Nottingham Poetry Festival 2022: Malika's Poetry Kitchen

Katie Griffiths
Thu 5 May, 2022

The Nottingham Poetry Festival is back, and are bringing Malika's Poetry Kitchen to town. Find out more about the collective and the exciting events they have in store for Nottingham's poets.

With the African proverb in mind – ‘A family that eats together, stays together’ – in 2001 Malika Booker hatched an idea in her kitchen alongside Roger Robinson. Dreaming of a space where overlooked and excluded writers could gather, eat and develop their craft, she opened the doors of her home on Friday evenings to poets and would-be poets who were hungry to learn and master their writing. Later with Jacob Sam-La Rose also as leader, the three ensured that Malika’s Poetry Kitchen, every Friday night, became the place for under-represented voices in the poetry world to learn, share, and advance their careers.

It was an unstoppable force, creating waves not just on the British literary scene – with Jacob Sam-La Rose and founder member Peter Kahn beginning the London Teenage Poetry Slam – but also internationally, when Peter Kahn set up the American branch of Kitchen in Chicago. The collective has grown and grown and numbers some ninety alumni. MPK’s original principle of creating trust ‘despite serious and sometimes conflictual baseline components of diversity: race, language, sexuality, class, age and gender’ is reflected in a vibrant membership that brings an array of background and life experience to the table.

There have been many proud moments for Kitchen – not the least when Roger Robinson won the T.S.Eliot award for 'A Portable Paradise' (Peepal Tree Press) in 2019, and Malika Booker scooped the Forward Prize for best single poem in 2020 with ‘Little Miracles’. Last year, to mark the occasion of its 20th anniversary, MPK brought out the anthology 'Too Young Too Loud Too Different' (Corsair), edited by Rishi Dastidar and Maisie Lawrence, in which sixty-five members contributed work that is as varied and distinctive as the collective itself. ‘This magnificent book is a celebration of community, collectivism, reading, rereading, learning, talking, thinking, drafting and redrafting,’ Ian McMillan wrote. ‘Above all it’s a song of praise to the power of poetry to remind us who we are and who we can become.’

Tytltd Book Cover

Now meeting on a Tuesday, rather than the traditional Friday nights, MPK sessions are held in the London Library. Members take turns to bring to the group their own insights by becoming the ‘poet teachers’ that Malika Booker encouraged, and other established poets are regularly invited to impart their knowledge. The emphasis is on dynamic participation and the joy of discovery. By foregrounding craft, community and development, not only the writing but the performance and careers of poets are supported and nurtured.

Malika's Poetry Kitchen has been Postponed.

Tuesday 10th May is a chance to experience some of this Kitchen magic. In the afternoon two MPK members, who between them have a wealth of experience in leading workshops, will be offering writing sessions. At 2.30 pm at the Lakeside Arts Centre, Katie Griffiths (The Attitudes, Nine Arches Press, and My Shrink is Pregnant Live Canon 2019) takes as her theme ‘The Other’ – generating poems about that constant presence we seem to carry around with us, perhaps a persistent fictional sibling, or the person at school whose memory continues to haunt, or the stranger whose chance encounter has uplifted/overshadowed our life, or an ancestor in our bloodline we never knew but who still whispers in our ear.

From 5 pm – 7 pm, also at the Lakeside Arts Centre, Hannah Gordon (host of Spoken Word London, and founder and chief facilitator of Word Up’s Words Down writing group) will provide the opportunity to explore and write haiku and senryū – both Japanese poetic forms based on three- line poems. Whereas haiku’s power derives from its economic use of language, allowing it to capture a specific moment or mood often using nature imagery, senryū focuses on human nature, generally with an ironic flavour.

And in the evening Jill Abram, Director of MPK since 2010,takes to the stage to introduce and read alongside poet colleagues: Rishi Dastidar, Desree, Kareem-Parkins Brown, Hannah Gordon and Katie Griffiths. The performance starts at 7.30 pm in the Djanogly Theatre, Lakeside Arts Centre.

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