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#Afterhours Blog 8 | 20-Mar-15


Today I began working on the seventh poem of the #Afterhours project in which I rewrite my childhood through British poetry, by writing poems after/in response to poems published between 1984 and 2002, from when I was born to when I turned 18. The poem for 1990 is called 'Transformers'.

'Transformers', by Robert Crawford, tells a childhood story of playing with model trains around Pictish Stones - a Pictish stone is a type of monument generally carved or incised with symbols or designs. There are four trains mentioned in the poems: Ivanhoe, The Lady of the Lake, The Fair Maid of Perth and Royal Scotsman (referred to as Royal Scots). They all operated in Scotland, steaming through highlands. All, save Royal Scots, were titles of poems or stories by Sir Walter Scott and Royal Scots was also the name of the army of the King of Scotland. As Robert plays he catches the other trains, but forgets Royal Scots in the grass. The poem ends with "Mist was perforated with cries and grinding metal. Royal Scots poured from the stones". 

Sir Walter Scot was the first English-Language author to have a truly international career in his life time, and Robert's line half way through the poem "I laid them [the trains] in the loft, peering at them, wondering if they'd work on my layout" suggests that he was struggling with making these objects fit in his world. Going metaphor-crazy, perhaps he means he was struggling with English/expansion/industrialisation/military power etc... fitting in his world. In which case the end, the Royal Scots pouring from the stones means something... heavier. 

If I am to hazard a guess, I'd say the poem is deeply about Scottish military independence, about identity and sacrifice. I still have no clue how it is linked to 'Transformers' as a title. I think of Transformers, the toys produced by the Japanese company Takara, to an American toy company Hasbro, which got the CGI, live action, cinematic treatment, which Michael Bay destroyed in the last instalment. I think of a simple electrical current, how a transformer is an electrical device that transfers current between two circuits, and if a circuit is broken, the device dies. I wonder who and what, if anything, died for Robert.

I love this poem but the only opening I have to rewrite is to think of Chinua Achebe, the first English-Language African author to have a truly international career in his life time. I wonder if I can take some of his titles as a starting point for my poem.

Till next week!

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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