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Malika Booker

Poet, Playwright, Lecturer, Creative Writing tutor/ Mentor, Engaging reader, Charismatic

Born in the UK. Based in London and Leeds, England, UK

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Main categories

Drama

Performance

Poetry

Languages spoken

English

About

Malika Booker is a British poet and the founder of Malika's Poetry Kitchen, a writer’s collective for beginning and emerging poets. She has an MA in Creative and Life Writing from Goldsmiths University.

Her pamphlet Breadfruit (flippedeye, 2007) was recommended by the Poetry Society and her poetry collection Pepper Seed (Peepal Tree Press, 2013) was longlisted for the OCM Bocas 2014 prize. Pepper Seed was also shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre prize for first full collection 2014.

She was inaugural Poet in Residence at the Royal Shakespeare Company and is currently the Douglas Caster Cultural Fellow at Leeds University.


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Extract: 'Pepper Sauce'

I pray for that grandmother, grinding her teeth, one hand pushing in fresh, hot peppers, seeds and all, turning
the handle of that old iron mill, squeezing the limes, knowing
         they will burn and cut raw like acid.
She pours in vinegar and gets Anne to chop five onions
         with a whole bulb of garlic,
         Chop them up real fine girl, you hear?
And Anne dicing, and crying, relieved that no belt has blistered her skin,
         no knife handle smashed down onto her knuckles
until they bleed for stealing money from she grandmother purse.

I hear she made Anne pour in the oil and vinegar
         and stir up that hot sauce, how she hold her down.
I hear she tied that girl to the bedposts,
         strung her out naked, like she there lying on a crucifix.
I hear she spread she out, then say,
         I go teach you to go and steal from me, Miss Lady.
I hear she scoop that pepper sauce out of a white enamel bowl,
         and pack it deep into she granddaughter’s pussy,
I hear there was one piece of screaming in the house that day.
         Anne bawl till she turn hoarse,
              bawl till the hair on the neighbours skin raise up,
              bawl till she start hiss through her teeth,
              bawl till she mouth could make no more sound,
          I hear how she turn raw,
         how that grandmother leave her there all day,

          I hear how she couldn’t walk or talk for weeks.

Extract: 'Faith'

1

The museum is an empty house, a dead lifestyle.
In the living room, pictures of Jesus forlorn,
an old rosary hanging over the bed.
This how we lived in old days, they tell me.

I understand old ones die, like you did, Aunty,
the way your soul left your body, blank
on bleached sheets, the way these people
left their home. I look at this old bed now;
did a mother die here, choking on her spit too?
Is this her rosary? Did she lose it all?

I visit the hospital a month before you die,
your left toe is a blackening cherry.
Cut it, we beg, but our please are moot;
you are Taurus. Stoic. Resolute.

That day you lost your rosary for two days,
we search under beds and in fruit bowls.
You cry nonstop all night. Nurses shift mountains
of soiled sheets until the rosary is found nestled
in your dirty pillow case. When they give it to you
your fingers continue rolling as if it had not strayed.
Then you, who clutched your faith like a second skin,
whisper to me, I have lost faith in my Lord.

2

I want to write a hymn for you
where voices lift and southern Black choirs rock.

I want to write a hymn for you
Where the sinners writhe, weeping bitter tears.

I want to write a hymn for you
where Baptists priests fling words at the congregation like fire
and Catholic priests throw holy water into the sky.

I want to write a classic hymn all harps and harmonicas,
a hymn where our slave grandmas lift up their long frocks
and trample the earth to sounds of tambourines.

I want to write calypso hymns, folk hymns,
reggae hymns, joyous hymns.
I want to write sweet hymns for you.