You are here

A Poem for The Booker Prize by Ben Okri

A Poem for The Booker Prize by Ben Okri

Ben Okri won The Booker Prize in 1991 with The Famished Road. Okri has written a poem for The Booker Prize to celebrate the prize and mark the generosity of its years funded by the Man Group and the exciting transition to a new partnership with Crankstart.

A Poem for The Booker Prize

The beauty of the Booker Prize
Is more than the sum total of its surprise.
Sometimes for a great award
To exist in itself is enough.
To be there in the landscape
To re-shape the discourse around freedom
To open up the terrain of imagination
To represent in the culture
The democracy of participation,
The elevation of language
Above the debasements of truth;
To restore the premise
That a mind alone is sufficient
For a world to be valid;
To start an intelligent fire
Among the ice-cold certainties
To be brave in voice
And to be vast in dreams
To be fearless and to give form
To the world’s buried screams;
To stare at horrors
And give them narrative spaces
To expand the possible
And widen our realities
To charm away troubles
To speak for people
In their broken places
To celebrate our hidden magic
To reveal the bones of the tragic
To give every corner of the world
A fair imaginative hearing
And to respond to the tumultuous
Dreams and songs of the earth,
In these times, and those gone by,
And those yet to come;
To sing of beggars and kings,
Of colonies lost
And colonies of the mind unwon;
To rage against the limitations
Of stories, and to lift stories
To a spirit realm;
To magnify us, in tower block,
In homelessness,
Or in corporate skyscraper;
To remind us that imagination
And heart, tears and grief,
Laughter and death
Make us all one,
Under a divided inheritance,
Beneath the sun;
To redress wrongs
And not to care about redress;
To be what we are at our best,
When the gods of wine and poetry dance;
To give some enigma
For future generations to chew,
Some ever unfolding illumination
Whose value now we don’t know
But may become weapons to hew
Down evil, or just to show
Some unknown, some bright
Aspects of ourselves;
To tell a great story
Slant, or to raise
An ant’s tale into a giant’s mind;
To leap across boundaries
And help us be leapers too;
To awaken dormant powers
With the summoning force of the word;
To take us where we have never been
To create a universal
Community within
The infinite space
Of our collective reading souls -
These are just some of the little things
About which this blessed prize sings.

Ben Okri

October 2019

Credit: Matt Bray