A mother and her three children on a train travelling away from Glasgow

In this autobiographical poem, Duffy considers and explores the sense of isolation and confusion she felt as a child when her family moved from the Gorbals in Glasgow to England.

She describes both the literal details of the journey and the move as well as the deeper, metaphorical journey that she and her family experienced as a result of this decision.

As the title suggests, she considers to what extent our identity is shaped and defined not only by our environment but by changes in dialect and culture.

Tower blocks in the Gorbals area of Glasgow
View of the east end of Glagsow, from Glasgow Green

The initial catalyst for the poem, the memories of the move and her gradual assimilation into her new home, provokes a bigger, more philosophical meditation on the subject of childhood itself.

Perhaps the most significant line in the poem comes at the start of stanza two when she asserts that All childhood is an emigration, revealing clearly the universal truth that the process of growing up is always synonymous with change.