Black Lawrence Press sent me Vedran Husic’s story collection Basements and Other Museums this week, and I feel moved by his work. The stories revolve around experiences of the Bosnian war and emigration to the States. The writing is packed with wise observations, mystery, lyricism, and dark humor. Here’s a striking passage from the story “Deathwinked” (available in its entirety on Electric Literature) about the city of Mostar:
Mostar, my city, you are far from me now, but I peek through the spyglass and you appear so near. In my third floor apartment, in the neverdesperate America of my childhood dreams, at my desk, armed with pencil and paper, sensitive as a landmine, fumbling similes like live grenades, I, the young, triple-tongued poet, write down the name of my birthcity like the name of a former lover. Mostar. Mostar, my city, stunned quiet. They took the Most, threw it into the river and made you unnamable. My city, one night you went dark all around me. You trembled and could not be embraced. The bombs fell on you, near-constant and heartbeatloud. I recommend war-tourism to any artist, poet especially, a month or so of up-close-death, a month, or twenty-three, of dark-houred explosions in a world maddened by sirens. You’ll never lack material, or have to account for sudden mood swings, and you’ll never lose at those drunken games between friends, intimate games, those poetic games of whosufferedmost.
I keep slowing down to read and reread passages like this one, even though their rhythms urge me forward. I want to visualize the narrator’s images faithfully while allowing space for the memories they conjure up for me.
The most recent essay I wrote is about Bosnia. It will appear in The Rumpus in a couple of months. It describes my return to Sarajevo eleven years after my family’s war-time departure. Writing it brought up the city’s streets for me, its pockmarked buildings. It brought up my grandmother’s old apartment in the Grbavica neighborhood. I felt restored after finishing the piece, and more aware of how rich the past had been. I feel honored, and a bit nervous, to share it in The Rumpus. I will post a link here once it’s live.
Good news also came from the lovely Denver Quarterly. They will publish one of my poems in their upcoming issue. I will share a link here too, once the issue is available.
This past fall, lots of starts and stops broke my writing flow, but when winter came, things evened out. Most recently, I completed an essay about visiting my native Bosnia. The visit took place about ten years after my family left Bosnia due to the war in the Balkans. The essay unearthed lots of buried memories, and it is surprisingly filled with lushness and sunlight.
Currently, I’m working on a short story about a young woman’s sexual awakening—it is darker in nature than the essay—and I look forward each day to uncovering more and more about my character.
When it comes to publications, my short story, “On the Dalmatian Coast,” was reprinted this fall in the anthology Everywhere Stories III by Press 53. I was so excited to give this piece new life. Each of the stories in this volume takes place on a different spot on the planet or in a different state in the United States. I’m grateful to Editor Cliff Garstang for all of his meticulous work.
The lovely Baltimore Review also just gathered the pieces they published in their online issues this past year into a print issue. I was delighted to receive my copy this week. The issue is thick and packed with good work. My short story, “Peephole,” is included in its pages and also remains available online on the BR website. Finally, I’m excited to have two poems forthcoming from New Ohio Review and Moon City Review this spring.
I’m so looking forward to working on new projects and connecting with other writers in 2019. Happy New Year!
I am excited to announce that my flash piece, “Crumbs and Porcelain Cup,” was recently published in issue 69 of beautiful Bayou Magazine. This was my favorite flash piece to write. I am making the story available on my website. Hope you enjoy it!
I am delighted to have my short story, “Peephole,” in the new issue of The Baltimore Review, alongside the work of some incredible writers. Check out the entire issue if you can. It’s available online. The day it came out, I spent half the night reading it. I have admired The Baltimore Review for some time—the work they publish is original and well crafted—and I feel honored to be included in their spring issue.
I was also happy to hear last week that Moon City Review will be publishing my poem, “As God Intended,” in their 2019 issue, which will debut at the AWP Conference in Portland next year. The poem is about the 17th century nun and soldier, Catalina de Erauso, and her play with gender roles. I will announce the publication here when the piece comes out.
I haven’t been writing much the last couple of weeks, but I have dedicated myself to reading. I’m setting up reading dates with myself on my calendar, and I’m always excited to see them pop up. I have been going to local coffee shops and bookstores and sitting for hours. At the moment, I’m reading Han Kang’s novel, The Vegetarian. It is set in South Korea and centers on a married couple whose life is turned upside down when the wife has a dream about animal slaughter and refuses to eat meat or sleep with her husband because he smells of it. The writing focuses so entirely on the two main characters that I feel as if I’m watching a riveting stage play. Apart from this, I’m jumping around from book to book—mainly nonfiction: philosophy, history, gender studies—and the richness of other writers’ perspectives is fueling a lot of thought.
I saw a number of writing friends in Tampa last week during the Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference. They are creating essays, novels, journalistic articles, short fiction, and poetry, and they spoke of their projects with such enthusiasm that I felt my own creative endeavors infused with energy. We drank and ate at restaurants, walked the streets, and caught up over coffee in shops. I had finished a new short story before heading to Tampa—a surreal piece where the setting keeps shifting to the astonishment of the protagonist—and I have started sending it out to magazines with new vigor.
Giving an off-site reading with my fellow IU MFA alums during the conference was also a pleasure. We read on the back deck of an Irish restaurant at dusk, as the winds blew about, and it was fascinating to hear the new work of fellow writers I’ve followed for years.
This week, also, my article on filmmaker Paul Shoulberg came out in Indiana University’s The College Magazine. The issue also features some great work by writers Chad Anderson and Raymond Fleischmann. Paul and I had an enlivening three-hour discussion about his life and work. He spoke about his films and his reasons for creating art. You can read the entire piece here.
Cold January left me feeling disconnected from my writing—on top of the weather, I had an endless case of the flu—but I’m slowly starting to feel like myself again. The flu even generated a vivid fever dream that I am turning into a prose poem. I have also started writing about Bosnia again—a short story from the perspective of an aging couple—and it feels significant to revisit the spaces of Sarajevo now. They are providing me with a sense of comfort, and they are generating childhood memories, as well.
I have not been finishing pieces, really. Rather, I’m endlessly changing, tweaking, and molding things, and also starting new work. It feels good to work without pressure or expectation.
Press 53 also notified me this week that they will anthologize a story of mine, “On the Dalmatian Coast.” I initially published the story in a small literary magazine and am excited to give it new life. It is a piece I wrote while in the MFA program seven years ago, and it meant a lot to me at the time. The piece will appear in volume three of the anthology Everywhere Stories this fall.
I also have an article about filmmaker Paul Shoulberg coming out next month in IU’s The College Magazine. Paul and I met at a coffee shop in Bloomington and had a lengthy and invigorating conversation about his creative work and views on life. I will link to the article here when it comes out.
In terms of readings, several of us former MFA’s from Indiana University will have a reading in Tampa during the AWP Conference in March. The reading will take place at Four Green Fields restaurant on Saturday, March 10th, at 5:00 p.m. So look to forward to being with these gorgeous writers and friends in a relaxed setting!
I’m so grateful for all these waves as they come. It’s such a pleasure to connect with other creative people and to examine my own inner spaces again through my work.
My poem “Rose Horn” is in the new issue of Zone 3, and it is a piece that weds my connection to Buddhism to a memory from my Bosnian childhood. Copies of the issue can be ordered here. The gorgeous cover art is by Billy Renkl.