To be Unhomed: Reading and Writing (as) Wretched Strangers (Transreading)

To be Unhomed: Reading and Writing (as) Wretched Strangers (Transreading)

Writing into the difficulty of belonging

‘We search for one land, we find another.’
– Hélène Cixous, Stigmata 

‘Narratives are one sort of trace that we leave in the world.  
All our literatures are leavings.’ 
– Gary Snyder, The Practice of the Wild

The Ancient Greeks defined strangers (xenos) three ways: as one strange to or unacquainted with a thing, as one bound by a tie of hospitality, or as a wanderer, foreigner, refugee. But as Gilbert and Houen suggest, ‘we walk the same flood’. How might we shape and tend to that flood, and the criticism it engenders? This course looks at poems and innovative writing in Wretched Strangers, a groundbreaking anthology marking the vital contribution of non-UK-born writers to British poetry that was published on the 2nd anniversary of the UK’s referendum on membership in the European Union. Through exploratory readings and our own process of composition, we’ll discover that the nature of verse is to innovate and stray beyond limitations, that a poem is never final or fixed, and that the instability of our physical places offer transformative potential. We’ll investigate the problematic concept of dwelling and experiment with form and content, ‘coming back to what escapes … to draw the instant’ (Cixous). We’ll look at the function of the line itself, each in isolation, and will read poetry alongside excerpts of theoretical material that questions space, place and belonging. Finally, we’ll keep a notebook to record our experiences and the voices of those around us, feeding the material back into our work. Coursework may explore themes such as displacement and remaining in place, marginalization and our own marginalia, myth-making, the ‘excessive’ other, fevers, loss and erasure, exile and recovery.

5 fortnightly sessions over 10 weeks. No live chats. Suitable for UK & International students.

Transreading courses – co-curated with Elzbieta Wójcik-Leese – invite us to read poems brought to English by translation, English-language poems inhabiting other cultures, and multilingual poems whose English hosts other tongues. We translate texts and/or compose new poems in response to our readings; in this process of trans-reading and trans-writing we open our poetries to the multi-literate world.

Wretched Strangers will be an assigned set text on this course.

More information about how all our online courses work can be found on the Online Courses page.

About Wanda O’Connor View Profile

Wanda O’Connor tutors Creative and Critical Writing at Cardiff University and co-organizes the innovative poetry reading series Cardiff Poetry Experiment. Recent writing is available in anthologies Wretched Strangers (Boiler House Press, 2018), The World Speaking Back: to Denise Riley (Boiler House Press, 2018), Bad Kid Catullus (Sidekick Books, 2017), and The Best Canadian Poetry (Tightrope Books, 2014), and in several journals including Molly Bloom, Asymptote, Magma, and Poetry Wales. Her poetry came second in the Thomas Morton Memorial Prize in Literary Excellence, and her pamphlet, damascene road passaggio is available to order through Above/Ground Press.

‘The tutor on the last Poetry School course I attended was outstanding – well prepared, socially skilled, self-aware and good at holding the group together. Her classes were a joy – reawakening my enthusiasm for writing.’

– Summer 2018 survey response

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