(Dis)locations: Shifting Notions of Home
Photo: Andreia Alves de Oliveira
At the Lavra monastery above Kiev
The Dnieper river is a distant blue ribbon . . .
(Maria Winnett, “Five Gold Domes,” Envoi journal, 2013, 7)
Maria Winnett’s evocative words inspired by a then serene Kiev landscape nearly ten years ago seem uncannily prescient of this time of conflict and alteration. The end of 2022 sees us all, whether in Europe or Africa, from the Middle East to the Pacific, living through a time of unprecedented levels of uncertainty and, as a Kurdish writer Behrouz Boochani argues “the mental torture of being deprived of hope.” We are facing significant change, in human displacement brought on by war or civil disorder, and in physical global climate alterations evident in large-scale floods, fires and drought as well as the linked economic challenges. Our understanding of the usually stable motif of home as a sanctuary is being tested, and with this come questions about our responsibility to people, communities and the physical world which we inhabit and on which we depend. It is a world which can be both familiar and, usually, loved but increasingly unhomely. Whatever conflicting feelings of estrangement and homesickness we experience we cannot escape the fact that we live in space, in language and in time, and it is there where our writing is forever rooted.
The ecocritic Neil Evernden has claimed that the artist “makes the world personal, known, loved, feared or whatever, but never neutral” (1995). In 2015 refugee poet Zeina Hashem Beck wrote “kiss me, for where else/ do we carry home now, habibi/ if not on our lips.” Poet Alice Oswald speaks of words feeling “like things themselves, still connected to the landscape, not just a sign” (2000). Home can also be associated with sound, dialogue and language and with the imaginary.
Nobel prize winner Annie Ernaux has written how memory of the past and its spaces is an intrinsic part of the self. Others have watched change occurring around us and registered attempts to adapt, as reflected in Linda Levitt’s interior landscape poem published in our first ROAM Creative Journal which gives lyrical expression to both space, sound and the tactile:
my hands sunk in the bitter dishwater,
the music floating through the kitchen window
when the tiny Japanese girl I’ve never seen
practices scales next door. Exists in sound only. (Far From Home)
We have all come to embrace a new relationship with personal space as a result of the pandemic, one that is now challenged by wars waged on our doorstep. How are we to keep our homes, natural and everyday, idyllic or dystopian? Do the definitions associated with the physical, with cityscapes or rural or suburban landscapes, with interiors, objects and animals still hold?
For the next issue of ROAM Creative we invite your creative submission/s addressing shifting notions of home. We welcome creative contemplations of significant change in our emotional, cultural, geographical and political habitats. Whether you live in diaspora, whether you remain rooted, whether you feel afraid, inspired or repulsed by the world’s transformation, we call for your creative response. Submissions can include unpublished poems, short fiction, memoir, essay, photos or film. Proposals should be brief: prose should not exceed 1000 words, poetry c. 25 lines (maximum 3 poems), film (5-10 minutes) and photos (maximum 3, high resolution, at least 2000 pix). Authors are welcome to record readings of their work to be available on-line. Your submissions, along wth a bionote of 50 words should be sent by 15 March 2023 to firstname.lastname@example.org with a subject heading “ROAM Creative 2022/23 Creative Submissions.” We intend to publish them in Autumn 2023. Notification of acceptance will be sent out by early May 2023.
ROAM is the Creative journal of the project Representations of Home in English-language Literature and Culture, of the University of Lisbon Centre of English Studies. We attach for your information a link to the preceding editions: