A Theme of Migration in The Poems of Peter Skrzynecki and Warsan Shire

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About this sample


Words: 992 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Aug 6, 2021

Words: 992|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Aug 6, 2021

Poetry is an effective tool to represent the migrant voice, illustrating the sacrifice and estrangement many migrants face to assimilate into a new country. Peter Skrzynecki's ‘Migrant Hostel Parkes 1951' and Warsan Shire's ‘Home’ explores how poetry successfully voices the experiences of migrants, composed through a skilful selection of poetic techniques and a thorough exploration on migration.

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Peter Skrzynecki's ‘Migrant Hostel Parkes 1951’ expounds the struggle for identity and belonging of post-World War 2 migrants, detailing their experience staying in a migrant hostel. He utilises his experience 'for over two years' living in Parkes Migration Center to portray the feelings of uncertainty and alienation the migrants felt. The poet reflects on feelings of 'sensing a change' to “whose tracks we should follow, accentuating their recollection of similar experiences of concentration camps in Europe through ‘sudden departments from adjoining blocks’. The metaphor, ‘No one kept count of all the comings and goings' dehumanizes them by referring to them as numbers rather than individuals. Skrzynecki recalls through enjambment that ‘Nationalities sought each other out instinctively’. This indicates that due to a lack of familiarity, the migrants possessed an instinct to seek individuals with similar backgrounds to forge a sense of belonging. Moreover, it's noted through their recognition of other people's nationalities “by memories of hunger and hate”, referencing their former selves in World War 2. Finally, he amplifies the negative, depressing mood of the poem through the final line “To pass in and out of lives; That had only just begun, or were dying”, with contrasts of ‘in' and ‘out' highlighting their devastation of internment. As a result, it draws back to the dislocation the migrants felt, as the resulting emotional impact affected their hopes and fragility in starting a new life in Australia. Words such as “blocks'', ''sealed' and “hate” create imagery of coldness and hostility. Similes of “like a homing pigeon circling to get its bearings” and “like birds of passages' compellingly describe the migrant's position in Australia. Migratory birds travel their entire lives, looking for new homes in foreign lands. It symbolises their journey to Australia isn't only a physical one, but inner as well, as the feeling of shame soon arises due to their confinement ‘As it rose and fell as a finger pointed in reprimand or shame.', mocking their treacherous journey across the horizon to a society where they are unwelcomed. This portrays them as ‘stateless' and unable to gain an identity as Australian. Thus, although they’re legally recognized as Australia citizens, the alienation received in the hostel meant that they’ll never be able to truly integrate into the Australian way of life.

Warsan Shire's ‘Home’ effectively portrays the migrant voice through reminiscing on the terrifying treatment of refugees and one's resilience for survival. She documents the horrors that plagued Somalian refugees in searching for a new home and highlights the extent they must take for their safety. Repetitions of ‘no one' were eminently used in each stanza, emphasizing the fact that ‘no one leaves their home unless' the very place they've grown up has become a hellscape. Shire astutely utilizes this phrase through repetition motif to affirm the struggle of refugees against wars in their country. The line, ‘when you see the whole city running as well’ asserts the truth that everybody is affected by bloodsheds of war, reflecting the Somalians desperate ‘run for the border'. Furthermore, the simile in ‘Home is like a barrel of a gun' references that ‘home’ became so volatile that even teenagers are forced to defend with ‘a gun bigger than his body'. The poet cleverly compares the decision between embarking on the crossing as better than staying, stating that one doesn't ‘put their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.’ This indicates the severity of Somalia's wars, which justifies the refugee's actions to flee since ‘the miles travelled means something more than a journey.’ Moreover, ‘home' is masterfully personified as an entity that ‘won't let you stay' but ‘chases you', signifying its intention to save its inhabitants from the terror it's become. Shire compares her homeland to ‘the mouth of a shark'. Just as a fish would feel at risk in the mouth of a predator, so do refugees feel at risk living in a place where their lives are threatened daily. Even if some of them express reluctance in leaving, they see no sense in remaining in the shark’s mouth any longer than they need to. Words such as “burn”, “ache' and “beaten' help create a desperate, harrowing tone as Shire details the hardship her people chose to be in, as they’d rather sacrifice their well-being rather than being killed. Despite this, Shire presents the refugees preserving their country's culture as a means of cultural identity, ‘carry the anthem under your breath' signifies their preservation of culture and patriotism, regardless of outside forces desecrating their home. Moreover, it plays into themes of survival, due to their resilience against all odds: from “feeding on newspapers to “crawls under the fence'. This resistance to assimilation reflects their will to survive and hope for a better future for their children, where there’ll be no more' strip searches where your body is left aching’, where their children will be able to embrace their traditions without being engulfed in ‘a city of fire'.

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Overall, the migrant voice has been effectively portrayed through poetry. Skrzynecki’s ‘Migrant Hostel Parkes 1951’ reminds us of the alienation post-World War 2 European migrants face in the confinement of a migrant hostel. Within each line, Shire's ‘Home' dexterously creates a moving account of Somalian refugees' escape from the clutches of war and the idea that home is where one can feel a connection to, feeling an invisible but powerful connection towards it regardless of its present danger. Both poems have compellingly portrayed the migrant's voice in seeking a cultural identity and sense of belonging, reminding the world of those who’ve forged nature, discrimination and conflict to established a new life. 

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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A Theme Of Migration In The Poems Of Peter Skrzynecki And Warsan Shire. (2021, August 06). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 25, 2024, from
“A Theme Of Migration In The Poems Of Peter Skrzynecki And Warsan Shire.” GradesFixer, 06 Aug. 2021,
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