Merima Dizdarević

- Sweden -

Merima Dizdarević, born 1983 in Yugoslavia is a poet and multidisciplinary and multilingual artist based in Malmö. Her expression stems from a poetic, writing practice. She writes poetry, prose, essays and experimental texts. She translates between her spoken languages and sometimes from those she does not speak. Merima also teaches art and art criticism, has worked as a cultural producer and engages into anti-fascist and decolonial thought within and from the cultural field. Her first major Swedish publication långt från ögat långt från hjärtat (far from the eye far from the heart), published on Albert Bonniers Förlag in November 2022, is a maximalist, lyrical text that was nominated for the Swedish Writer’s Union award The Catapult Prize for best Swedish literary debut.

Merima Dizdarević, far from the eye far from the heart

(Stockholm: Albert Bonniers förlag, 2022)

English translation: Jennifer Hayashida


Merima Dizdarević is an artist and writer based in Malmö, Sweden. Born in Yugoslavia in 1983 (Bosnia and Herzegovina), her practice is multidisciplinary and multilingual, encompassing poetry, criticism, and performance. She obtained her MFA in writing from the program in Literary Composition at HDK-Valand, the Academy of Art and Design at the University of Gothenburg. Her critically lauded 2022 poetry collection, far from the eye far from the heart, was nominated for Katapultpriset, the Swedish Writers’ Union’s award for an outstanding literary debut. 


In her itinerant and multi-modal practice, Dizdarević seeks to investigate and problematize aesthetic and social hierarchies; in that effort, she is particularly invested in collaborative and multi-disciplinary projects. As a teacher, she most recently designed and served as instructor for the cross-genre course Skälens tunga at Göteborgs Konsthall, which seeks to expand the range of voices engaged in arts criticism in Sweden today. As an actress, she most recently starred in the lauded Swedish feature film I Am Zlatan.




To be at sea can mean to be addled, to be in turmoil, to have lost one’s way. To be adrift is, in both the benign and malignant sense, to bob on waves – to no longer be moored, to have no direction. According to some sources, it can mean “to move with the sea and wind.” What remains unsaid in these expressions is the agency of the sea: that it is not, in fact, merely a roiling backdrop or glimmering surface, but a source of knowledge as well as agent of change. Today, we are continuously reminded that the sea is also a cemetery, a burial ground for desperate bodies in huddled and slow-moving flight across choppy water, water which is also, then, a witness. The sea sees us just as we see the sea. 


Dizdarević’s 2022 debut collection far from the eye far from the heart is a vertiginous and exorcizing excavation of the terrain of memory in the aftermath of war, forced displacement, and return. The book’s polyvocal poetics act as a container – or vessel – that continuously springs leaks and in that leakage frees itself from the dictates of form, genre, or the lyric. Diaspora, here, becomes shrapnel lodged in the tongue and heart, ballast seeds scattered through involuntary transport and then translated into invasive species. And, much like lionfish, kudzu, or wild boars, these poems are maximalist in their approach – voracious, irreverent, and protean in their drive to survive.


Organized into six sections, or heats, the collection sprints and falters in a kind of narrative syncopation. At times, it is as though the language hurtles across itself in movements between and across languages and genres, where the smooth terrain of the idiomatic often turns rocky in flux. The possibility that language holds the ability to draw distinctions between theirs and ours, here and there, is continuously undermined through fearless vaults and jagged silences. 


Early on in the book, the roaming ‘I’ of the collection states, “and I need to see where everyone is     and if they have fared well.” This speaker continues, 


and they haven’t     and they haven’t

and they haven’t     and I sit on deck and wait for

someone to              come home


To fare is, here, both to travel and to perform. The book imagines and stages a critical poetics of what it means to fare both  well and poorly, what is required in order to fare the slippery landscape of memory when one has survived genocide, war, migration, and relocation. And what does it mean to fare well as a poet: to speak as a witness in perpetual motion. And if the poet is then both gleaner and seafarer, how is the poem simultaneously salt in a thousand wounds as well as a curative – a brine for preserving what has been lost over and over again? What can the poem strive to say when the question at its heart is how place and experience can possibly ever be uttered against the grain of memory. As Dizdarević writes toward the end of her book,


it must be said that sea is not water

sea is sea


                                    do not say

i am going down to the water

when you are going to the sea


or that you ask

how is the water

or when you are in the sea that you


dobra je voda                          nice and warm

when that is the sea

                                    please don’t 

do not say the water is lovely for

sea is not water                       sea is sea         please

stop saying that


In raucous dialogue with poets and writers such as Layli Long Soldier, Tyehimba Jess, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Douglas Kearney, and Don Mee Choi, Dizdarević’s poems dismantle and reassemble inherited histories through retracings, restagings, and relentless recursion. Both the speaker and that which is recalled exists in a simultaneous space-time of here and there, then and now, us and them. To look back is thus both an act of reassurance and an Orphean error where the act of retrospection invokes ghosts of the past, present, and future. The poems strive to renegotiate what it means to survive and remember, when the act of recollection purposely disobeys official narratives so as to insist on a fugitive historiography from below.