21 / 2005
Irena Avsenik Nabergoj


The purpose of the article is to present the role and the perception of women in emigration as they reveal in their artistic activity or more precisely, in their poetry. From that aspect, the contribution presents the most important poetesses in emigration and deals in detail with the poetic opera of Milena Šoukal (Chicago, U.S.A.), Pavla Gruden (Australia) and Milena Merlak-Detela (Vienna). Their poems are presented in view of thematic and style and from the aspect of longing for the homeland, which reveals as a permanent theme in all Slovene emigrant poetry. The author compares the abundant yearning symbolic and metaphoric of the female emigrant poetry with motives of yearning with some Slovene poets and writers in the native land and finds some parallels and influences, for example France Prešeren, Ivan Cankar, and others. In the poems of Milena Šoukal, the longing for homeland is most frequently expressed by a symbol of a bird with a mutilated wing, or a symbol of the tenth child that had to leave home. In her last poems, the longing is connected with longing for conciliation with the homeland where the poet uses biblical symbolic of the four riders of the Apocalypse. In the haiku poems of Pavla Gruden, the longing for the homeland exhibits in her associative reminiscence of the native land: the scent of its air, soil, trees and its landscape. In other poems, the yearning for homeland is presented through picturing of longing because of remoteness from closest relatives, which especially deepens at Christmas time and in Easter; Catholic symbolic of an overfilled chalice and of a set sail that would bring the traveller home expresses it. In the poetry of Milena Merlak-Detela, the longing is not so much focused on returning to the native land; the author longs for purity of life of her childhood out of the tragedy of dwelling in which she found herself, guiltless and as prey of painful, brutal events in the world. She expresses the longing with symbols of the sun that in foreign parts does not warm as before, with a symbol of lost spring water, a symbol of caught shipwrecked people, and with sadness because of detachment from the homeland and from the grave of her mother.

A review of the poetry of Slovene poetesses in emigration shows that the motive of longing for the homeland is in emigrant situation more frequent and absorbed, particularly if it is a consequence of a forcible departure in the period after World War II, and an expression of fear that the native land is for an emigrant person for always lost. In that time, the motive of longing in female poetry frequently transgresses to poetic metaphor of seeking human’s homeland in religious ontological sense. In a way, the breath of Slovene homeland exhibits even with the youngest generations of displaced persons, born abroad who create in the languages of the new homelands – in Spanish, English, German, and other. Despite changed motifs, it shows in combination of temperaments of two worlds and in disguised anxiety as a heritage of bitter past of the ancestors.