Today is the second day of the year long #Afterhours project and I am excited and nervous at the task ahead: to rewrite my childhood through* British poetry, by writing poems after/in-response to poem published between the years 1984 and 20012, from when I was born to when I turned 18.
I was born to a Muslim father and Christian mother. As I child I regularly attended Mosques and Churches and from an early age, learnt to balance these faiths. It also meant religion became, and has remained, fluid to me. I believe God exists but do not believe one order of believe is truer than another. I’ve also begun to look for signs and wonders, little clues set out by the Universe (or whatever you’d like to call it) that I’m doing what I’m supposed to. Last Sunday for instance, I read poems at a tiny theatre in Exeter. I walked into the room and found a board game called Othello (one of my favourite plays, never knew the game existed!) and a novel by Terry Pratchett whose books got me into reading and writing. The only available chair in the front row was numbered 23 and I’d spent the hours previous working on a poem involving Michael Jordan (23 was his number) and the day before, I’d sprained my ankle playing basketball. Now, these might just seem like coincidences… but three of them?
Why do I mention this? Signs. Tom Leonard’s book Intimate Voices, containing the first poem I will re-write for #Afterhours was first published in 1984, the year I was born. The book was republished in 2003, the year I started working as a poet. Finally, the poem I will re-write, the title itself ‘Unrelated Incidents’ echoes this attempt of mine to find meaning from these unrelated incidents, and echoes what we do when we write poetry: to group together unrelated incidents that they are greater than the sum of their parts, which begs (to return to the top) a kind of religious faith.