Twice There Was A Country
Author: Alen Hamza
Publisher: Cleveland State University Poetry Center (2020)
"Alen Hamza is a lyric poet of the first order, and Twice There Was A Country proves it with poems that alchemize past and present, personal and political, and grief and celebration in a way that leads to absolute stillness: 'Silence has a mother in it and summer / refuses to move on.' Throughout this volume, Hamza acts as an Adam of sorts, naming people and places and events with the exactitude that allows him to reclaim all that was ever lost: 'Those under us are not dead. / They are dancers. We are the music.' This is a brilliant debut."
"Alen Hamza writes poems that oscillate between forgetting and remembering, between the two gods of his soul—Bosnia and Herzegovina and America—between two languages, and between the life that passed and the life that is passing... His poems face you with your own life and hurt and cure you with the same intensity."
"With these darkly magnetic poems, Alen Hamza locates us in a world of political upheaval, personal dislocation and emotional fracture with a stunning balance and decorum. Reading Twice There Was A Country, I feel like I am being guided by a gentle firm hand while bombs are exploding around us, and surely this is one of the best things poetry can do."
"Twice There Was A Country explores Hamza's identity as a Bosnian refugee attempting, and equally resisting, to assimilate to the cultural politics of the United States. Hamza's poems are playful and often surreal; their examination of how language shapes both our political and cultural identities is timely and nuanced. Here, the legacy of wartime trauma is approached with an ironist's touch and a fabulist's sense of play, paying exquisite attention to the ways in which both English and Bosnian get used-or misused-by speakers desperate to remake but also preserve their sense of self. '[I]n the end I realize I really wanted / to be a poem,' Hamza writes, and it is in the beauty of these poems that the many contradictions inherent to the immigrant's identity come to life."
"Alen Hamza delicately shows us what happens to the internal psyche during exile and during its aftermath. There's longing, displacement, absurdity, yes; but oh there's also humor, surprise, and joy... Hamza acknowledges that 'this age calls for chewing,' and in this brilliant debut, he gives us 'American-chewed words.'"