Photo by Marta Jałkiewicz
The Sarajevo Writers’ Workshop is a group of young and emerging poets and prose writers working at varying levels of experience in both Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian and English. They started meeting in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, in 2012 at the distinguished bookshop/café Buybook, and they have given public readings. Poems by eight members appear here. Pieces in Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian include English translations along with audio clips of the authors reading in the original language; translator Mirza Purić provides a Translator’s Note. The workshop was launched with the help and encouragement of many generous people. The group particularly wishes to thank PEN Centre of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Buybook, the Sarajevo War Theatre (Sarajevski Ratni Teatar), and Galerija B. Smoje. Please scroll below and click on the green links to read the poems, first in their native language, and then in English. For inquiries, you may contact the Sarajevo Writers’ Workshop at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dijala Hasanbegović’s poems My All and First Aid are breathless explorations of family, origin, music and imagination. With profundity, Hasanbegović measures the impact of memory upon reality when she writes, ‘in a white, well, envelope/fits the whole body of my mother.’ Dijala Hasanbegović is a poet who lives in Sarajevo. She works as a freelance journalist. She has published poetry in various magazines, including The American Poetry Review. She leads the workshop. Click here to listen to Dijala read her poems.
With careful self-examination, Ivana Krstanović explores the fatigue of the mundane in her poems Weary and For Long. Time and the idea of oblivion haunt these poems, though Krstanović determines to stay strong, writing, ‘Long have I walked this path,/ yet I don’t fear the sun.’ Ivana Krstanović is from Tomislavgrad, Bosnia and Herzegovina. She is completing her master’s degree in English Language and Literature at the University of Sarajevo. She works for Radio Vrhbosna and writes for the magazine Pupil (Školarac). Her main interest is poetry, but she also writes spiritual meditations, philosophical texts, and short stories. Click here to listen to Ivana read her poems.
Marina Alagić-Bowder lectures in the University of Sarajevo’s English department, attends the workshop, and provided editorial input on the translations published here.
In Pink Tricycle and A Dinner for Ghosts, Matea Šimić grapples with an adolescence torn open by images of violence and war. Echoing T.S. Eliot at times, these poems attempt to reconcile ‘a Sunday like any other/a girl nailed to a chair.’ But even past violence can be usurped by the fragility of the present. ‘We are sitting on glass chairs,’ Šimić explains. Matea Šimić is from Oroslavje, Croatia. She holds an MA in English Language and Literature from the University of Zagreb. She currently lives and works in Barcelona, Spain. Click here to listen to Matea read her poems.
Mirza Purić is a literary translator and baritone guitarist in the noise rock duo Gudron. He holds a BA in English from the University of Vienna and has translated many British, American, and Austrian authors. He is especially proud of his translations of poems by Dijala Hasanbegović, Naida Muratović, Neđla Ćemanović Porča, Zerina Zahirović, Ivana Krstanović, Selma Kulović, Matea Simić, and Nermana Česko. ‘The very existence of this group is a disruption of sorts, and it seemed only fair for the translations of their works to disrupt the conventions and expectations found in the target culture,’ he writes. Click here to read his translator’s note.
‘With hands like boughs reaching/ skyward I dream,’ writes Naida Muratović. Indeed, in her poems Hands and Made, Muratović enters a mystical terrain to find language for the surreal elements of love and intimacy, both with others and with herself. Naida Muratović is from Breza, Bosnia and Herzegovina. She received her MA in English Language and Literature from the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Sarajevo. She writes prose and poetry. Click here to listen to Naida read her poems.
Neđla Ćemanović Porča:
Neđla Ćemanović Porča’s poems Extorris and Whitesleeves are beautiful renderings of the self and the imagination. Where ‘Extorris’ is bold in its experimentation and musicality, ‘Whitesleeves’ is soft and sonorous, considering death and the significance of nature. ‘Through the droplets of fog on the pane, she/ gazed at a line of trees, all the pines lined up except/ for one.’ Neđla Ćemanović Porča received her BA in English Language and Literature from the International University of Sarajevo. Currently, she teaches English language at the university’s English language school, is planning graduate studies for the near future, and never ceases to dream through poetry and fiction. Click here to listen to Neđla read her poems.
In her poems Black Days and Bags Nermana Česko explores the ideas of existence and identity, and the annihilating feeling of finding oneself unrecognizable. ‘On black days my name is not written/ on a single page of my life,’ she writes. Nermana Česko is currently earning her BA in English Language and Literature at the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Sarajevo. She lives in Sarajevo. Click here to listen to Nermana read her poems.
Kulović Selma (Kaze):
Kulović Selma’s poem Nondum is both a catalogue of devotion and an act of rebellion, soulful and startling in its beauty. ‘Take my breath, if that is your goal/ the strand splitting the soar and the fall, which,/ nunc quidem, filled these lungs with will to light,’ she writes, gentle, but urgent. Kulović Selma (Kaze) is an English Literature major at the University of Sarajevo and a student of Japanese language. She lives in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Click here to listen to Selma read her poem.
Stacy Mattingly holds an MFA in creative writing from Boston University, where she has also taught. She first visited Bosnia and Herzegovina as the recipient of a BU Global Fellowship to research a novel-in-progress. She launched the Sarajevo Writers’ Workshop in 2012.
Zerina Zahirović’s poems noise and cereals are urgent and demanding. ‘Death won’t come for you,’ she writes, only to explain later that ‘death takes feetfirst.’ Questioning this dichotomy, and sometimes growing angry with it, these poems insist upon justice. Zerina Zahirović is from Fojnica, Bosnia and Herzegovina. She is currently enrolled in MA degree programs in Comparative Literature and English Literature at the University of Sarajevo. She writes. Click here to listen to Zerina read her poems.