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Past Spaces and Revisits in Transnational Poetry: The Sojourning Returnee of Shirley Geok-Lin Lim’s Do You Live In?


This essay explores the shifting vantage-point of a temporary returnee and an observant sojourner in the poetry of Shirley Geok-Lin Lim. Situating Lim’s recent collection, Do You Live In? (2015) both in the context of her renewed migrations to different places in Asia and within a widening transnational project of reconceptualizing traditional dichotomies of the diasporic, a critical discussion of her latest poetry enables us to trace how reflections on memory and place in a world of growing global change and exchanges can contribute to an awareness of the everyday experiences of the transnational. The lyric form allows Lim to express the emotional experience of the moment, and the collection as a whole consequently produces a juxtaposition of divergent emotions: snapshots of returns and the reordering of memory. While the bounded self is located in what Lim terms a “place of nomadism,” the heteroglossia of individual lyrics expresses the multiplicity of influences and their re-appropriation. In her seemingly most localized poems, personal memories encounter – and rip apart – heritage nostalgia to engage self-consciously with transnational experience.

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