The Liminal Lyrical I in the Poetry of Tawada Yōko and Arthur Binard

Jasmin Böhm


This paper compares the position of the speaking subject in the work of two transcultural poets, Tawada Yōko and Arthur Binard. German-Japanese bilingual poet Tawada Yōko establishes a poetics of exophony, which focuses not on a person’s entering a new language community, but on the departure from the mother tongue. Through this, the writer becomes free to explore the possibilities of new language(s) and thoughts. To this end, Tawada’s poems often construct a lyrical subject removed from the action, belonging to neither of the cultural spheres presented. Using the concept of liminality as developed by Victor Turner, I consider the implications of the liminal subject positions in the poems 観光客 (kankōkyaku, Tourists, 1987) and チガレッテ (煙草か) (chigarette (tabako ka), Cigarette?, 2017). In contrast to Tawada, American-born Japanese poet Arthur Binard can more readily be classified as a migrant author, choosing to write ­exclusively in his acquired language. He engages with topics typical for migrant writing, such as his experiences with Japanese language and culture and his feelings of exclusion. 線 (sen, Lines, 2000) and タッグ (taggu, The Tag, 2000) also inquire into the confining attribution of (national) identity. This is where I will point out similarities in both writers’ transcultural poetry, ­referencing the model of layered lyrical subjectivity developed by Henrieke Stahl.


exophony; Japanese; poetry; transculturality; subjectivity; liminality; lyrical subject

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