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498 F.3d 131 :

Itinerary, Inspiration, and Purpose.

The content exists in a non-linear narrative. The flow of consciousness which the
poems are written in does not allow for memories to appear in only one cultural
perimeter. The memories of the first day of school in America and of hanging clothes to
dry in Serbia, exist together. The narrator of the poems mirrors me. She is a citizen of
Serbia, technically, but has spent most of her life in the United States where she is legally
rejected. I tried to draw from an aspect of poetic language, structure, theme, that we have
learned from each writer we have studied so far.
Much of this poetic project, the title of the work, the titles of the individual
poems, the content used, refer to legal language, like that of Marlene Nourbese Philip.
This is intended because I did not want the intent of the poem to be seen as the personal
anecdote for the sake of being a personal anecdote, but as a personal anecdote describing
and demanding an immigration reform, not only for refugees, but also for all existing
immigrants who apply for an American visa. The legality aspect of the entire piece (title,
structure, figures, definitions, documents etc) directly relates the consequence of
politics to that of personal life. Titles such as COMMUNICATING ACROSS A
SECOND LANGUAGE and How To Determine Credible Fear are directly taken from
an Asylum Officer Basic Training Course Manual from 2006, advising trainees on how to
handle difficult situations that occur in the interviewing process based on cultural
difference. The manipulation of this legal text to title poetry is a form of criticism. It is
also this same sort of logic as seen in Philips writing that connects the value of creative
work to the idea of reform. Philip also plays with the deconstruction of sentences, as is
seen in How To Determine Credible Fear, where each deconstruction of the line comes
to create its own purpose.
There is a tension between the constricted legal text (whose main purpose is to
convey a point, a definition: logic) and the un-constricted creative use of language
(whose purpose is expression). Throughout the poems you see the two types of language
bouncing off one another, creating meaning for one another, sometimes through titles or
through text. Sometimes the roles of the two types of language switch places, so that the
legal text is purported as expressive and the creative text is purported as constrictive. This
style of writing in the end reaffirms the goal of the poem. The poem in itself is a tension
between the legal (court/law) and the creative (individual). Legality however, exists in
texts, definitions, legislature, only when it is abided and obeyed. We must remember that
a government is a mechanism of individuals, who have personal bias, who have
emotions, who make mistakes. The breaking of laws, the manipulation of individual
governmental power, (as observed in both the United States and in Former Yugoslavia),
portray the need for Immigration reform.
Furthermore, the politics behind the break-up of Yugoslavia are very dense and
complicated issues that even in legal text are difficult to talk about. In RECALL A
MOMENT OF FEAR, the same person criticizing the United States Immigration and
Customs Services and the history of American Immigration standards, is coming face to
face with the moment she realized the war going on in her country was started by mass-
violence directed by her own People. The language teeters between childhood nave/plain
language and informed language in terms of forensics/research observations.
In the work you see the writer conflicted between a feeling of rejection from a
culture she is waiting to be accepted into and the culture that she does not entirely want
to be associated with. The text deals with issues of identity such as the idea of the
passport as victimizing and that one has no choice but to play the waiting game to legally
change nationality and citizenship. One can view the idea of citizenship as against ones
individual rights and restrictive in that it is assigned to you by birth or bloodline, and
until you come across the tools and mechanisms to alter your citizenship, (which all
require different specifications), legally, your loyalty stands with the state that is assigned
to you by the rule of civic and political citizenship. Only until you have come of age can
you endure the often agonizing process of naturalization, a process that is often
scrutinized as antithetical to the idea of citizenship itself as an instrument of closure for
states. It is this system that has unfortunately thought out the situation of one who is
The narrator is not afraid of exposing parts of her identity (photograph,
information etc.) since she has spent a lifetime of doing so for legal purposes. It is
because of the large legal influence in her life that she struggles to personify her own
identity. How can one create a coherent self-image in the midst of 2 extremely different
The use of Serbian language in COMMUNICATING ACROSS A SECOND
LANGUAGE is accompanied by excessive foot-noting. The phrases used are all
Serbian proverbs that are relatable to American proverbs. But, the phrases reflect
Serbian agrarian and familial values. The phrases however, reach the some
conclusion as American phrases, but by different means. Within this poem there is a
glimpse of hope for cultural cohesion not only for the narrator in the process of
assimilating, but also globally. This addresses the issues of translation, as seen when
studying Mahmoud Darwishs The Butterflys Burden as well as the issues of inter-
cultural communication as seen in Cosmopolitanism.
The use of figures is one that I have been using since the start of the course
with the inspiration of Wallace Stevens Connoisseur of Chaos. I like the
presupposed connection that language and the use of charts/figures has with that of
learning, portraying, and researching. This connection fits in well with the poems
because of the legal connotations of the text, as well as the goal of questioning
political decisions. I use it sometimes to refer to actual legal text, such as with the
use of fig. or letters or roman numerals, denoting that that there is a structural
order that I am deconstructing (legal text/procedure).
Another form of poetry that I have gleaned for use in my project is that of
composition and design, especially when reading Juliana Spahr, Jena Osman, and
Rachel Zolf. I decided to use my poetry as a foundation for a larger artistic project
with the use of images. Photocopy of a Document in Perspective is the actual
document of petition presented in our case of my mothers testimony of credible
fear of persecution if she were to return to Former Yugoslavia. However, we were
not granted legal status. The idea of photocopying, printing, translating, accounts of
difficult experience and of experiencing it as a bystander and as one that is
culturally uninvolved with the experiences of Refugees, reflects the skewed and
blurred concept of the TRUTH. No matter how coherently an experience is written
or translated, the transition from one culture to another, the use of Refugee quotas,
the repetitiveness of cases (especially at the collapse of Yugoslavia) even the most
believable case might be denied. Although there is a procedure followed by USCIS
and its Asylum officers, the idea of procedure can become illusive, because if
procedure is meant to distinguish credible cases, then why are so many credible
cases denied? This is not an easy question to answer, but it is an important one to
I have thought carefully to refer to the poems as files for what is the
difference between these two written works anyhow? Both are introspective.
However, as noted in Communication can be broken down into two components,
verbal and non-verbal written work on the part of the refugee is not considered a
part of legal testimony. The reader is left up to decide how to read the page
(although more often than not I assume a reader will read it as columns), which
reaffirms the idea of the strictness of codes of procedure and instruction. Then there
is a tension between testimony as created by a third of fourth party of translator,
transcriber, notary, where the testimony is so much farther removed from the
subject than necessary.
Most of the structure of the poetic work was inspired by Rachel Zolfs
Neighbor Procedure. I was inspired by her playful use of several templates of
writing such as screenplay, dialogue, list etc showing that poetry does not only not
have to be constrained but can take on the form of another writing style.
This work as a whole shows my progress not only in the class but in my own
personal work. This class, in the context of the conversation of social issues, directly
opened up a world for me of experimental poetry, using language, structure, ideas to
form a piece of writing. I have always had a journal-style poetry. I watched my style
evolve into an active use of language and ideas to manipulate form and to
appropriate the act of documentation, the use of academics and the personal
experience into a relevant work. The idea of the legal (court/law) and the creative
(individual) also has relevance in my own image of myself. I chose to study Politics
because it was something that was important for my own journey and growth.
However, I do not feel complete without using my creativity. This work is a
testament of my internal satisfaction questions and issues remain - but I know that
I have acquired, not only the tools to express them for my own release, but also to
give voice to those who have no political voice as well as no creative voice. Because
of this I feel blessed.