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University of Iowa News Release

March 20, 2003

Poets Mehmedinovic, Forche Read At UI April 1

Poets Semezdin Mehmedinovic and Carolyn Forche will read from their work at 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 1 in Lecture Room II of Van Allen Hall on the University of Iowa campus. The free event is sponsored by the Iowa Writers' Workshop, the Center for Russian, Eurasian, and Eastern European Studies (CREEES) and the International Writing Program (IWP).

IWP Director Christopher Merrill, whose "Only the Nails Remain" is a first-person account of the siege of Sarajevo, called Mehmedinovic's "Sarajevo Blues" "the most compelling work of Bosnian literature yet to emerge from the wars of the last decade. Combining poetry and prose, Mehmedinovic offers a gritty portrait of a modern hell, with wit, compassion and honesty."

Mehmedinovic left Bosnia with his family in 1996. He now works as a translator for the Voice of America, and his latest works reflect his experiences as an exile living in Alexandria, Va.

Phoebe Lou Adams wrote for the Atlantic Monthly, "His record of the horrifying events he observed is vividly immediate. In short pieces of prose and poetry the author recaptures the stoicism created by constant danger and the incongruous survival of pre-war habits. A woman, a Chetnik gunner, sunbathes semi-nude between shots. Cigarettes still come wrapped, but in any paper that is handy, which 'might be toilet paper or even pages from a book so that in the leisure time tobacco affords you can read fragments of a poem or the ingredients of a bar of soap.' The mundane and the terrible merged in Sarajevo. Mr. Mehmedinovic takes the reader there."

Carolyn Forche's fourth book of poetry is entitled "The Blue Hour," of which Robert Boyers wrote, "The voice we hear in 'Blue Hour' is a voice both very young and very old. It belongs to someone who has seen everything and who strives imperfectly, desperately, to be equal to what she has seen. The hunger to know is matched here by a desire to be new, totally without cynicism, open to the shocks of experience as if perpetually for the first time, though unillusioned, wise beyond any possible taint of a false or assumed innocence."

Forche's previous poetry volumes are "The Angel of History," which received the Los Angeles Times Book Award, "The Country Between Us," which received the Poetry Society of America's Alice Fay di Castagnola Award and was the Lamont Poetry Selection of The Academy of American Poets, and "Gathering the Tribes," which was selected for the Yale Series of Younger Poets by Stanley Kunitz.

She is also the editor of "Against Forgetting: Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness." Among her translations are Claribel Alegria's "Flowers from the Volcano" and Robert Desnos's "Selected Poetry.

Forche's many honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. She teaches at George Mason University in Virginia.

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