Thursday, 1 December 2016

Poet Malika Booker at Brudenell Primary School


Richard Wilcocks writes:
Malika Booker and Laura Hart
Today was the finale for members of a class which has been wordsmithing earnestly for the last three weeks, the grand gala reading in front of the rest of the school, the big blast of poetry with curious children (parents and teachers too) watching and listening in rows in Brudenell Primary’s hall. It was a day of last-minute nerves to be overcome, and a celebration of bold young imaginations. Guest poet Malika Booker, the inspiring guide who has led them to the event with the enthusiastic help of class teacher Laura Hart, was there to introduce them, beam smiles, adjust microphones, whisper encouragement and generally hover at the edge of the performance area. Everybody shone!

The group poems came first - duos, trios and quartets. “Match your emotions to one of the five senses,” Malika had said back in the classroom. “What is Joy like, for example? What can you see, or hear, or feel, or taste or even smell? Is Joy perhaps like blackbirds singing, or what? You can put all the similes into a magic box, a box for your imagination.”

Some of the lines which ended up in the box were impressive, magical even. To point to a few individual contributors:

Happiness is a garden full of multicoloured monkeys, dancing (Ayesha)

Fear is a giant dog, slimy spit coming out of its mouth,
and sadness is a baby rabbit dying in front of my eyes (Alisha)

Sadness is walking in everlasting darkness (Ahmed)

Peace is a butterfly flapping around in a garden, popping bubbles (Hasan)

And a few more... Paradise is light shining in my eyes, Fear is a black sky over a lonely place, with howling winds and rocking trees of winter, Sadness is rain drizzling down a window pane...

All the groups filled their boxes to overflowing, sometimes accompanying spoken words with arm and hand movements, delighting the audience. Then the individual poets stepped forward. They had written recipe poems – an ‘ingredients’ section followed by a ‘method’ section. Titles included “How to make a football match” and “How to make a school outing”, but the greatest impact was made by the children who were still thinking, I am guessing, about Halloween. There were several bowls of eyeballs, in one instance finely chopped, and one girl took obvious pleasure in making a list of her shudder-inducing ingredients, telling the audience “...a hairy rat can be your delight...”

“Why that was gross!” said Malika, grinning. “What do you call that poem?”

“How to make a Hocus Pocus,” was the answer.

Here is one of the group poems:

The Magic Box

We will put in the box,
Joy, warm cushions ready to be relaxed in,
Happiness, a dove dancing in the wind,
Peace, the sound of a magical harp playing.

We will put in the box,
Anger, a vile volcano erupting,
Fear, a cold piece of ice in the middle of nowhere,
Sadness, a ghost haunting you for life.

We will put in the box,
A cute bunny from Spring,
A hot, scorching sun from Summer,
The first leaf that fell in Autumn,
The first icicle that I saw in Winter.

By Zara, Ahmed, Elliot, Adam and Ibrahim

At the end of a substantial show, Malika read out one of her own poems – about her mother who often repeated herself. The audience was invited to chant “pain!” after each line, and plenty of them laughed in recognition. Plenty of mothers are like hers.

Malika was the first poet-in-residence with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and more recently was Chief Judge of the Forward Prize and of Leeds Peace Poetry


An aspirational and inspirational opportunity to work with a creative and talented poet who has supported the children at Brudenell to engage their senses and emotions when they write. Malika has a natural affinity with children, but can also break down the blocks of poetry writing so they are accessible to them, and has produced some wonderful, evocative pieces.      (Jo Davies, Headteacher)

Poetry is very valuable for the pupils. It is fantastic to have the workshop from Headingley LitFest. The children love meeting the poet and listening to her work. I particularly love the effect is has on children’s confidence – especially those who may struggle with other writing styles. All the children were happy, enthused and involved.  Thankyou! (Laura Hart. Year 5/6 teacher)

The session was really enjoyable. The children were strongly involved and interested. It was well delivered by Malika – and she gave the children lots of ideas to start them off. They came up with some great imaginative ideas – which was lovely to see. (Phoebe Parker, Teaching Assistant)

Funded by your local ward councillors of the Inner North West Community Committee

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