November 17 saw UEA live host the poet and all-round multi-disciplinary artist, Malika Booker. In a conversation with poet and scriptwriter Molly Naylor, Booker spoke about her new poetry anthology Too Young, Too Loud, Too Different and Malika’s Poetry Kitchen. 

Booker began by talking about the Poetry Kitchen collective, which is a place for writers to improve their craft and workshop with each other. While the collective started as a monthly occurrence, Booker recalled how people would begin to say “see you next Friday”. One of the primary motivations for starting this collective was to ensure there was a safe space for people to be open and vulnerable, discuss feedback/criticism and to find their voice.

Around the time that the Poetry Kitchen was starting in the early 2000s, Booker explained how the literary industry was a predominantly white male industry. Because of this, “the Kitchen was a place for working class writers, LGBTQ writers, writers of colour, writers who didn’t have any other spaces.”

Fast forward twenty years, Booker said how some of the best Poetry Kitchen sessions have come from hosting the session on zoom over lockdown, as anyone could join no matter where they were. She made sure to stress how this was a community, with all the fees going into the collective to pay for guest speakers to host lectures and workshops.

As the conversation turned towards Booker’s love for reading, she mentioned how as a child “I would have arguments with my brother and I would quote poetry at them”. She also mentioned how she would write cards for her friends who would be surprised at how beautiful and poetic they were. 

Booker’s latest book Too Young, Too Loud, Too Different is an anthology of work from members of the Poetry Kitchen including work from Dean Atta, Roger Robinson and previous UEA Live guest, Inua Ellams. 

The audience had the opportunity to hear Booker read some of the work from this collection including work from herself, Robinson and editor Maisie Lawrence. Before reading these beautiful pieces, Booker asked the audience to note the different voices that can be heard between each text. After reading from the book, Booker stressed the importance of craft when it came to poetry, “people think you can just write a poem without learning the craft, so we taught everything in terms of the craft of a poem.”

The relationship between politics and poetry is something that Booker feels is intertwined with her work. Spending most of her childhood in Guyana, Booker explained how “there is no way I can write, coming from a space like the Caribbean, without the work that I do being politicised.” Within the collective, two questions that she felt were central to ask the members were, “what is the truth of your existence?” and “what is the truth you want to tell?”. Malika Booker’s anthology Too Young, Too Loud, Too Different, is available to buy on UEA Live’s website. With the work that was read tonight, it seems essential reading for any aspiring poet.

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Tom Manning

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July 2022
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