As our attention continues to stray to the east and the Ukrainians who are literally under fire from Russia, the words of Ukrainian poet Serhiy Zhadan are a reminder that community and solace can be found in art.
Zhadan’s poetry is accessible and lyrical, moving and sharp, combining elements of memoir, travelogue, and history to evoke strong sense impressions. Here are two poems to introduce you to his work; links below to more.
The eye of a misfit whose excitement replaces fear.
heard at fall weddings with other kids my age.
to be both hunter and singer.
who has just crashed the wedding.
schoolchildren who peek into the chambers of death.
like the songs of a school choir.
as entering Jerusalem.
like they don’t want to let them go to war.
In the darkness flying fish and singing animals give voice.
before the orchestral truth of blizzards.
born out of lovelessness.
the severed head of a tyrant.
the open heart of the river.
the city’s bridge.
swollen like pillows,
but not banished from life,
of snow under boots,
poets from the history of literature.
those who drowned, hanged themselves, suicides:
Serhiy Viktorovych Zhadan (born 23 August 1974) is a Ukrainian writer, translator, and musician. Asymptote, the journal for literature in translation, called him the Rock-Star Poet, in recognition of his output — more than two dozen novels and books of poetry — and his refusal to kneel and kiss the Russian flag during a pro-Kyiv demonstration on Freedom Square in the city of Kharkiv. Rather than paraphrase here, we urge you to read this fascinating profile of Zhadan or this one at The New Yorker — and here are two more poems.
Top image courtesy of Ruslan Lytvyn/Shutterstock.
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