The Bosnia Elegies


The Bosnia Elegies

10.00 10.95

By Adrian Oktenberg


Also available in French.


From The Bosnia Elegies

Darling, your face is turning white

            becoming featureless            an untracked field of snow

Your eyes which once burned            like blue sky

            are flattening out            memory fails us both

I curse my failing memory            try to catch it

            it disappears around a bend            another            another

The exact timbre of your voice            the gesture

that moved me so            the way your laughter began

            deep in your chest            in your chest

            three pieces of shrapnel            were buried

three years ago


6 x 9, 64 pp


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"These poems take the passion of anger and the clarity of narrative into the silences and evasions of history…. They seek no peace. And, rightly, they allow the reader no peace.” Eavan Boland

"... A staggering work that, through the adept merging of journalistic and poetic styles, succeeds in conveying the vastness and complexity of Yugoslavia’s dissolution, both on a national and a personal level. The loss of a loved one, of a voice, of a personal history–these come together to form the collective loss of a moribund nation, and Oktenberg fearlessly and gracefully expresses this by imbedding in the very structure of her lines the patterning of loss and the visual representation of separations as they are coming into existence.... [Oktenberg] lays the map of a fractured nation like a transparency over broken communities and the individuals composing those communities.  This kind of imagery essentially prohibits readers from maintaining an indifferent perspective, bringing them so close to the genocide that it can no longer remain a distant and vague outline of tragedy." — Tin House

Oktenberg tears down our defences and forces us to confront the terrible human realities of the "minor" war in Bosnia. Her breathless poems seem almost without craft yet are, in fact, painstakingly achieved; not a word in them is wasted. Together, they constitute an an artifact that is as important a human document as a poetic one.”  Booklist

"The critic Helen Vendler, in her essay on Adrienne Rich... wrote that "the value of Rich's poems, ethically speaking, is that they have continued to press against insoluble questions of suffering, evil, love, justice and patriotism." Oktenberg takes up and continues this legacy, and her project is ambitious. For she is describing genocide, not one remembered but the one currently going on…. I hope teachers will discover this book and use it…. Paris Press's design and layout of this book is impressively elegant, befitting the elegiac tone. The press bills itself as producing "daring and beautiful feminist books," and this is one of them."  Marilyn Krsl, The Iowa Review