Selected Poems: Ferida Duraković and Selma Asotić

A character in Ferida Duraković’s poem “Cosmos blossoms, Sarajevo” gestures to a building destroyed in war and says, “Still, this city is incredible.” In all, four Sarajevo-based or -born artists have contributed to this package of work, exploring themes such as home, isolation, loss, love, wartime, migration, and aftermath. Ferida Duraković co-founded Bosnia and Herzegovina’s PEN chapter in 1992 during the siege of Sarajevo and served as its executive director for more than twenty years. She is a major voice in the region’s literature and has mentored and encouraged a wave of younger writers, including Selma Asotić. Literary translator Mirza Purić provided new translations of several of Ferida’s poems written before, during, and after the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. Along with his translations, the feature includes the original Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian (BCS) texts. Selma Asotić, a bilingual poet from Sarajevo now based in the US, released her award-winning ...

Poems by Ferida Duraković

Translated from the Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian by Mirza Purić

Wartime Haiku

A mortar breaks its fast
The bombs are mum now
In the sole tree-crown
A sparrow chirping

Pitch-black night how dark you are
No more chestnuts left
Behind the blind window panes
How long is the night ...

Poems by Selma Asotić


My father’s skin looks like the surface of the moon

They told you shrapnel made men
celestial, that’s why you joined
the army. In midsummer, when weathervanes
carousel, you pull your silence
taut over our house. Nothing bad
will happen to us now, not with you
standing sentinel at the edge
of our sleep, guarding
against the peacethieves. ...

Pachysandra & Two Other Poems

Kimiko Hahn

Baba, open your mouth so I can see your uvula,

the three-year-old granddaughter keeps saying.
And I don’t want to display my crowns to the one
calling me Baba which, strictly speaking,
means Old Hag but was easier than Obaachan
for a one-year-old and maybe I am, given the dental issues.
And maybe she’ll keep up her investigation so
I hand over my mobile: Take selfies of your own uvula!
And that works until she gets another great idea:
How about you find a picture of a whale's uvula? ...

Sharing the Darkness

Carolyn Forché

I wake with a start at midnight. A nightbird striking the window? A bat in the eaves? Maybe someone in the theater of my sleep gave me a nudge—someone I don’t know in waking life. It is cloudy and warm…

The Ceasefire and 3 Other Poems

Paula Srur Carcar

The One That Ran

I see you in the park,
in the darkness of a night
filled with quietness.

I fall in love every time you look up
with the way your eyes stare amazed
you keep forgetting there are stars.

To admire, to aspire, ...

Kata, a novel excerpt

Stacy Mattingly

The following is an excerpt from my novel, Kata, which tells the story of a deteriorating friendship between two women—one Croatian, one American—living in present-day Sarajevo. The American, Yancey, narrates.

Out in the courtyard, Jude gave me the milk and half a bag of espresso. It was after eight, and I still had a thirty-minute walk. I texted Kata but heard nothing back and worried I’d upset her, but then I thought, This is life. Things happen. Kata and I aren’t under the gun to see a movie by a certain time. No one has to wake up at dawn. I didn’t feel like waiting for a tram, and I wasn’t going to take a taxi on such a beautiful night. Jude walked with me to Begova Džamija. He kissed my cheeks politely near the entrance to the secret pekara …