Finding my place: poetry and migration

Something you may not know about me is that as well as being a careers adviser and studying for a PhD, I am also a poet. Over the last six months or so I have been thinking about creative writing, and exploring potential connections with narrative and biographical approaches to careers and migration. This thinking culminated in a paper that I presented last week at the Creative Orkney conference.

Finding my place
Title slide from my presentation at the conference

In this paper I examined my own use of creative writing during my geographical migration from Cornwall to Orkney. I started by discussing the terminology of ‘place’ and identifying how place is ‘space invested with meaning’ (Cresswell, 2004). I then discussed how creative writing is an excellent tool for generating meaning, and therefore may be used to develop an attachment to a new place. In addition because creative writing requires us to be specific and concrete, this can be particularly useful for enabling us to authentically engage with a new place: learning and using the names of the places, plants, animals and even weather systems for example in our new place.  This helps us to avoid being ‘inauthentic’ in our relationship with place (Relph, 1976)

Alongside helping us to engage with a new place, I also discussed how writing can help to manage some of the emotional content of migration – in my case this was grief at leaving Cornwall, and excitement of moving to Orkney. I identified how regular writing practice could offer a kind of security and familiarity. I also discussed how poetic form and metaphor particularly may be useful as ways of ‘containing’ some some of the challenging emotional content of migration.

Hopefully the full paper will be published as part of the conference proceedings, but in the meantime I’d be really interested  to hear if anyone else has thoughts about how creative writing might be used at a time of geographical migration. Who knows perhaps there is scope for further work in this area?


Cresswell, T (2004) Place: a Short Introduction

Relph, E (1976) Place and Placelessness



    1. Thank you for sharing this Mum! I’m waiting to hear about if and when the proceedings will be published for the conference, and if they are, then I should hopefully be able to share a link to the whole paper / presentation. Really glad you found the blog interesting.

  1. My first and ongoing foray into creative writing is my autobiography. It’s a big challenge for someone who has been a technical writer for many years. While writing about my life’s experiences that I had spoken about many times, I revisited my life in a very different light and was a healing experience that I didn’t expect when I started. It’s almost finished. Everybody should write their life story if only for their own sake. It is a life changing experience. You might be surprised what your creative writing juices find within you.

    Good luck with your PhD and please share some of your poetry.

    1. Thank you very much for your comment Brian. The challenge you mention of switching between technical / academic writing and autobiographical / personal writing rings some bells for me! I like to think that if I can balance the two they feed each other – the focus and discipline of academic writing, and the ‘flow’ and the honesty of creative / autobiographical writing. I’m not quite sure yet if the creative writing has a place in my PhD but I’m exploring potentials – certainly a great deal of my creative work explores the same themes as my academic work. As and when my thinking develops in this area some of my poetry might appear on this blog – in the meantime if you’re interested you can see an example of some work produced as part of a collaborative writing project here:

  2. Rosie – my husband and I, both writers (and I was once a psychologist specialising in narrative work) began a blog, ‘Riverwitch’, to make our migration from the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides to Donegal, Ireland. Many of the posts are about how it is to uproot from a place that you’ve loved & begin the process of belonging to a new place. You might enjoy it:

    1. Hi Sharon, thanks very much for getting in touch. I had heard of you through your work at Two Ravens press, and had also heard that you had moved (the way word travels in these parts!) but I didn’t realise you had such an interesting blog charting your experiences of your move. It’s great to hear of other people using writing in the process of moving places, and I will enjoy following your blog.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s