V.B. Borjen was one of the first young poets (writer/artist/amazing human) Heather Derr-Smith met from Bosnia-Herzegovina. He was instrumental in organizing workshops for students in Sarajevo and Tuzla in 2008/2009. Here is his Biography taken from his most recent work, Residue in Public Tea and Coffee Cups published in Lapus Lazuli:
V. B. Borjen (b.1987) writes in two languages and reads in four. His short stories, essays, articles and literary translations have appeared in various Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian, Hungarian, and Montenegrin magazines and dailies. The manuscript of his first poetry collection Priručnik za levitiranje (Levitation Manual) won the prestigious Mak Dizdar Award in 2012 and was published the following year to significant acclaim. In the same year his poem “Momento mori” was published in Hypothetical: A Review of Everything Imaginable, followed by a (still informative) interview. He is a doctoral candidate and lives in the Czech Republic, where he reads (on the trams, the trains, the street corners, in the cafes, on the toilet, between the lessons, while queuing or doing the washing up) and writes, Tumblrs his favourite literature and art and Instagrams his own ink drawings and silliness. Tweets as well, but too sporadically.
Amila Kahrovic-Posavljak is a Bosnian poet and survivor of the siege of Sarajevo. Her interview with Tom Simpson can be found here at American MicroReviews & Interviews
Amila Kahrović Posavljak was born in Sarajevo, 1984. She graduated and got a master of sciences in literature history degree in Faculty of Philosophy, University of Sarajevo. She published one poetry book rewarded with Mak Dizdar regional award and her second book, novel Smrtova djeca was published in 2017.
She writes work of spare and eloquent lyricism evokes a profound dignity in the grief of individuals and a country in the aftermath of genocide and war.
How does the cemetery embrace children?
Is earth felicitous when
This plate of incompleteness is drowned in there?
Does she later outgrow sprouts
Are the curls eaten by worms?
Raduje li se zemlja
Kad polegnu joj u utrobu
Da li iz nje poslije
Viju se klice,
I jedu li crvi
Waiting for death
I am waiting
In ruins of cramped afternoons
In boredom of suppressed nights
In flamed mornings
Deluded by purple
In a world
U purpurom obmanutim
U zatravljenom tijelimađSvijetu
For my murderer
Do you feel my presence in an
Unrest of your being?
In Earth pains
In breaths ripped from worlds
In the eye eaten by waterfalls
And tired cells of spirit?
Čovjeku koji me ubio
Osjetiš li moje prisuće
U nemirima tvoga bila?
U zemljinim pregnućima
U uzasima izgrnutim iz svjetova
U oku izjedenom slapom
I iznurenim odajama duha?
Selma Asotić a former student of a Cuvaj se workshop with Heather Derr-Smith in Sarajevo in 2009 and member of the Sarajevo Writers Workshop had two poems featured in Europe Now in March 2017. Selma is a fierce young poet based in Sarajevo and editor of the feminist literary magazine BONA. Heather Derr-Smith was thrilled to find her almost ten years after that long-ago workshop at a poetry reading in Sarajevo. It’s exciting to think what this young poet is going to do in the years ahead.
When we wet the bed
for three nights in a row
they put a shroud
over our heads
and brought the lead
to our eyes
to our bosoms
to our knees
three times with molten lead
they flushed the fear out of us.
Then a scream
blossomed in the tar,
and we saw
blades of early grass in soldiers’ mouths,
bloodyish colours beneath the skies
and the flight before the swift-footed peace thieves,
suicides who heralded eclipsed springs
with snowdrop gestures.
Night terrors come from the hills,
the sorceress said.
Therefore we gazed
into dark forests,
weaved up the fears
into amulets of words,
to return them to the midnightmen.
But we didn’t know
that down below
winds perish in the vale
which wings don’t cross
and that our fears,
like our dreams,
have got no wings.
We still go
mum and shiver
as blind dawn breaks,
listening to the song of good angels
that never visit
when on an orphaned
November morning a drunken
rolls down your street
rousing decent people from sleep.
Pay no mind
to the wailing of the sirens
and the warnings of asteroids,
when it happens,
you won’t even know it’s begun.
And you won’t be there
when the hunger of empty
and birds take refuge
before the eclipse.
For history happens to
the unsuspecting. It will sneak up
on you as you walk into your
flat, it’ll tiptoe into the lift
hoisted between the fifth and the sixth
floors, join the silent
of wax figures to which you
bid farewells and wish nice days.
And you won’t recognise its face, for
you remember nothing from your life.
And you won’t wonder
what alien presence has snuck
into your collar, for you have never asked.
History happens to the weary.
One drowsy morning,
as you wriggle in your
bed, wind will blow down your street,
sweeping the flags, and a hoarse voice
under your window
will burst into Lili Marlene.
Only then will you realise
it has begun.
First published at Europe Now: https://www.europenowjournal.org/2017/02/28/daemons-begone-by-selma-asotic/
Translated by Mirza Purić
In February we had two incredible workshops at Walnut Creek Campus in West Des Moines lead by Carlos Rodriguez a young poet/writer and soon-to-be Grand View University grad from Puerto Rico. He shared with the students his own story of coming out as LGBTQ and of catastrophic personal loss from Hurricane Maria. A lot of the kids in the workshops have experienced trauma or struggle with mental health issues and really felt connected with Carlos during his visit and expressed an appreciation for his willingness to be so open and vulnerable. There were tears and hugs and Cuvaj se is forever grateful to Carlos. Here are two poems he shared. He feels like there’s a power in the spoken word performance of them and feels most comfortable with sharing them orally–but he also was happy to share the text which I feel has its own beautiful resonance that works on the page as well and I wanted to share the words here.
What I carry in my Suitcase
Like a worker, I can’t leave home without it
So I carry it through the day.
Like a pendulum, it’s fixed in my fist and swings on the hinges of my shoulders.
Like a wrecking ball, it’s the heaviest thing about me.
It shackles my perception.
It keeps this ship down like an anchor
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve touched the ocean floor in the last year.
Cuz’ I’ve been down, where the broken ones surround me with those who could not
be all that they wanted.
Their own anchors hindering their ability to overcome.
I see my self in them. All that could be. All that will never be.
I can see the surface above me, way beyond my reach. This suitcase reminds of all
the things I can and cannot be.
In my suitcase I carry my mother.
She once told me that I could be anything
That I could stretch far and wide.
Go great places. Do great things.
She told me that nothing would ever stand in my way.
And out of all the lies she told, this had to be the worst.
I was always told that the United States was the land of the free.
The land of the visionaries and the different
where red, white, and blue means resilience and strength.
But now I know the difference between belonging and taking up space.
And I will not disown the parts of myself I’ve been taught to shame.
In my suitcase I carry my people
I carry the snapshot to the world that is my skin
My mother did not warn me about the weight of otherness
She never told me my stomach would sink when I began to wonder what the fuck
hinders me from being just like anyone else.
I’ll tell you who I am
I still can’t sleep on April the 14th out of respect for my mother
I can still hear her, but I am unable to tell her that
Because of her I carry worries, I carry questions
Like how does one forget an accent?
How long will it be before I fall apart?
Why can’t I go back home?
How the fuck do I carry these things?
The trying to be better
In my suitcase I carry the people I’ve held
and the ones that I didn’t.
I carry scars
as well as the tools to mend them
I am exhausted
But the day is now done.
I set my suitcase down on the ground
And I sleep
Until I wake up again tomorrow.