Sunday, May 15, 2005

Immigrant Nostalgia

In her interview to PIF magazine the poet Naomi Shahib Nye said in the context of travel writing

"Sometimes while traveling in Mexico or India or any elsewhere, I feel that luminous sense of being invisible as a traveler, having no long, historical ties, simply being a drifting eye..but after awhile, I grow tired of that feeling and want to be somewhere where the trees are my personal friends again."

The first generation immigrant who is filled with longing for the land of birth after decades abroad probably feels much the same. Except theirs is a displacement and not a journey and trees that were friends once may not be there to welcome them upon their return.

It is just this kind of nostalgia that the Carribean poet Olive Senior talks about in her poem - "Blue Foot Traveller"

That world no longer exists.
Yet from the architecture of longing
you continue to construct a bountiful edifice.

This is not exile.
You can return any day to the place that you came from
though the place you left has shifted a heartbeat

The immigrant experience is universal even if expressions are very different. In the words of screenwriter, director Milcho Manchevski
- Today, when migrating is fueled by globalization and fast development in technology, displacement, exile, homelessness and nostalgia are common experiences. "..we no longer have roots, we have aerials..we no longer have origins, we have terminals."

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