“Home is a place in time”: Fractals and Chronotopes in the Poetry of Safia Elhillo

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This article engages with the works of Sudanese American poet Safia Elhillo, a rising star in Arab, African, and diasporic literary circles. It explores the chronotopic use of metre, repetition, keywords, and mise-en-abyme in Elhillo’s works to think through the ontological stakes of postcolonial verse. It consequently proposes fractals as a non-binary way of conceptualizing hybridity, linking these to a polychronic logic, where the poems’ form and content foreground temporality as a recursive, self-repetitive contemporaneity. Further, through a sustained focus on how Elhillo creates a network of intertextual links between her poems, the article shows how recursive structures that highlight time-space dialectics cast scale as the main link between the various building blocks of the poems. By linking these chronotopic fractals to patterns of orature that draw on both Arabic and African traditions, the article gives an aesthetic reading of the betweenness of Elhillo’s American Sudanese positionality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)469-483
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Postcolonial Writing
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • African literature
  • Safia Elhillo
  • Third Space
  • chronotopes
  • fractals
  • postcolonial poetry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory


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