Brigid Quirke

MA Student in English Literature

From the river to the sea: Imagining and reimagining in Palestinian resistance poetry

Supervisor: Dr Dougal McNeill


No art form has been more influential in the history and trajectory of Palestine than poetry. As a new generation of Palestinian resistance poets have emerged in the global diaspora, we have seen a shift—both in the way this poetry deals with the experience of displacement and exile, and its potential to wield power in the political sphere. This thesis will examine the reconstitution of the lived experience of exile through poetry; the way memory, fragments and images come together to imagine an alternative future for Palestinian liberation in the 21st century. This hoped-for historical narrative can draw on Palestine both as a real and imagined centre – one that looks different for different poets. Going beyond existing literary criticism, This thesis explores how this poetry interacts with the contemporary BDS movement, in the context of performance poetry, Youtube and viral retweets. How does traditional literary analysis transfer to a contemporary setting, where close readings of poetry can be complicated and enriched by non-traditional modes of sharing?

Focussing on traditional Palestinian resistance poetry from Mahmoud Darwish alongside contemporary, diaspora writing from George Abraham and Noor Hindi, this research will argue that despite (or, perhaps, because of) the relentless continuation of the Nakba, new imaginings of liberation are both possible and necessary. The failure of current political ideations to resolve Israeli settler-colonialism demands the need for bold and transformative alternatives. Where, if not poetry, can we look to start piecing these alternatives together?


Brigid Quirke is a current Masters student. She completed a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Arts with 1st Class Honours at Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University in 2017, and subsequently spent four years in Bristol, UK. Now back in Te Whanganui-a-Tara, her current research is focussed on Palestinian resistance poetry.