In May of 2019, Heather Derr-Smith, director and founder of the non-profit Cuvaj se, led creative writing workshops in Five cities across Bosnia-Herzegovina. The project, called “Poetry of Possibilities” was funded by the Us. Embassy in Sarajevo and American Corners in Tuzla, Trebinje, Bihac, and Mostar. A workshop was also held at Gracanica at the Gymnasium. Heather Derr-Smith presented poems by American poets, Jericho Brown, Gabrielle Calvocoressi, Ilya Kaminsky, Maggie Smith, Kaveh Akbar, Fatimah Asghar, Ani Gijka, Alina Stefanescu, Tara Skurtu, and more. We also looked at poems by Bosnian poets, Selma Asotic and fiction by Bosnian writer, Velid Borjen, Amila Kashrovic-Posavljak and Faruk Sehic and many more from Strane.bih and the Borders Project.
We were looking at work that invites deep critical thinking about the status quo politically, socially, economically, culturally, and in our own growth and development as writers, artists, and human beings.
We talked about white supremacy, racism and gun violence in the United States and ways that people are speaking out, protesting, resisting this particular violence, while using art to imagine and create new realities of equality and justice.
We talked about the potential political power of citizens to resist the state’s authoritarianism and violence, and the power we have to mobilize and create sustainable change in both the United States and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
We talked about personal transformation and he growth and development of the self and the many possibilities we have to imagine and claim our own freedom in any circumstance.
The serious work of play & imagination
We gathered together as friends across borders of religion, ethnicity, citizenship. We gathered to have serious fun, playing, writing poems on Blue ribbons to represent the rivers of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the rivers of our selves, the rivers of our journeys. Inspired by Jericho Brown we made flower crowns as memorials to Black men and boys killed by police in the United States. We said their names. We wrote elegies, and parise, and love poems on different colored ribbons to add to our crowns. We wrote childhood memories, and made quilt blocks with lines of poems. We cared for one another in the short space and time we had together and lifted each other up, fortified to go back out into the messy world ready to live as citizens of a country of imagination and creativity that knows no borders.