Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Spots of Time: Marty McFly and the Time-Travelling Poet

Today’s Back to the Future day. Marty McFly will be joining us all the way from 1985. How could I let this anniversary slip? The first time I saw Back to the Future was at the end of the 80s with a hall full of pupils as our end of term treat. It was on a box shaped TV and if you were sitting near the back it was pretty much postage stamp size, but it was still considerably better than maths.

Anyway, I am using the film as an excuse to talk about poetry. Or I’m using poetry as an excuse to talk about Back to the Future. Not sure. The title (not the Marty McFly bit obviously) refers to Wordsworth’s ‘spots of time’ passage in The Prelude, which is about how poems bring into present consciousness certain memories or moments in time. Recently, I’ve been thinking about how many poems crystallise moments in time, while clarifying something about the present and we owe a debt to the Romantics for this approach. Certainly a lot of workshop exercises ask students to think of a particular happening or thing.  Then there’s James Schulyer’s method of writing about a moment in time, or more specifically, writing about the present tense. Schulyer isn’t remembering or reminiscing he’s writing about now, or his now, as something like ‘Dec. 28, 1974’ shows. His now isn’t ours, so to me those poems feel like a form of time travel and, oddly, also an exploration of the present.Can you draft such a poem, or do you write it all in one go?

This is a long way away from discussing DeLoreans and Flux Capacitors. There were always bits of Back to the Future that got my imagination going, like the photo of the disappearing McFly children; If mom and dad don’t kiss at the dance, then no family and no Marty. In a photo he's taken along with him for the journey, all of them are fading fast. So Marty has to work fast to bring romance into his parents’ lives.
Image result for marty mcfly fading photo

Of course if you haven’t seen the film, you won’t know what I’m talking about. Sorry. But it did occur to me that the key years in the film, 1955, 1985 and 2015 are relevant dates for me right now. Quite a coincidence. Firstly, some years ago I wrote a poem with 1955 in the title, which is currently on John Foggin’s blog and can be found here and is halfway through the piece. I’m very grateful to him for writing about my poems. Secondly, 1985 was the year I went to Cyprus to visit my family over there for the first time as a girl. I wrote a poem about that experience which features on Warwick University’s 50th anniversary poetry page. I’m sharing that page with some fantastic poets, so have a look here.  It also features a recording of the poem. I was asked to take part by David Morley as I was a student there. Finally, I’m also including a 2015 poem, which is very different to the other two, and is a tongue in cheek look at my now, on the Poems in Which site you can find here.

And still no hoverboards...


To finish off, you may remember that at the end of Back to the Future, when the lovers kiss and everything’s funkydory at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance, Marty plays something a little far out for 1955 on his guitar. He utters the line, "I guess you guys aren't ready for that yet... but your kids are gonna love it."If you click on the link below and listen, it’s possible Marty underestimated some of his mid-50s audience.