Yiorgos Anagnostou, Ohio State University

Immigrant Poetics


How does an immigrant make a home in a foreign tongue? How does an immigrant dispel their foreignness to feel comfortable in the language, a new linguistic homing? Immigrants' encounters with the host society show both a displacement, a distance from the mother tongue, while often simultaneously displaying a project of familiarization with the host language. These encounters entail entering, navigating, and claiming a new linguistic—and therefore cultural—terrain, presenting the wonders of the new and the perplexity of cultural complexity. Nuances, even basic yet historically contingent meanings in the host language, are elusive, creating ground fertile for irony, lightheartedness, and play. In this presentation I will share a corpus of poems in English and a set of bilingual, Greek/English poetic plays that speak to the unstable—and therefore disruptive and creative—encounter with a foreign tongue. Within them, the speaker, an immigrant persona, turns linguistic distance into proximity to rewrite routines of the host society into playful surprises. The poems aspire to linguistic dexterity as they underline the anxiety of the persona's linguistic alterity, coupled with accents, misspellings, malapropisms, and all. Languages intertwine in the bilingual plays to locate instances of intimate resonance in linguistic sites where none appear at first sight.


Yiorgos Anagnostou is Professor of transnational and diaspora modern Greek studies at Ohio State University. His work is interdisciplinary and has been published in a wide range of scholarly journals (see, He is the author of Contours of White Ethnicity: Popular Ethnography and the Making of Usable Pasts in Greek America (Ohio University Press, 2009), now under translation into Greek (εκδόσεις Νήσος, 2017). He has also published two poetry collections, «Διασπορικές Διαδρομές» (Απόπειρα 2012,, and «Γλώσσες Χ Επαφής, Επιστολές εξ Αμερικής» (Ενδυμίων 2016, He is the co-editor of the upcoming online Ergon: Greek/American Arts and Letters (Autumn 2017). He writes for Greek and Greek American media, and occasionally blogs on Greek America (, and diaspora poetry ( His poetry in English has been published in Transnational Literature and Voices of Hellenism.

Cosponsored by the Advanced Training in Greek Poetry Translation and Performance Workshop.