Nikki-Lee Birdsey

Nikki-Lee Birdsey is a poet currently researching the intersections of memoir, place, exile and hybrid genres in the work of W.G. Sebald and others.

Commenced 2016

Nikki-Lee holds an MFA in creative writing from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and a BA from New York University. Her work has been published most recently or is forthcoming in Fence, LIT, The Volta, Hazlitt, 3:AM Magazine, Hinchas de Poesia and others. She is also the author of the chapbook Free That Hooker (Aero Press, 2012). In summer 2015 she was a visiting faculty fellow at the IIML, teaching poetry. She is originally from Piha, New Zealand.

Nikki-Lee writes: 'For my creative thesis I intend to investigate my own responses to memory in the familiar and unfamiliar context of the New Zealand landscape in its natural, built, emotional and unexplored versions. I am not interested so much in a confessional autobiography of sorts, but rather how memory and its various contingencies affect the creative process. Initial formal concerns to be explored include an examination of doubling imagery as pertaining to doubling landscapes, instability of impression, simultaneous realities or "othered" places, as well as outsider and transnational perspectives. I aim to write a creative text consciously engaging a totality of experience: a text that reconstitutes itself by playing out all its possible parts and combinations, moving both backward and forward in time in the multiple contexts of the concurrent critical research.

'The writer Leslie Jamison, amongst others, has heralded these times as the age of memoir. The success of Karl Ove Knausgaard's My Struggle or the poet Ben Lerner's 10:04, which build a work of fiction out of the writer's life, echoes the impulse of documentation that is so salient and relevant to today's writing in whichever genre, be it poetry, fiction or literary nonfiction as it perhaps reflects (and distorts) the extraordinary documentation of our daily lives in media, technology and connectedness. For my critical research I am interested in the closeness of memoir (or the memoir-esque), autobiographical fiction and poetry today, as distinct from autobiography and confession, and why. What is the nature of the link between these separate genres? The frame of genre or style-bending in relation to encapsulating the content of today’s experience is also of interest here. I intend to engage in research that explores and blurs the line between the reality of lived experience, depicted or aestheticized experience, and the texts that are actively connected to it––much as memory blurs the line between the reality of a memory and that memory transfigured into art in the work of W.G. Sebald, Maggie Nelson and more.'