Art with Words: I Know Nothing Of My Country


My name is Miriam Edelmann and in this blog post I will be introducing myself, showcasing one of my poems as well as explaining the background that inspired the poem.


I'm a Psychology student, studying at the University of Bonn, Germany. I'm currently in my third year of the Bachelor of Science and I intend to study Medicine after graduating. My poems examine the themes of identity, acceptance and personal growth in a world that is often changing too fast for us to grow comfortable with who we are.

I have been writing poetry since I was a teenager but only really started to develop a passion for it after my son was born, when I was 20. Between my psychology degree and motherhood I needed something that could be my own. I wanted to create without pressure, so I returned to poetry. It has given me an outlet for thoughts and feelings I couldn't initially place and continues to help me work through them. Additionally, my new experiences over the past four years have given me new perspectives on poetry and have been a great inspiration with regard to my work. I recently started to combine my poetry with collages, which has been very rewarding. It allows me to combine visual art and written art, and has given me a whole new appreciation for design and typography.

I am also bilingual. I am German but I attended an international nursery and school, which was incredibly valuable to me. It has, however, also affected my sense of self. This is the theme of my poem "I Know Nothing Of My Country", which takes a look at what it is like to grow up in a country, be from that country but not be able to identify with it.


I've held my gaze upon many a person I've leapt across oceans effortlessly A luxury my mother placed above all else "I want you to be a worldly person" - She said "Molded with the tides"

I took a DNA test a little over a year ago It took me down slim rabbitholes Digging, clawing at answers regarding my Ancestry And not the answers I was reaching for I left the underbrush empty-handed Never having managed to climb

What do you call someone Who can't even verbalise In their mother tongue? Every syllable slipping from their mouth Reluctantly I'm German on paper and yet Not when I am writing

An immigrant amongst my own, I often question myself I am split down the middle, bilingual I never shouldered the full weight of history On either side Rotting roots feeding a brittle tree

Today, I feel like a milk tooth I never brushed enough Against the others Falling out too soon Perhaps I needed that rude awakening A football to the face A hole where I once was Replacable

I know nothing of my country But that I mirror her

Discarded, painful imperfection A drawing no one ever finished Colouring in



This is the collage I created for the poem. The branches are empty, I keep trying to fill them with different aspects of myself but I always come up short in capturing my full identity. I feel incomplete. The tree also represents the family tree I was never able to feel a part of.



This poem was inspired, in particular, by an incident where I received criticism. I had chosen a module on German literature because I'm acutely aware of the fact that my English (especially my academic English) is far better than my German. My thoughts going into it were that I might improve my German by reading and analysing literature. The course looked, in particular, at novels from the 19th century depicting adultery. In school, English Literature had been my favourite subject, I thought I could transfer that passion to German literature.

I ended up writing a paper on Anna Karenina, which I gladly did. The criticism I received for it was harsh, my German was sub-par. I knew this, but it hurt nonetheless. It reignited feelings that had been brewing since my youth. In my degree, among many other things, we learned that we develop our identity in our teenage years. Having attended an international school my entire school life, I never experienced a proper German childhood. I didn't have Latin in school, I didn't graduate with an Abitur. I still struggle with understanding the German school system. This in addition to the fact that I barely had German friends outside of the ones that attended my school and my complete lack of an understanding of German pop culture led to a feeling of alienation. Sure, I had a German passport, a German birth certificate, I had German parents. But I couldn't really think of myself as truly German, I never felt like I belonged. I couldn't even properly express myself in my mother tongue. On the other hand, the fact that I had attended a British international school meant nothing. I had gotten a British education but that didn't make me British. I belonged nowhere. They say bilingual people don't have a vocabulary as sizable as monolingual individuals, that their two vocabularies are half the size. I would argue that also applies to our identity. We are split down the middle.

This feeling has followed me for most of my life but it helps to put it on paper, to work through it. I think the sentiment is far from unique, it affects all children of globalisation and migration who struggle to fully identify with the country of their heritage. But I take comfort in the knowledge that I am not alone, and that I do belong somewhere. That Somewhere didn't necessarily have to be a country. I just hadn't understood that.



You can find my poems and poetry collages on Instagram @swallowsanddaisies.

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