SARAJEVO ROSE / WAR RHYMES
by MELIKA SALIHBEG BOSNAWI
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.
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.