Monday, June 10, 2024

Words for War

Words for War: New Poems from Ukraine /
ed. by Oksana Maksymschuk & Max Rosochinsky
Cambridge, MA: Ukrainian Research Institue, Harvard U., c2017.
240 p.

This is a collection of poetry by 16 varied Ukrainian authors, with a nice mix of women and men represented. There are modernists, more traditional writers, new and young ones alongside more established names. It's a great collection. You can view Words for War and read pretty much all of it online; the site has much the same cool design feel of the book too. 

There is a comprehensive intro and afterword, as well as author and translator bios in the back. There are also notes on the places and events mentioned in the poems which North American readers might not be familiar with. This certainly adds to the understanding of the poems, and was appreciated. 

This was published in 2017, so it has many poems written shortly after the hybrid war started in 2014 when Russia invaded the east of Ukraine (the Donbas area) and annexed Crimea. Everything was clear then and yet it took a lot more for the world to pay attention. These poems are beautiful, harrowing, ironic, sad, blunt, angry, powerful, and much more. Anyone interested in the literature of Ukraine needs to become familiar with the poets, they are a strong element of the writing that shapes the culture. This is a good way to become familiar with a lot of names in a short time, and get a feel for those that resonate with you. For example, after reading Lyuba Yakimchuk's work in this collection, I requested her full collection Apricots of Donbas from my library system. Collections like this one a great way to expand outward. 

This book is also very nicely produced. The font is clear and readable and the image of each author at the beginning of their section is a artistically altered photo -- it's very appealing. I found it really well done and a must read for anyone new to Ukrainian poetry. 

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