Introducing: the Sarajevo Writers’ Workshop

November 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

H.O.W. Journal is thrilled to introduce poems by 8 members of the Sarajevo Writers’ Workshop, curated by Catherine Pond.
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Photo by Marta Jałkiewicz

The Sarajevo Writers’ Workshop is a group of young and emerging poets and prose writers working at varying levels of experience in both Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian and English. They started meeting in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, in 2012 at the distinguished bookshop/café Buybook, and they have given public readings. Poems by eight members appear here. Pieces in Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian include English translations along with audio clips of the authors reading in the original language; translator Mirza Purić provides a Translator’s Note. The workshop was launched with the help and encouragement of many generous people. The group particularly wishes to thank PEN Centre of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Buybook, the Sarajevo War Theatre (Sarajevski Ratni Teatar), and Galerija B. Smoje. Please scroll below and click on the green links to read the poems, first in their native language, and then in English. For inquiries, you may contact the Sarajevo Writers’ Workshop at

Dijala Hasanbegović:

Dijala Hasanbegovic
Photo by Azra Rizvanbegović

Dijala Hasanbegović’s poems My All and First Aid are breathless explorations of family, origin, music and imagination. With profundity, Hasanbegović measures the impact of memory upon reality when she writes, ‘in a white, well, envelope/fits the whole body of my mother.’ Dijala Hasanbegović is a poet who lives in Sarajevo. She works as a freelance journalist. She has published poetry in various magazines, including The American Poetry Review. She leads the workshop. Click here to listen to Dijala read her poems.


Ivana Krstanović:

Ivana Krstanovic

With careful self-examination, Ivana Krstanović explores the fatigue of the mundane in her poems Weary and For Long. Time and the idea of oblivion haunt these poems, though Krstanović determines to stay strong, writing, ‘Long have I walked this path,/ yet I don’t fear the sun.’ Ivana Krstanović is from Tomislavgrad, Bosnia and Herzegovina. She is completing her master’s degree in English Language and Literature at the University of Sarajevo. She works for Radio Vrhbosna and writes for the magazine Pupil (Školarac). Her main interest is poetry, but she also writes spiritual meditations, philosophical texts, and short stories. Click here to listen to Ivana read her poems.


Marina Alagić-Bowder:

Marina Alagic-Bowder

Marina Alagić-Bowder lectures in the University of Sarajevo’s English department, attends the workshop, and provided editorial input on the translations published here.


Matea Šimić:

Matea Simic

In Pink Tricycle and A Dinner for Ghosts, Matea Šimić grapples with an adolescence torn open by images of violence and war. Echoing T.S. Eliot at times, these poems attempt to reconcile ‘a Sunday like any other/a girl nailed to a chair.’ But even past violence can be usurped by the fragility of the present. ‘We are sitting on glass chairs,’ Šimić explains. Matea Šimić is from Oroslavje, Croatia. She holds an MA in English Language and Literature from the University of Zagreb. She currently lives and works in Barcelona, Spain. Click here to listen to Matea read her poems.


Mirza Purić:

Mirza Puric
Photo by Sanjin Pejković

Mirza Purić is a literary translator and baritone guitarist in the noise rock duo Gudron. He holds a BA in English from the University of Vienna and has translated many British, American, and Austrian authors. He is especially proud of his translations of poems by Dijala Hasanbegović, Naida Muratović, Neđla Ćemanović Porča, Zerina Zahirović, Ivana Krstanović, Selma Kulović, Matea Simić, and Nermana Česko. ‘The very existence of this group is a disruption of sorts, and it seemed only fair for the translations of their works to disrupt the conventions and expectations found in the target culture,’ he writes. Click here to read his translator’s note.


Naida Muratović:

Naida Muratovic

‘With hands like boughs reaching/ skyward I dream,’ writes Naida Muratović. Indeed, in her poems Hands and Made, Muratović enters a mystical terrain to find language for the surreal elements of love and intimacy, both with others and with herself. Naida Muratović is from Breza, Bosnia and Herzegovina. She received her MA in English Language and Literature from the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Sarajevo. She writes prose and poetry. Click here to listen to Naida read her poems.


Neđla Ćemanović Porča:

Nedla Cemanovic Porca

Neđla Ćemanović Porča’s poems Extorris and Whitesleeves are beautiful renderings of the self and the imagination. Where ‘Extorris’ is bold in its experimentation and musicality, ‘Whitesleeves’ is soft and sonorous, considering death and the significance of nature. ‘Through the droplets of fog on the pane, she/ gazed at a line of trees, all the pines lined up except/ for one.’ Neđla Ćemanović Porča received her BA in English Language and Literature from the International University of Sarajevo. Currently, she teaches English language at the university’s English language school, is planning graduate studies for the near future, and never ceases to dream through poetry and fiction. Click here to listen to Neđla read her poems.


Nermana Česko:


In her poems Black Days and Bags Nermana Česko explores the ideas of existence and identity, and the annihilating feeling of finding oneself unrecognizable. ‘On black days my name is not written/ on a single page of my life,’ she writes. Nermana Česko is currently earning her BA in English Language and Literature at the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Sarajevo. She lives in Sarajevo. Click here to listen to Nermana read her poems.


Kulović Selma (Kaze):

Kulovic Selma (Kaze)

Kulović Selma’s poem Nondum is both a catalogue of devotion and an act of rebellion, soulful and startling in its beauty. ‘Take my breath, if that is your goal/ the strand splitting the soar and the fall, which,/ nunc quidem, filled these lungs with will to light,’ she writes, gentle, but urgent. Kulović Selma (Kaze) is an English Literature major at the University of Sarajevo and a student of Japanese language. She lives in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Click here to listen to Selma read her poem.


Stacy Mattingly:

Stacy Mattingly
Photo by Balarama Heller

Stacy Mattingly holds an MFA in creative writing from Boston University, where she has also taught. She first visited Bosnia and Herzegovina as the recipient of a BU Global Fellowship to research a novel-in-progress. She launched the Sarajevo Writers’ Workshop in 2012.


Zerina Zahirović:

Zerina Zahirovic

Zerina Zahirović’s poems noise and cereals are urgent and demanding. ‘Death won’t come for you,’ she writes, only to explain later that ‘death takes feetfirst.’ Questioning this dichotomy, and sometimes growing angry with it, these poems insist upon justice. Zerina Zahirović is from Fojnica, Bosnia and Herzegovina. She is currently enrolled in MA degree programs in Comparative Literature and English Literature at the University of Sarajevo. She writes. Click here to listen to Zerina read her poems.


Jessica Poli’s: Dementia Song

July 29, 2013 § Leave a comment

Congratulations again to Jessica Poli, winner of our 2013 poetry contest.  If you enjoy her work make sure to check out her startling and heart-bending new book, The Egg Mistress. . . .

Dementia Song

for Gus

The pressing of things
against windows.

Your mother sings
as winter sours the sills.

Moss green carpet
seeps into your feet.

Inside the little house,
someone screaming at the door;

the furnace in the cellar
shaking; the

covered in mountains,

the gramophone
spilling grain.

And boats, out of nowhere,
rocking—And O, how they sing.



Poetry by Jessica Poli

July 17, 2013 § Leave a comment

Here’s another poem from Jessica Poli, winner of our 2013 poetry contest.  Enjoy!

For Rubies To Erupt From Soil

I won’t be scared
of my teeth. Of those horses
shifting through the corn rows.
Of the world, old and full
of snow. Going slowly,
I feel for rubies in the pasture
but only find bits of glass which
I never know how to handle.
And there is clay, too, forming half-
letters that once made a sign
advertising fresh milk at varying prices.
The ground smells like crying.
I come across a neighborhood boy
lighting matches to throw at my skin
as he screams to no one: nothing.
He screams and screams as I sit and sift.

Jessica Poli’s heart belongs to Pittsburgh. She is currently an MFA student at Syracuse University, Editor of Birdfeast Magazine, and Poetry Editor for Salt Hill. Her first chapbook, The Egg Mistress, was published by Gold Line Press in 2013.

Jessica Poli wins H.O.W’s Poetry Contest!

July 4, 2013 § Leave a comment

H.O.W. received hundreds of submission to our 2013 poetry contest.  Thanks to all who entered: the work was excellent and many fine poems passed through our offices.   Special note is given to two fine writers — Pat Hale and Simon Perchik– who were runners up.   But, in the end, there could only be one winner. . . .

Congratulations to Jessica Poli, winner of H.O.W’s 2013 Poetry Contest, judged by author Ben Mirov!  Here’s what Ben had to say:

“I like poems that zone me out. Poems that bring me into their time stream and hold me in the light of their weirdness and the purity of their singularity. Jessica Poli’s poems do this to me. They allow me to inhabit a world that is more real than the one in which I live. . . .”

And here is one of Ben’s selections from Jessica’s work, the first of three:

The Future Will Be As Lonely As the Present

The labyrinth’s electricity
See the crow
tangled in the wire?
Open up the sky
See where lightning
connects to the machine


Jessica Poli’s heart belongs to Pittsburgh. She is currently an MFA student at Syracuse University, Editor of Birdfeast Magazine, and Poetry Editor for Salt Hill. Her first chapbook, The Egg Mistress, was published by Gold Line Press in 2013.


Congratulations Jessica!

Young Poets Part VI

April 21, 2013 § Leave a comment

H.O.W. Journal is thrilled to publish our SIXTH selection of younger poets, curated by Catherine Pond. Enjoy, and scroll down to read earlier selections.

Marina Blitshteyn:

Marina Blitshteyn

‘My Heart’s Structure is Sound’ hums out the relationship between love and violence, between grace and wildness. It is not only a song, steady and pervasive, but also the anatomy of a conflicted heart. Marina Blitshteyn is the author of Russian for Lovers (Argos Books, 2011) and is currently an adjunct instructor at Fordham and Pace Universities. 


Victoria Bay:

Victoria Bay

With elegance, painful candor, and an alluring surrealism, Bay’s poems ‘Agnosognosia’ and ‘A Burr is a Seed or Dry Fruit in which the Seeds Bear Hooks or Teeth’ embody a fractured psychology and reveal one daughter’s relationship to her mother. Victoria Bay received her BA from Smith College. She is currently an MFA candidate and a Research Arts student at Columbia University.


William Fargason:

William Fargason

For the narrator in Fargason’s heart-breaking poem, ‘Sour Wine,’ love is intrinsically linked to guilt, whose ‘poplar yoke wore my shoulders raw.’ William Fargason is a graduate of Auburn University. He is currently a poetry M.F.A. candidate at the University of Maryland. His previous work has appeared in Eclectica Magazine.


Elizabeth Metzger:

Elizabeth Metzger

Metzger’s voice gently scythes in ‘Boy with Barn Owl,’ a tenderly fatal rendering of time and the pastoral. Elizabeth Metzger is an MFA student at Columbia University. She currently works at Parnassus: Poetry in Review.


Shelley Wong:

Shelley Wong

‘Fidelity’ handles the subject of desire with fluidity and poise, speaking to the feelings of inadequacy that desire brings to light within each of us. Shelley Wong is an MFA candidate at Ohio State University and Associate Poetry Editor for The Journal.

Young Poets Part V

March 2, 2013 § Leave a comment

H.O.W. Journal is thrilled to publish our FIFTH selection of younger poets, curated by Catherine Pond. Enjoy, and scroll down to read earlier selections.

Jay Deshpande:

Jay Deshpande

Deshpande’s mastery and ease is on full display in his poems ‘After the Child Fell’ & ‘Landing in St. Petersburg, Florida.’ The first is all the more powerful for its reserved, spare description of trauma. The second recounts a lover’s journey, both physical and emotional. Jay Deshpande’s poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Washington Square, La Petite Zine, Narrative, Handsome, Shampoo, Spork, and elsewhere. He is the former poetry editor of AGNI and he curates the Metro Rhythm Reading Series in Brooklyn.


Megan Fernandes:

Megan Fernandes

‘Spectral’ & ‘South Philly’ are that rare breed of lyricism and intellectualism which thrills and delights in every sense. Humble yet powerful, their separate landscapes (one rural, one urban) both exude the sinister with ‘sodium lamps scanning the fog’ and ‘Quinceñara dresses hung dead-like on headless mannequins.’ Megan Fernandes is a PhD candidate in English at the University of California, Santa Barbara and holds an MFA in Poetry from Boston University. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Rattle, Guernica, Redivider, Memorious, and the California Journal of Poetics.


Lucy King:
Lucy King

Landscape is very much a character in ‘Adore’ & ‘Lake Baikal,’ two poems that plunge through longing and solitude with both reticence and intimacy. One foot in the natural world, they impress with their assured knowledge, their sense of abandonment, and their imagination. Lucy King received her BA in English from Skidmore College. She works in child psychology research in Boston. She grew up in Providence, Rhode Island.


Laura Marris:

Laura Marris

In ‘The Telling’ & ‘Piñon’ fossils are ‘curled segments like fingers after a slap,’ while pinecones are ‘the fists of a child pounding the earth.’ In these poems, Marris portrays troubled domestic scenarios with remarkable originality and language of a particularly rare beauty. Laura Marris is an MFA candidate and Teaching Fellow at Boston University. Her work has been published in many journals, performed around the country, and featured on NPR as a winner of the Hillstead Museum’s Connecticut Fresh Voices Contest.


Josh Schneider:

Josh Schneider

‘Wasting Honey on Mummies’ is a brief but startlingly imaginative take on contemporary values, exploring what it means to be ‘clean,’ while driving us to a dark conclusion about our own significance. Josh Schneider is a marketer living in Brooklyn. His writing has previously appeared in FUN, Fawlt, Short Fast and Deadly, VICE, Leveler, Noisey, and Thought Catalog. He is a Pisces and enjoys archery, skiing, and tennis.

Young Poets Part IV

January 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

H.O.W. Journal is thrilled to publish the fourth part of our selection of poems by younger poets, curated by Catherine Pond. Enjoy!

Lauren Clark:

Lauren Clark

Intimate, poignant, sometimes ferocious, the clear voices in ‘You Write to Me’ and ‘Meditation’ occupy the dark imaginative space between want and need. Lauren Clark is an MFA candidate at the University of Michigan and serves as an editorial intern at the Michigan Quarterly Review.  She is most famous for her enduring love of Beyoncé.

Soren Stockman:
Soren Stockman

‘The Bigger Fire’ and ‘Permission’ are statuesque, chiseled down to a fine, bright logic. Soren Stockman is Program Coordinator for the Summer Literary Seminars program in Vilnius, Lithuania. He is currently an MFA candidate at New York University. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Playboy, Narrative Magazine, Tiferet Journal, and La Fovea.

K.T. Billey:
K. T. Billey

Atmosphere transforms the speakers in ‘Wind’ and ‘Wild Thing Worn Thin,’ two poems that gracefully depict the unraveling world. Hailing from Alberta, Canada, K.T. Billey now lives in New York City. Billey’s poetry has appeared in Other Voices and Blue Stockings Magazine.

Marc Jaffee:
Marc Jaffee

‘Blues in the Night’ and ‘Frescoes at Noon’ proceed as part dream-scape, part confession as they bring to light the unendurable with gentle candor. Marc Jaffee is a founding editor of Box of Jars, an online journal of art and literature. He currently lives in Brooklyn. His poems have appeared in The Best American Poetry, The St. Petersburg Review, and others.

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