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 debut, Reci Vatra, in the Balkans in 2022. The poems published in this selection are her English versions of texts from that book, written and revised before or alongside the BCS versions, and they belong to a forthcoming English-language edition. Photographer Vanja Čerimagić offered images as visual interpretations of the poems. Engaging with this multi-voiced body of work by Sarajevo-connected artists, one might incant that line from Mirza’s translation of Ferida’s poem, letting the word “still” signify, not a contrast—an “in spite of”—but, rather, continuity: “Still, this city is incredible.”
Stacy Mattingly
Stacy Mattingly is coauthor of the New York Times bestseller Unlikely Angel, an Atlanta hostage story now a feature film, Captive. Her work has appeared in Guernica, Literary Hub, Oxford American, Off Assignment, EuropeNow, and elsewhere. Her recently completed novel, Kata, is set in the present-day Balkans, where she has collaborated with writers since 2012. She is an assistant professor at Berklee College of Music.

Kata, a novel excerpt

Vanja Čerimagić is a documentary photographer based in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. For more than a decade, he has been completing assignments for a wide variety of clients by portraying their values and telling stories through images. He regularly collaborates with some of his clients and has been working for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for the past decade. Clients he has worked with so far include international development organizations such as EUIC, UNHCR, UN Women and UNESCO. Along with his documentary work, he is passionately devoted to concert and performing art photography.

More about his work can be found at

Featured Artwork: Photos by Vanja Čerimagić