It has always been said that a word is as strong as a weapon. The statement could be arguable, but for people whose only defense against their surrounding painful circumstances are their pens and papers that statement could not be more truthful. In mentioning circumstances there cannot be more painful than wars. When watching people killed, buildings destroyed and total nations are changed, the words can be as effective as weapons in delivering protests, as loud as the demonstration to be heard or as silent as close companion to share the pain. In choosing the words to use, poetry can be considered the most powerful, delicate and sincere in showing true emotions and empathy, and at the same time, can be used to deliver an idea that usually was ignored. In that sense the poetry of Semezdin Mehmedinovic, a Bosnian writer, can be considered a perfect example of the aforementioned reflections. This paper analyzes the poetry of Mehmedinovic, published in his book titled “Sarajevo Blues”, which tells the experience of living in a city under siege. The main point of the analysis is the investigation of the author’s usage of language in his quest to change his world.
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The honesty in which the poems of Semezdin Mehmedinovic were written might lay in the fact that for the whole period of the Serbian nationalistic siege he remained a citizen of Sarajevo. These circumstances made his poetry story-like episodes filled with details of the horrific circumstances of the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In addition to writing, Mehmedinovic also remained active as one of the city’s resistance movement members and one of the editors of the magazine “Phantom Liberty”.
Analyzing Mehmedinovic’s poems, the purposes that the author possibly outlined should be kept in mind. The purposes in poems could be viewed either as a transfer of a certain image, the way the author had witnessed it, or share author’s certain emotions, by providing images that directs the reader to the same state. In Mehmedinovic’s poems, both purposes are visible.
In the poem “Deserter” the author intended show the feelings of a person leaving his country in hard conditions with deserter, who run away from a battle field. These feelings might come from the position of the author where, there possibly were moments when he was ready to leave his country but he could not. He provided an image of a person only minutes away from taking a train. This image is similar to the moments of good byes, but not one to say good bye to, only your land. “The dispatcher tapping the wheels”, usually means that the train is about to leave and the dispatcher makes his final check, a sentence that indicates that there only a short time left, but a long time to look back at yourself.
Leaving the city in peace-
You’ll never be true to yourself anywhere
In this verse the author put an emphasis, that despite leaving the city peacefully, the character will not feel home somewhere else. In this image the author put the mind state of the character that will follow him wherever he goes, unless the conditions stated in the following verses.
Unless your very life is the only truth
Unless the empty air calls itself freedom
Unless you’re a deserter
With an uneasy conscience
Unless you’re Billy the kid
These descriptions in fact act as a description of the main character of the poem, a person whose only interest is his own life, a person who flew away from the battle field with no regrets. In general, the author wanted to transfer the feeling that a person might feel like when leaving the homeland, while it goes through difficult times, by using direct narration to make the reader that person.
In the poem “Hero”, Mehmedinovic, showed a picture of a lost childhood during a war. The author managed to deliver the image of a world where no excuses were made for being a child. The world which makes a person a hero for killing someone and he is praised for it.
He smiles, completely carried away,
As he plays with plastic cars
And makes the sounds of an engine.
This verse is brought to demonstrate the radical contrast where the weapons and ammunition can be combined together with childish, and at the same time to show that the kid is still a child at heart playing with toys without acknowledging the scale of the surrounding events. With such a contrast the author outlines the horrified conditions that happened at wars. The childish explanation is similar to the case when the kids boast of throwing a stone further than each other, or when they show off with a new toy that is faster than the one that the other kid has.
My rifle kills at ten miles, he said, scratching his forehead with a toy car.
The manner in which the author narrated this story showed a typical situation for a war, where the reader might feel the shock of such a situation. This narration emphasizes that the war is no ordinary event, with other rules and other laws to live. Where kids kill, and play with toys.