Witnessing the Darkness: Light Movements in the Poetry of Souvankham Thammavongsa
To date, Laotian Canadian poet Souvankham Thammavongsa has published three collections of poetry: Small Arguments (2003), Found (2007) and Light (2013). A former refugee and an immigrant to Canada, Thammavongsa is deeply concerned with questions of citizenship, identity and belonging. Examining Thammavongsa’s work in relation to Canada’s current refugee and immigration policies, particularly her most recent collection, Light, my thesis analyses how she uses the metaphor of light to explore the movements of refugee and “irregular” – migrant, temporary and undocumented – bodies across national and international borders. I argue that Thammavongsa’s poetry critiques the colonial dimensions of Canada’s immigration and refugee laws, and illuminates the “hidden” corridors of expulsion – the detention centres, deportation flights, the lives “forced underground” (Nyers, “Abject Cosmopolitanism” 1074) – that are authorized by Canada’s current migrant detention and refugee determination processes.