By Ihor Pavlyuk
Translated by Steve Komarnyckyj
Published by Waterloo Press
Ihor Pavlyuk invites us to roam the forests of Ukraine with him while swigging vodka from a hip flask and watching pagan gods flicker among the birches. These poems combine beautifully wrought metaphors, transforming a shooting star into ‘candlelight glimpsed through water’ with an ancient landscape inhabited by pagan gods. Pavlyuk abandoned his studies at the St. Petersburg Military University to pursue a career as a poet, and was jailed as a result, prior to embarking on a life of rhyme. English translations of his visionary poems have appeared in Acumen, Asymptote and Envoi. Pavlyuk’s numerous poetry collections include Islands of Youth (Острови юності, 1990), Magma (Магма, 2005), Ukraine in Smoke (Україна в диму, 2009), Masculine Fortune Telling (Чоловічі ворожіння, 2013). His work has been translated into several languages including English, French, Polish, Russian and Japanese, and his position in world poetry is paid testament to by the endorsement from Nobel Laureate Mo Yan inside this book. However, Pavlyuk remains rooted in Ukraine and remains one of Europe’s most versatile poets — quite literally: he recently delivered an entire reading stood on his head. These poems contain moments delicate as snowflakes:
‘The fragrance of crushed mint at dusk,/ The leaves yearning to fall/ Before the snow comes’. The sweet yearning of this poetry will remain with you long after you have turned the final page.
Ihor Pavlyuk was born in the Volyn region of Ukraine in January 1967 and studied at the St Petersburg Military University, which he left in order to pursue his career as a writer. He was as a result sentenced to a period of hard labour in the Taiga working on what was literally a road to nowhere but regained his liberty in the chaos accompanying the fall of the Soviet Union. He was able subsequently to complete his education and become a Doctor of Social Communication. His numerous poetry collections include Islands of youth (Ukrainian Острови юності) (1990), Magma (Ukrainian Магма) (2005), Ukraine at smoke (Ukrainian Україна в диму) (2009), Masculine fortunetelling (Ukrainian Чоловічe ворожіння) (2013). His work has been translated into several languages including English, French, Polish, Russian and Japanese.
Steve Komarnyckyj is a poet and translator who was born in Yorkshire in 1963 but maintains strong links with his ancestral Ukraine. His literary translations and poems have appeared in Poetry Salzburg Review, The North, and Modern Poetry in Translation. His book of translations from the Ukrainian poet Pavlo Tychyna, The Raspberry’s Eyelash (Poetry Salzburg, 2011), was described as a “revelation” by Sean Street. His translation of Vasyl Shkliar’s Ukrainian novel, Raven, was published in April 2013. He runs Kalyna Language Press with his partner Susie and three domestic cats.