Questions of Identity, Migrations and Transculturality: The Case of the Poet Cvetka Lipuš
Cvetka Lipuš is an internationally acclaimed multi-award-winning poet born in the Carinthia region in Austria. After graduating from university in Austria, she moved to the United States. After more than a decade of living across the Atlantic, she returned and settled in Salzburg. She has published seven poetry collections to date, and is one of the most important ambassadors of Slovenian culture abroad. She writes her poetry only in her mother tongue, i.e. Slovene, while she has also studied and worked in German and English. In this paper, we examine how her migrations and the three cultures are reflected in her life and work.
KEY WORDS: Cvetka Lipuš, Slovenian literature, national minority, emigration, migrations, transculturality
The paper presents a case study of the internationally acclaimed and multi-award-winning poet Cvetka Lipuš. Her life and work have been influenced by three languages and cultures, Slovenian, German and English. The paper deals with two research questions. First, we discuss how transculturality, caused among other things by her constant migrations, is manifested in her work, how the poet addresses the three identities that define her, and how this combination of three identities and three homelands affects her work. Second, we ask whether Lipuš intentionally emphasizes her Slovenian identity in her literary works, and whether this identity is an inherent part of her essence and as such a part of her unconscious. The article is based on an analysis of accessible primary and secondary sources (interviews with and public appearances by Cvetka Lipuš in Slovenian print or audio-visual media). This analysis is complemented by results obtained through a combination of semi-structured and unstructured interviews which we conducted with the poet. On the basis of the data we reviewed and evaluated, we can conclude that Lipuš is a cosmopolitan who stands for transculturality, a stance that is rooted in her life path, experiences, and migration. She has lived in and been influenced by many places, but none of them function as a constant; her only constant is the Slovenian language, i.e. the language of her poetry. Her transcultural biography is also reflected in her poems, and multilingual affiliation is an inherent part of her. As a poet, she is neither limited by geographical boundaries nor by those of language and culture. Therefore, it is not surprising that Lipuš herself stresses that she does not wish to belong to any literary movement or group. She has no wish to be labelled as a minority poet, since this is a marginal category. Cvetka Lipuš has crossed national boundaries and shaped her identity within a supranational, international or global frame. This means that she does not conform to any boundaries and does not belong to any category (but rejects them). Her work is influenced in the highest degree by her identity as a person with multiple homelands. Thus, her sense of belonging is not linked to established political and sociological concepts such as ethnicity, nation, or nation-state. Cvetka Lipuš is also an exception within the framework of the formation and development of the Slovenian nation, as well as in connection with the prevalent theory on the evolution of the Slovenian minority. She has never internalised the idea that minorities should be protected because they live outside their homeland and thus suffer by default. For her, the Slovenian language has never been an end in itself but in fact a vehicle for living, thinking and writing.