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#Afterhours Blog 1 | 04-Nov-14


Day #1.

Today is the first of the #Afterhours project and I am excited and nervous at the task ahead: to rewrite my childhood through British poetry, writing poems after/in-response to poem published between the years 1984 and 2002, when I was born to when I turned 18.

In chronological order, I am starting from 1984 to the present. The first collections I browse though, recommended by staff at the Poetry Library, and published in 1984 are A Tract Against The Giants by Bill Griffiths, Mister Punch by David Harsent (who is shortlisted for this year's the T.S. Elliot Prize) and Intimate Voices by Tom Leonard.

Bill Griffiths is crazy! Born in 1948 and part of one of the worlds earlies sound poetry group, I find his poems audacious, dense, abstract and experimental. The book has hand-written, drawn and illustrated sections and though I really dig the wildly playful, adventurous nature of the collection, it isn't to my tastes in poetry.

David Harsent's book is dark. It is about Mr Punch (of Punch and Judy) but tells abut his origins, he is a manic anti-hero but also a court fool, a trickster, a misogynist. I try to find parallels. One of Nigeria's longest running newspapers is called The Punch, and was in circulation in 1984. I used to watch Punch and Judy shows as back then. Can I write about Nigeria as a puppet as Mr Punch? Try to also write about my birth/umbilical-chord-cutting as the beginning of my life? Maybe there are two poems here and I'm trying to do too much? There are possibilities, I make notes.

The last book is Tom Leonard's and within the first few pages, I know I will find what I am looking for here. Tom writes in phonetic Glaswegian vernacular, not dissimilar to Pidgin English spoken in Nigeria, which is as much tonal as it is a bastardisation of the English language. Pidgin isn't a written language, I have tried to spell Pidgin words as they sound, much like how Tom (successfully) spells Glaswegian accented words. He also questions language itself and writer/says/(thereby demonstrating) that:


You have to read it out-loud to yourself for it to make sense. This appeals to my spoken word roots and my Nigerian-Traditonal-Oral-Story-Telling roots. In the picture attached, he also write about the pronunciation of Poetry.

The lines above are taken from his poem "Unrelated Incidents" and I think this will be the first of the collection. Next week, I'll begin dissecting the poem, searching for cultural parallels and perhaps even, start writing.

Read more about the #Afterhours project here

#Afterhours needs your help in suggesting poems for Inua to rewrite, published between 1984 and 2002. You can suggest entire collections for Inua to browse or specific poems from these years. Why not set Inua the challenge of rewriting your favourite poem from this period?  Take a look through your books and magzines at home, search online or access the library's holdings for each year through searching online here

Send your suggestions for Inua or tweet us@wetblackbough @InuaEllams

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