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Nancy Anne Miller on Exilic Writing

Nancy Anne MillerIn a recent article by Afshan Shafi for The Missing Slate’s Poet of the Month series, Shafi interviews Guernica poet Nancy Anne Miller, drawing on Miller’s relationship with her birthplace, Bermuda. Although Miller has lived in Connecticut and England, her poetry is heavily inspired by her time spent in Bermuda. She states: ““I am certain being surrounded by an ocean, on an island where one could never be more than half a mile from the sea, gave me this profuse and profound sense of the force and power of a cyclical movement”.

This “cyclical movement” that Miller identifies with her experience of Bermuda informs her approach towards writing. Shafi states that Miller’s “work uses that cyclical force and power to disrupt traditional assumptions about the linearity of the lyric poem, challenging the domination of ‘what Woolf would refer to as the masculine sentence’”. In the interview, Miller explains that her poems are motivated by an impulse to resist the uniformity of meaning that exists in much of today’s poetry. Instead, Miller’s use of metaphors “make the poem radiate out across the page, shimmer with many meanings”.

Speaking on her relationship with transnationalism, Miller identifies as one who writes from exile. She states: “as Peter Strirr said, every poet writes from exile. For myself, it took me a long time to acknowledge I was an immigrant. The experience of moving from Bermuda to Farmington CT looked quite seamless on the outside…only after I realized the profound difference of growing up on a British Colonial semitropical isle almost seven hundred miles out at sea, versus the Northeast in America, did I know who I was and what I had to write about”.

As such a poet, Miller has an attentive understanding of language – in particular the differences between English and Bermudian dialect. She states: “Bermudian dialect was my first language, the words I used to create my world with and I think that first naming remains very deep within my body. My saying loquat in an accent resides in me at a physical level that a recently acquired word such as apps never will. Again those first words opened the world to me, gave me entrance into it and an ownership of it. It is where I created my Eden, become a part of the landscape.”

Nancy Anne Miller is the author of Somersault. She is also a MacDowell Fellow whose work has been published in Edinburgh Review, Agenda, New Welsh Review, The Fiddlehead, The Moth, The Caribbean Writer, Poetry Salzburg Review and Journal of Postcolonial Writing. She makes her home in the town of Washington, Connecticut.

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