Events, Poetry

#Afterhours with Inua Ellams

Last night I went to #Afterhours An Evening with Inua Ellams. It was dope. Now I don’t use the aforementioned colloquialism lightly, it genuinely was a wonderful and motivating closing event for the project he has been working on for the past year.

#Afterhours was a free affair held at The Poetry Library in The Southbank Centre. This was fitting as it happens to be where Inua has spent the last year foraging their collection in order to explore his immigrant childhood experience, inspired by the works of British poets. He did this impeccably.

Bias aside (I’ve been a fan of his for 6 years!), Inua’s imagination coupled with his use of language simultaneously inspires, engages and ever so slightly intimidates me. Who else could take a Michael Hofmann poem about a market (Albion Market on Kilburn Highroad to be precise) and craft an energetic new piece about a market in Nigeria complete with reference to a black-sheep, substance abusing uncle (Inua’s uncle Hilary) for good measure.

Taking the first line of each original poem as the first line of his new pieces, here is an example of the talent and magic that is Inua Ellams (I have only recounted the first stanzas):

Michael Hofmann’s Original:

Warm air and no sun
the sky was like cardboard
the same depthless no colour
as the pavement and buildings
it was May and pink cherry blossoms
lay and showed in the gutter
bleeding as after some wedding

Inua’s Version:

Warm air and stifling sun
the sky was like cardboard
the same depthless tincture
as the walls of each shack.
It was May and one fresh mango
lay stripped of flesh in the gutters
bleeding after a battle with a child’s teeth.


Side note: This may not be the exact wording as I wrote the above based on what I heard so I could be a little wrong! The line breaks are imagined as well – I’m not entirely sure where they should be.

The event was perfected by multi-instrumentalist and composer TJ Owusu playing an enchanting set mid-way through the evening, after which, Inua read some more poems and then signed purchased books and spoke to attendees.

A good night was had by all.




Inua Ellams and TJ Owusu

Jacket: ASOS | Glasses: Gok Wan for Specsavers | Earrings: Gift   [if I can find out what Inua’s wearing I’ll update]


My Attempt:

Warm air and absent sun
the sky was like cardboard
the same depthless regularity
as the office ceiling tiles.
It was May and one forgotten Bic
lay rejected on laminate
bleeding after mastication.

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