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.