Visiting Poets

Ferida Durakovíc

Ferida Durakovíc

Bosnian poet Ferida Durakovíc has published five collections of poems and two children’s books in her native Serbo-Croatian, and her work has been translated into Greek, Slovenian, Turkish, German, and Finnish. In 1998 White Pine Press brought out Heart of Darkness, her first collection to appear in English, translated by Amela Simic and Zoran Mutic.

Durakovíc’s poems reflect the world of a young girl whose hopes and dreams are shattered by the Balkan conflicts and the obstinacy and perseverance of a young woman who witnesses the bombing and terrorizing of her city at the hands of those who, only months before, were friends and neighbors. Durakovíc received PEN New England’s 1999 Vasyl Stus Freedom-to-Write Award for her “bold decision to keep the PEN Center in Sarajevo open throughout the war, providing every kind of assistance imaginable to writers there” and for “choosing to write-choosing to resist silence and to answer the devastation of war with expression of feeling.” She was profiled in poet Christopher Merrill’s recent prose work Only The Nails Remain: Scenes From The Balkan Wars and “ABC Nightline” featured a portrait of the poet and her besieged city, directed by Phil Alden Robinson (“Sneakers” and “Field of Dreams”). Durakovíc was also awarded the Hellman-Hammet Grant for Free Expression. She lives in Sarajevo with her husband and young daughter.

Select Poems

Please: just let something even worse happen.
Let the wind move among the leaves of grass,
or let the leaves of grass move in the wind.
Just let water, or scum from the water, move.
Let us fear nothing, queen, let us rejoice
over something, at the very least, drought…

Lord, just let it not be
drop by drop from the tap,
tic by tac from the clock,
day by day from our hardened hearts.

Harken: the grass is growing…
Listen: a bread crumb screams underfoot…
The pressed heart of a rose awakens a sob…
The quiet, unknown, and tiny beings swell
to life.

My queen, put your ear to the ground:
The voice of volcanic powers gives you a sign!
A wise one knows what to do with all that wealth.
But what do any of us really know?

Grass, crumb, rose, living earth:
teach us how to rise toward heaven
without tearing the body apart.

From HEART OF DARKNESS (White Pine Press, 1998)

A rose screamed, dying in sleep,
and from that a July day
was born.

The heart of a lonesome
little spider trembled in
the corner of a deaf room.

Carpets, and clumsy, dusty
things abandoned the house,
carrying within themselves
life, stuffy and long.

And love,
stuffy and long, kept falling
out of old letters and books,
onto the blistering highway
until, in a cloud of stuffy
dust, at the touchingly
ugly exit from town,
the heavy truck vanished.

From HEART OF DARKNESS (White Pine Press, 1998)

I’ve gathered the remains of my soul,
atom by atom, and what have I found?
Everything present resembles
a cracked bowl of salt.

I practice for the big leap,
my golden dream. Stars!
Close to me because I strive to get above them.

I’m not a scream, or a fire.
It all happens more quietly
if condensed in a metaphor:
How it is to get fat and think
of a boil ripening on the sole
in autumn.

Then they are equally
distant: coffee in a cup,
an antelope, the space above the stars-
each step must make sense because it hurts.

I separate friends from wounds
and save them for tomorrow.
In the meantime I doze in the cradle
which my mother always drags
from room to room, whispering:
Hush little baby, hush.

From HEART OF DARKNESS (White Pine Press, 1998)

Poetry Center Reading

Fall 1999