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#Afterhours Blog 10 | 16-Apr-15

15/04/15

Today I began working on the ninth 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 in Nigeria to when I turned 18 in London.

Till this day, the director of the National Theatre of Libya calls me a 'Gaddafi supporter'. We met at a breakfast table a few years ago shortly before a book festival in Tripoli. It was the first since the fall of Gaddafi and I was invited to read poems, talk about being a published poet and about my work in theatre. Breakfast was in the hotel I stayed at, where during the night we'd hear rapid gunfire and watch car chases through the streets, tyres skidding in the engine smoke and moonlight. In the morning, we'd explore the bullet holes in the walls and gather spent shells. Heavily armed French and American security details contracted to guard oil fields and refineries breakfasted with us, guns glinting among the croissants and fresh orange juice. Months later, I'd hear that the entire front of the building was rocketed by rebels, smoked out, destroyed, but at the time it was peaceful and I was standing my ground about Colonel Gaddafi. The director thought I was crazy.

I still stand my ground about Gaddafi. One of the reasons is this by Simon Armitage, a poem called 'Poem'. I love it is deceptive simplicity and how perfectly it paints a balanced man. During breakfast it was on my mind. My intention was and still is to write a poem after this about Gaddafi; to show how he did horrible things, but also the most incredible things for his land and for his people with more incredible pan-African plans in the works, before his dethronement and murder. I explained my intentions to the director and he said he'd consider publishing it and that I should send it when it was ready. This is one of the many ways in which poetry works. It shows other ways of being. It allows for diplomacy and negotiation, between oneself, one's beliefs and the spaces we inhabit.

'Poem' was published in 1992, in Armitage's Kid which, I reread this morning looking for a poem for #Afterhours. I rediscovered 'Not The Furniture Game.' For a number of poets who work in education, this poem is a gift that keeps giving. It is boundlessly inventive and energetic, kids dig the language and the turn at the end. It is perfect for #Afterhours. I can stick closely to its structure, yet write whatever the hell I want.

I want to write about malaria, how it affected my mother and how it affected us in 1992.


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 toinfo@poetrylibrary.org.uk or tweet us@wetblackbough @InuaEllams


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