powers less on the Caribbean scene but more on the human; family realities and the failures and strength of and required by women. Her Caribbean voices, accent and rhythms occurs naturally and smoothly. Her poems are real, people are real and the emotions follow through to the reader where finally we may find justification for actions and plenty of room for thought. Not an easy read.
I did sort of hope for some softer, mellower poems after a while as a form of balance, or rather contrast, to the themes. Looking further there is a softness sneaking through the outer shell, almost between the lines, of an understanding despite……….
All in all I find Malika Booker a poet who is direct; unafraid and straightforward in creating powerful poetry, bringing to the fore memories and stories of the people of Guyana and Grenada; of the history that follows them into a second and third generation spanning both the UK and the Caribbean. With strong language aplenty but not out of place in her harsh environment. In total, for me, a little too much ‘full on’……. if that’s a term still usable……..but a serious talent.
The stand-outs for me from this, her first, collection are: Notting Hill, Island grief after hurricane Ivan, Saltfish, Vigil, and My Mother’s Blues.
Reading the book in sequence is, unsurprisingly, the best way to understand.
Next time I see her presenting some of her work I will be be in the queue to watch her performance, expecting more sharp sparks, maybe a few glows too that show a softer side to her work.