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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The exile's experience : an examination of the poetry of Hilde Domin and Waclaw Iwaniuk Kilian, Monica


This thesis examines the effect of the experience of exile on the German poet Hilde Domin and the Polish poet Waclaw Iwaniuk. Their involuntary exile, their departure from their respective native cultures and languages has affected them profoundly, both as individuals and as poets. The exiled poet lives in the conflicting world of the exile: on the one hand, he attempts to maintain his close ties to his native language and culture, while on the other hand, he is constantly assailed by the demands of his new and alien environment. He is thus plunged into a crisis of identity. This thesis examines this crisis by concentrating on the aspect of language as a reference point of the poet's identity. Through a close examination of a selection of the poetry of Domin and Iwaniuk, I have attempted to discover how they express their personal experiences of exile, which problems they are most concerned with, and, finally, how they attempt to solve these problems. Their poetry expresses similar concerns, such as feelings of insecurity, instability and loss, as well as a wish to recover a sense of security. Both Domin and Iwaniuk are aware of the danger of becoming poetic nonentities in their exile, because their link with their native language is threatened. Recognizing the poet's power to find security in his language (which in turn enables him to reassert his identity through his poetry), they both attempt, in different ways, to preserve their identities as poets by writing. Domin is on the whole more successful than Iwaniuk in defining herself through her language. She believes that language is an inseparable part of her, which naturally finds its expression through her writings. Iwaniuk, on the other hand, is more self-conscious about his language; the preservation of his native language as his poetic tool takes the form of struggle. This fact is not only reflected in the content of the two poets' poetry, but also in its form and style: Domin's language and poetry seem generally more spontaneous and harmonious, whereas Iwaniuk's language and poetry appear to be chiselled intellectually, as if it resisted the author's efforts.

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