Adviser on the Edge

careers in island communities: research, theory and practice


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