When I was offered to read and comment on the latest undertaking of MELIKA SALIHBEG BOSNAWI, The War Rhymes, I must confess I was primarily attracted to it by intellectual curiosity. On the other hand, I suppose that is what always draws us towards an artistic creation. I should also admit that my curiosity was heightened by what I knew about the author: We had met only once, formally, but of course I was acquainted with her work. Her poetry was perhaps too hermetic for me, but some of her later essays I greatly appreciated, and I specially admired her personality: At the times when most of us chose silence or compromise in order to "be left alone", she courageously opted for personal firmness and integrity, with few individuals and no institution to back her up except her faith. But I set out to read this book as objectively as I could, trying not to let my previous judgements influence my present ones.

However, The War Rhymes were not as contemplative as I expected them to be, nor were they a chronicle of "settling accounts". This long poetic narrative is the essence of a tortured experience, of hopes betrayed and dreams shattered, of the author's bearing witness to a monstrous crime and staying sane to testify about it in the only manner a poet is endowed with: with words.

To the rhetoric question whether poetry can be written after Auschwitz the answer is, needless to say, yes, provided the victims write it. It has been pointed out that the Sarajevo torment gave birth to many literary works: the Muses simply refused to keep silent while cannons fired. Some of these works were more than just talented, others were just an escape from daily reality, and only historical distance will judge them. But The War Rhymes were neither. They stand alone, unique and separate, and that is perhaps their foremost quality. As with most writers, life can rarely be detached from their work. And with The War Rhymes it has been proved again: Melika Salihbeg Bosnawi has made a remarkable contribution to poetry as such and, consequently, her work defies classification into genres. In an astonishing amalgam of erudition, technique and talent, with mastery of images and occasional inventive plays on words, this fragile witness from the slaughterhouse has produced a volume of about 8.500 lines that tell the saga about a city, about its both heroic and tragic, forlorn populace, but above all about a woman: a lonely "zoon politikon", whose faith helps her not only survive but also discover tender characters in the "House Of Urchins", the children abandoned within total abandonment, as well as miserable political games of professional patriots. "Sarajevo Kids War-Chorus" is a horrifying reading experience, lived over and over again every time we read it - and in fact it is a simple rendering of everyday reality, therefore even more horrid. Names, statistic data, facts and figures given in an off-hand manner only reinforce the horror, while the paradox of twisted delicate imagery, so normal for ordinary lyrical poetry, makes us shudder with awe.

A poet once commented on the futility of arguments about the form and contents in poetry. "They are the same", he claimed. "By changing the subject-matter we necessarily change the form." And this is not to poet's disadvantage. The contents in which regular events (be they episodes from personal recollections or information from the city mortuary) get entwined with historical data, characters and quotations from the Holy Book, could only be rendered in the present form. And with this we come to the question of the language.

Less a means of mutual communication with the reader here, but rather an instrument of transmission of messages, cries for help and understanding, de profundis, it is a stern, desolate tool with which the poetess tries to reach out to her audience. At times archaic, with broken structure, it exhibits the chaos in the world, while occasional enumeration of images, their gradation until they finally arrive at their climax and explode, serve to remind us that it us who have to take the responsibility: whether we opt for building of bridges, like mimar Sinan, or for their destruction, whether we stick to the laws, God's and human, written and unwritten, it is our decision. But if our personal morality compels us to side with the victim, with the oppressed, with the wounded, then we have no right to remain silent, to pretend not to see.

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