“Skrzynecki’s poetry explores the question of alienation just as much as it does the issue of belonging”
Alienation is a universal human emotion which can only be addressed from an individual perspective and thus Peter Skrzynecki’s collection of highly personal poetry serves as a much more effective medium for exploring isolation that belonging. His anthology Immigrant Chronicles collates his exploration of belonging on cultural, familial and ideological levels as formed by his personal experiences; yet the central focus of these poems lies in the aspect of alienation and isolation more than it does belonging. When a sense of community is built up through his expertly virtuosic command of high powered literary techniques, as can only be achieved by a master of the English language, it is always undercut such that the anthology lends itself more as a lamentation of lost belonging rather than a celebration of unity.
‘Postcard’ encapsulates the alienation engendered by the inescapable nature of one’s nationality and foregrounds this as a cause of inner turmoil much more than it does as a cause of pride and elation. Being of Polish descent yet raised in Australia, Peter Skrzynecki documents the cultural chasm which he personally faces foremost through his choice of supernatural diction such as “haunts.” In this way, Skrzynecki sets up the poem with supernatural overtones, suggesting futility in artificially adopting a nationality. Nonetheless, his highly objective illustration of the city of Warsaw as reflected in the lack of a main verb governing “red buses on a bridge… high-rise flats” represents his attempt not to engage emotionally with the town. This detachment is sustained and thus he pejoratively states “the sky’s the brightest shade.” However section 2 marks a more emotional attempt to accept his separation from his culture and this is most clearly seen in his direct address to “Warsaw, Old Town;” the cultural...