You told me I love you with your eyes The soul passed its hard exam, Like the soft sound of belling mountain stream That which is not said unsaid will remain. Life passed, that train platform passed The station's speaker bellowed silences So many words written by the pen That which is not said unsaid will remain. Nights turn to dawn days become dusk Fate more than once trembled the scales Words entered me like the sun. That which is not said unsaid will remain. * Let it be light. The touch of a feather. Let it be forever. Radiant memory. This pale world is birch bark, Whitened in these dark days from elsewhere. Today it began to snow Today autumn was brimming with smoke. Let it be bitter. The memories of you. Let it be light, memory wonderful. Don't let the phone rouse your sorrow, Your sadness move with the leaves. Let it be light. This is only a dream Barely brushing memory with its lips.
By Lina Kostenko
Translated by Stephen Komarnyckyj
Lina Kostenko was born into a family of teachers on 19 March 1930 in Rzhyshchiv, Ukraine. She wrote her first verse on the walls of a dug-out in World War 2 according to one of her own poems. It’s unlikely that this is poetic licence. Kostenko is a poet who is both highly literary, mixing references to Shakespeare and Gogol in her work, but also very honest and accessible. These two poems of love and memory speak to emotions that will transcend the war. Kostenko is one of a generation of writers known as the “Sixtiers” who challenged Soviet oppression of Ukrainian culture during the decade of the Beatles and Flower Power. She once took a bouquet into the trial of a dissident and flung it into the court during the proceedings: the officials and secret police dived for cover thinking it was a bomb. Her work reminds us that love, seemingly vulnerable, will persist and overcome fear.
Stephen Komarnyckyj‘s literary translations and poems have appeared in Index on Censorship, Modern Poetry in Translation and many other journals. He is the holder of two PEN awards and a highly regarded English language poet whose work has been described as articulating “what it means to be human” (Sean Street). His translations of popular and literary Ukrainian fiction and original poetry are published by Kalyna Language Press and other literary presses. He teaches poetry writing online using translations of Ukrainian poetry at The Poetry School, the UK’s main hub for online poetry teaching. However, he spends most of his life looking after four rescue dogs from Bosnia while persuading himself that adopting a fifth would be sheer folly.
Stephen Komarnyckyj’s translation of Kostenko’s novel The Notes Of A Ukrainian Madman will be published by Kalyna Language Press in 2022. His translation of Georgii Chornyi’s Who Are We Ukrainians?, a fascinating look at Ukraine’s history from the ice age onwards, was published in March 2022 by Kalyna Language Press.
Follow Stephen on Twitter: @Komarnyckyj and Kalyna Press: @KalynaPress
Photo by Lisa Kalloo
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