Payaslian, Arto (2018) Industrious as Pasts: Armenian-American Poetics and Capillarity. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

The driving force of Capillarity (Vaun, 2009) is the metaphorical aspect of diasporic, exilic consciousness. Metaphorical because I am neither an immigrant with first-hand knowledge of what that entails, nor an American untethered by a complex, bilingual, traumatized other identity—my experience of half of my psyche is in large part second-hand, filtered over many years by generations whose lived memories I carry. Thus, it is as if I was born an expat, somehow exiled from both cultural halves that make me whole. As Edward Said (1996) points out, “Exile for the intellectual in this metaphysical sense is restlessness, movement, constantly being unsettled, and unsettling others” (p. 53). The structural and thematic strands in Capillarity attempt to transform the inbetweenness of competing languages and histories into a poetics of becoming; a fragmented meditation on the kinetic energy of being bicultural, rather than the sentimentality and mythologizing it has induced in much Armenian-American and ethnic poetry to date. The motivation was, in many ways, to rid myself not of the Armenian language or culture but of the limitations that conventional definitions of Armenian identity impose. It is a motivation to reckon with the “twilight zone between history and memory; between the past as a generalized record which is open to relatively dispassionate inspection and the past as a remembered part of, or background to, one's own life” (Hobsbawm, 1989, p. 3). Capillarity, with its distinctive perspective and approach, also joins the wider poetic activity of contemporary bicultural poets who are, in their own ways, translating and re-translating cultural and linguistic parts of themselves, with the common goal of redefining and reimagining what it means to be a human and a citizen of the world.

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