The Refugee’s Tale: The Story of the Story
Keywords:Refugee Tales, collaboration, fiction, poetry
This essay explores the collaborative process of creating the poem ‘The Refugee’s Tale’, which was initially read at a live event and subsequently published in the first Refugee Tales anthology (Comma Press, 2016). It presents the metatextual process of interviewing the refugee to obtain their story, ‘The Refugee’s Tale’ itself, and the multifaceted aspects of the creative composition of the long poem. It examines a variety of literary and ethical challenges from the perspective of a participating writer: the imperative to do justice to the politics of the Refugee Tales movement as a whole and the individual tale in particular whilst concurrently attending to the aesthetics in creating a literary work; the intersections and differences between creating life writing and fiction; the decision to utilize the mnemonic properties of a particular European poetic form, the heroic crown, to tell the tale of a North African woman; the avoidance of pornography of pain; and, fundamentally, questions of voice – generating it, giving it, lending it, and silencing it. The author concludes that the merits of this collaborative process, the pairing of refugees with literary writers to craft and recite their life story, is the most effective way to capture the public imagination and enable those silenced voices to be heard.
Copyright (c) 2023 Patience Agbabi
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