Pandemic Love & other Affinities from Icefloe press an anthology

Please check out this wonderful anthology from Ice Floe Press in Canada. Edited by Moira J. Saucer, Robert Frede Kenter, Anindita Sengupta & Jakky Bankong-Obi. Cover design by Robert Frede Kenter “Pandemic Night” is a mixed media painting of aquarelle pencil & watercolours by Moira J Saucer

This book has over 130 pages of pandemic-era based poetry & art from poets around the world who are at the top of their game.

This book is also dedicated to poets lost during that time including Ice Floe Press contributors Cathy Daley and Kari Ann Flickinger. It is dedicated to everyone who lost loved ones, family members & friends during this ongoing Covid-19 Pandemic.

Poetry from Ewoenam Akahoho: little esinam (she left the world her beautiful crayon sketches) “and now, I have become the man who lights his cigarettes with the sun”

Roseline Mgbodichinma Anya-Okorie: A Function of Spaces “When we laid on green…looking up to the fogginess of blue…between dusk & dawn – When we clasped our fingers together & whispered “It’s two of us against the world…”

poetry from Akesha Baron (Mr. Duarte Mr. Rubin), short story from Ronna Bloom (Fall, Falling) Poetry from Yasmine Bolden (May Your Blessing Be Your People) “The Answers, the ‘unity’. Outside the sky bled sorbet orange” Poetry from V.B. Borjen (The Kites) “…counting bell chimes off the cathedral tower and the uncovered mouths of passers-by sharing booze in plastic bottles and flasks” Poetry from Paul Brookes (Is It Love To Be Glad You’re Dead), photography/art from Barney Ashton-Bullock, story by Matthew Burnside (Ramshackle Heavens), poetry from Sue Chenette (Etienne Brule Park, Sunday October 18, 2020), poetry from Marian Christie (Rapunzel in the time of Covid) “She braids and unbraids her lengthening hair, combs out the knots to feel pin-sharp tugs of pain. To feel” poetry story from Defne Cizakca (I Woke Up One Morning and You Were Not There), poems by Geraldine Clarkson (Raoul, Raoul) “who’d nuzzle the padlock on my tongue try to glean corn thoughts from my blank blue eyes tickle the nape” (Mannequin, with the melancholy gaze -) “Though you never look at me directly, I always wake to your pale blue eyes, raking the air just above my head,“Pandemic Paintings by Cathy Daley, Poetry stories from Nabina Das (How to Undo a Love Story 1 & 2) Poetry from Shome Dasgupta (The Dance of the Wayfarer) “Under a fresh beam of moon, a broken root, severed and twisted – a frozen echo waiting screaming to be released” poetry by Satya Dash (Accrual) “always to be seen smeared like a sun with its back turned, blemish conspicuous even when the page is turned over” poetry from Martins Deep (as i lay forget-me-nots on your side of the bed) “to an orchid growing in a vase filled with the humus of decomposed dreams”

Poetry by Peach Delphine (within this thicket of scar) “Tongue of shovel, bone of splitting, this body a basket of spark and cinder, when you hold me smoke lingers in your hair your hands come away with ash...poetry by Steve Denehan (Someday) poetry by Olga Dermott-Bond (Skin hunger) “Standing down river, I flinch at the hours, days, weeks we have lost to this iced babble; the hush of us grazes my skin-“ poetry by Chelsea Dingman (Valence) “Again, I ran past the lake this morning, trying to figure out why I run the same route, expecting to find myself anywhere else” Poetry by Damien Donnelly (All the Other Things that were also Alone, On the List) Poetry by Birgit Lund Elston (Were There to be a Choice) “and the fox with her playful kits in the woods at the back, how could I ever leave” poetry by K. eltinae ( Poetry by M.S. Evans (Months as Worry Beads – A Suite of 3 poems), Poem by Sue Finch (A Peacock Butterfly Dries its Wings) “From the sink I have been watching them cast silhouettes like bats”

Poetry by Kari Flickinger (that’s why I came back to you) “after weeks of fearful quarantining in a hotel on the blazing outskirts of some California desert. You hear that mission bell?”Poem by Suchi Govindarajan (An old quarantine) poetry by Catherine Graham (I Ask, Can We Be Civil?) “Leathery wind pushes the mystery flowers my name; a stem when light opens a dress-carriage for my heart” (Parts of the Song Where the Dead Come From) & (Hold the Dark), poem by Roger Hare (Pandemonium), poem by Matthew E. Henry (split screen), Poems by Elisabeth Horan (Soft Ghost Sonnet) “may it bring more joy than I’ve become -myriad cut & stab of blood, wears it thin; surely becomes woven thread of skin…” and (Twentieth Anniversary) Poem by Rahma O. Jimoh (Pandemic Soulmates), Story by Silas Jones (Heading Out), Poem by Agunbiade Kehinde (Love Poem with Shakespearean end) “Who would have thought colours and cologne could change the images of a lover in your head – like a damning art”

Photo by Robert Frede Kenter (Lock Down #24) and poetry (Pandemic Moon: A Love Poem) “Sirens accidents red lights elevators of claustrophobia run through the skin of the city” photo/art (The last of it) Poetry by Rose Knapp (Daemonic Queer Club), Poetry by Laurie Koensgen (The Conjunction: December 21, 2020) “Let’s say they’re us, those silver pinholes in the sky becoming one blurred puncture” story by Henneh Kyereh Kwaku (There Was a pandemic & I wanted to be touched & you were about to be married-), Story from Emma Lee (Failing to learn life lessons from penguins) Photography by Robynne Limoges (Surrender), (Hospital Corridor #2 & #3), poetry by V.C. McCabe (Frostbitten & Faunal) “I miss you every breath. Aromatic snow, your skin & winter catapulting us under blankets, the choice to roast in your eyes…” story/poetry by Spangle McQueen (Perhaps Love: How to have your mother’s funeral in a pandemic), poetry by Jenny Mitchell (Mother of Pearl) “She is still in the coffin. I thought she would rise like a hymn, voice soaring up to the vaulted ceiling”

Poetry by Hasan Namir (2020 Was Before) (Growing up in 2020) (Wake: The: Fuck: UP) Poetry by Marcelle Newbold (Transient Comfort) “signifier of a storm, a gentle stroke to my skin each drop a universe, a meal to a whale” and (Dwelling), Poetry by Twila Newey (Common Light) and (Natural Selection), Story by Lizzie Olesker (Block), poetry by Charlotte Oliver (Pandemic Packing) “each colour sharpening the other, first Spring petals cried from blossom trees now shrivelled grey reminding me that all will pass and memories hold beauty safe...) poetry by Niall M. Oliver (Heart) Poetry by Bola Opaleke (Rind of a Pandemic) ” A mother feels the hurt of her baby’s flowering teeth on her breasts, but welcomes the pain as a penultimate symbol of motherhood” & (Before & After the Flood), poetry from Kunjana Parashar (To My Sister, Stuck in Another City), poem from Serena Piccoli (Foam) Poem by Maria S. Picone (We Should Not Forget) “should not discount the taste of slow times fabulized in romantic paintings-should not untie silence & sorrow

Poetry by Kushal Poddar (Ring,Ring, Round and Round) “It is not really a beast-a shapeshifting leaf bearing the unbearable isolation of the early spring and falling into the deserted lanes of pandemic…It is not a real leaf” (Comorbidity) “The Winter thaws. Streets squiggle in the mud”poem by Lee Potts (A Concise History of the Wind) “Countless threads crossed above and beneath us The same blue as oceans You’d find on antique atlas showing the ends of the earth” art by Whiskey Radish (A Sortie), Poetry by Khalisa Rae (This Sounds Like Leaving) “Searching for replicas of our past with subtle differences thinking the subtle will wake us up from this looping nightmare” poetry by Vismai Rao (After my death by staring too long at the sea, I rebirth as mango seed) “with the barest of things: sunshine, water, unlimited oxygen. A hit of warmth and my body cracks open to shatter & dissolve” poem by Larissa Reid (The Mythologies of home) “That day, hear heart felt like paper. It had lost its shape, its weight, its very structure. It drifted lightly against the inside of her ribs” poetry from Monty Reid (from The Lockdown Elegies) Poetry by Andres Rojas (Time) (One)

Art/poetry by Moira J. Saucer (Myra: The Bitterroot Suite), Poetry from Anna Saunders (All the Fallen Gold) “I will keep this precious leaf until the underworld gods call for alms” poem from Preston Smith (Quarantine Love Poem) “I’ve found that growing flowers is hard in the Anthropocene. There is Tinder and there is tyranny, and they are both tired-“poetry/story from Ankh Spice (Here is the toll) “Yes, the bail, yes the scoop, I was and am still, now scooping the soft from myself to caulk the blistered wood.” poem from Alina Stefanescu (Imbibet) “The constraint lies on the bed with one head hanging off the edge” Poem from Samuel Stathman (For Archie) poetry by Claire Trevien (Or another exit door), poetry by Bunkong Tuon (No One Asked but They Did it Anyway, Visual poetry from Margaret Viboolsittiseri (a love letter to me (b&white version), (intent)

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with V.B. Borjen

Q1: When did you start writing and who influenced you the most?

V.B.: The curious thing is that I began writing before I was an avid reader. I wrote my first poems when I was about eleven. I had the good luck of having a very supportive teacher of Bosnian in the primary school, Ms. Murisa Jukan, who encouraged me by making me read these early poems aloud, to the whole class. They were ridiculous poems, no doubt, but their value was in the act of writing and my being acknowledged as “a poet” that early on. She would often end her lessons by saying, “OK, now Beganović will read us one of his poems.” (She never called us by the first name.) And out would come this big pale green binder that belonged to my late dad and in which I wrote those little things. My poor classmates had to endure all that.

Q2: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

V.B.: When I was about fifteen, so second grade of gymnasium. I  remember I was writing this fantasy novel and I have thought of myself as a writer ever since. I believe many people somehow fear this label. Toni Morrison famously said she thought of herself as a writer only after her third book, Song of Solomon, but it’s a mystery why. Perhaps people are afraid of the responsibility it carries, as writers are most often a sort of conscience of their time, or should be at any rate. I do not see a problem with thinking of yourself as a writer if you are prone to introspection and recording the goings-on of people and places around you, in words. Most of our lives are narratives of one kind or another. Our minds work that way.

Q3: Who has helped you most with writing and career?

V.B.: It would be hard to name any one person who helped my writing or publishing, there have been so many over the years and each helped in their own way. Some by sheer enthusiasm over my work, others by publishing the first pieces. Perhaps I could go with the firsts? Dr Dijana Hadžizukić was one of the judges in the first poetry contest I submitted to and which my manuscript won. (Mak Dizdar Award, 2012). She wrote a kind introduction to the poems. Then the novelist and poet Senka Marić, who published my first short stories in Bosnian at the online magazine Strane. My first poem in English was published by the essayist and EIC Cynthia-Marie Marmo O’Brien in the inaugural issue of Hypothetical back in 2013, and the novelist and editor Sakina B. Fakhri published my first short stories in English in AZURE: A Journal of Literary Thought. My friendship with the brilliant US poet Heathen (Heather Derr) has been a great inspiration for years now.

Q4: Where did you grow up and how did that influence you? Have any travels influenced your work?

V.B.: I grew up in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the ‘90s war and its difficult aftermath in the early ‘00s. Back then, that was simply the only reality I knew and I never imagined what kind of writerly repository those early experiences would prove to be. Perhaps I have made more use of those early years in my writings in Bosnian. My work in English has been a different kind of outlet, a place to experiment and broaden, much in the tradition of the modernist authors I’ve admired, while the writing in Bosnian has most often been focused on the particulars of childhood and the language the grown-ups around me used and continue to use. However, I see these two coming closer together lately. I don’t think I compartmentalise them so much any more.

Q5: What do you consider your most meaningful work creatively to you?

V.B.: Was it Márquez who said when someone asked him which of his works he liked best, “Always the latest”? We tend to be particularly excited about whatever we have just finished. On second thoughts, I could say my novel The Flux, the first draft of which I finished in 2014, has probably proved the most instrumental, not because of the quality of writing but because it taught me some valuable lessons, such as how to construct a longer work, how to persevere and finish it, as well as how to remain a poet, even in prose ― as Baudelaire advised.

Q6: What are your favorite activities to relax?

V.B.: Reading, naturally. Keeping a diary. A spot of painting. Films, series, music. Good walks. Good coffee and food. Conversations with friends. A great deal of travelling.

Q7: What is a favorite line/ stanza/lyric from your writing?

V.B.: It is not often the case that I like my earlier work, but there is a poem I am still happy with. It’s called “The Polish Triptych” and it was first published in Chicago by The Ethetic Apostle. It ends with the following lines:

You weave yourself closer
as I spear the crests of the
waves with my looks;

Far off in the distance
slow ships pass,
mammoths in the steppe.
But here, before us
the sea unloads gifts,
they thud and fan out

             we leap,
caught unreadied
into life, unreadied,

(c)V.B. Borjen

Q8:What kind of music inspires you the most? What is a song or songs that always come back to you as an inspiration?

V.B.: How about a little list? “Pass This On” by The Knife, “Sinnerman” performed by Nina Simone, “Dreams” by The Cranberries”, “Adiyo Kerida” perfomed by Flory Jagoda, “O Meu Portugal” performed by Amália Rodrigues, “Moya Malenkaya” ― Marina Tsvetaeva’s lines from “Lilly of the Valley”  performed by Polina Agureeva…

Q9: Do you have any recent or upcoming books, music, events, etc that you would like to promote?

My poem “The Kites” has just been published in Ice Floe Press’ anthology Pandemic Love and Other Affinities, a great assembly of authors meditating on the recent global events which marked all our lives. Should anyone be interested to follow up, I have a flesh piece “Evaristo” forthcoming in BOMB, a short prose poem “Rovers” in Moist Poetry, and a longer lyric poem “The Grapevine” coming in Issue 15 of Grist: A Journal of the Literary Arts.

In other news, this summer I have been selected as one of 200 fellows for Margaret Atwood’s Practical Utopias online learning experience over on Disco. The course starts soon and I truly look forward to working with people from different backgrounds and from all around the world on common social and especially environmental issues. You can find out about the many ways to join by visiting the course website.




Link Tree (with previous publications in English):

Pandemic Love and Other Affinities:

Practical Utopias:


V. B. Borjen (he/they) is a Yugoslav-born writer and visual artist based in the Czech Republic. His first poetry collection in Bosnian won the 2012 Mak Dizdar Award, while his second poetry manuscript won the 2021 Darma Books Best Manuscript Contest in Belgrade and is pending publication. Borjen’s work in English and his visual art have been featured in EcoTheo Review, Folio, Rattle, The Maine Review, AZURE, Ice Floe Press, Parentheses and elsewhere. He has a further flash fiction piece forthcoming in BOMB, and poems in Grist Journal and Moist Poetry. He serves as Guest Editor of Palette and Frontier poetry magazines.

Photo: Self-portrait, September 2022