Poetry and cultural adjustment

As part of my doctorate studies at the Faculty of Arts and Design at the University of Canberra, Australia, I am investigating creative writing as a tool for understanding the process of settling in to a new country. As part of the research I am developing a collection of poems that explores themes of place and dislocation.

This practice-led research investigates the poetic technique of defamiliarisation in translocal poetic texts. The key question driving the creative work is ‘In what ways can a poetic text sensitively engage with the experience of settling into a new cultural context?’ In a context where people’s lives are more mobile than ever, there are an increasing number of poets who have lived through, and who write from, experiences of living in diverse cultural contexts. Using a number of poetic forms and techniques – such as haiku, ghazal and pantun, as well as defamiliarisation – the poetic manuscript explores approaches to writing about experiences of cultural adaptation in Singapore, Mae Sot and Barcelona, as well as on the changing perception of my place of origin, Melbourne.

The exegesis analyses the poetic techniques involved in writing translocal poetry, a term that refers to ‘a simultaneous situatedness across different locales which provide ways of understanding the overlapping place-time(s) in migrants’ everyday lives’ (Brickell and Datta, 2011, p. 4). Similarly to Jahan Ramazani (2009) I argue that 21st century poetry studies needs to take into account the transnational complexities embodied in many poets’ lives and their work. The exegesis reviews theories of transnational poetics and yet argues for an alternative, non-national framing of poetics, a framing that focuses on a series of localities, such as can be found in studies on translocal geographies.

Through fieldwork in Spain and creative experiments with form, the research explores ways in which the use of the technique of estrangement in translocal poetics could challenges cultural values and assumptions.