Writing in Translation: Robert Sullivan’s 'Star Waka' and Craig Santos Perez’s 'from unincorporated territory'

Katherine Baxter, Lytton Smith

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This article reads the multilingual poetics of Robert Sullivan's 'Star Waka' and Craig Santos Perez’s 'from unincorporated territory', showing how each poet deploys a range of formal, thematic, and imagistic strategies for expressing a contemporary transnationalism. Rather than identify a language of the metropole resisted by a threatened yet contestatory ‘local’ language, Sullivan and Perez cast apparently regional languages as equally traveled as the colonial languages that threaten to mask or silence them. In so doing, these poets argue not just for the vitality and resurgence of Maori and Chamorro respectively; they ultimately privilege neither ‘first’ nor ‘second’ language, neither ‘source’ nor ‘target,’ metropole nor colony, locating their argument for sovereignty in a kinetic space of translation, identifying the process of moving between heterogeneous languages which are irreducible to national literatures — even though they have been co-opted into nationalist discourses both oppressive and resistant — as equally valuable as the recourse to self-expression in an oppressed or minority language. This practice, which we term ‘writing in translation,’ offers evidence for a wider postcolonial turn, identified by critics such as Subramanian Shankar, Jacob Edmonds, and Gaytri Spivak, from seeing translation principally as evidence of colonial/imperial rupture and instead identifying within it a poetics of emergent discourse in which translation allows the multiple idioms and registers to co-exist, displaying a range of power structures and social hierarchies simultaneously.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-283
JournalLiterary Geographies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016


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