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Linguistic hybridity and a multilingual Australia in Merlinda Bobis’ poetry

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Drawing from literary theory, linguistics and postcolonial studies, this article interrogates the political and aesthetic implications behind Filipina Australian author Merlinda Bobis’ bilingual poetry. By intermingling Filipino – also known as Tagalog, the Philippines’ national language – and English within the same poem, Bobis refuses to give up her mother tongue, suggesting how a self-professed tolerant, open-minded multicultural nation like Australia may fail to achieve regional integration with Asia without the implementation of multilingual policies in the first place. The two poems examined, ‘siesta’ and ‘word gifts for an australian critic’, are taken from Bobis’ first published work following her migration to Australia in the early 1990s, Summer Was a Fast Train Without Terminals (1998). They retrace Bobis’ ordeal as a new migrant in anglophone Australia, from writer’s block and having to negotiate her journey across linguistic borders, to the development of a multilingual artistic consciousness.
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Keywords: Philippines; diaspora; hybridity; linguistic imperialism; multilingualism; poetry

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Monash University

Publication date: October 1, 2013

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