Poetry Travels with Anna Blasiak and Lisa Kalloo: RED ZONE by Iryna Tsilyk, translated by Vitaly Chernetsky

Going to the 'red zone' of war,
every time I catch myself in an extreme diligence
when preparing my own body:
I shave everything carefully,
I'm doing manicures for a long time,
I choose good underwear.
This's how one prepares for a special intimate date.
'You never know who will undress you.
Maybe even tonight,' –
my grandma used to say
having something special on her mind.
I also have something special on my mind.
I also can't help thinking about a possible date
with that mistress
who has cold eyes, wet fingers
and hair that smells of black meadow flowers.
'Come on, not today,' I say. 'Please, not today.'
She laughs in silence for a long time,
and something red can be seen on her teeth.
But today I undress myself on my own.

By Iryna Tsilyk

Translated by Vitaly Chernetsky

Poem from Iryna Tsilyk’s Red Zone / Червона зона, Versopolis at Ledbury Poetry Festival 2022.


Iryna Tsilyk was born in Kyiv, Ukraine, in 1982. She is a Ukrainian film director, writer and screenwriter. She published eight books in Ukraine, including poetry, prose, and children books. During the years of Russo-Ukrainian war, Iryna has taken part in many different activities such as literary readings, documentary shootings, tutoring for children etc. in the war zone in Donbas. Her recent poetry and films reflect her experiences.
Iryna Tsilyk directed the award-winning documentary film
The Earth Is Blue As an Orange which has won the directing award at Sundance Film Festival 2020, as well as numerous other honours around the world. At the moment she is working on her feature-length debut fiction film Rock. Paper. Grenade based on the novel by Ukrainian prose writer and her husband, Artem Chekh.


Vitaly Chernetsky is a Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Kansas. He is the author of Mapping Postcommunist Cultures: Russia and Ukraine in the Context of Globalization and of articles on modern and contemporary Slavic and East European literatures and cultures where he seeks to highlight cross-regional and cross-disciplinary contexts. He co-edited a bilingual anthology of contemporary Ukrainian poetry Letters from Ukraine (2016) and an annotated Ukrainian translation of Edward Said’s Culture and Imperialism. His translations into English include Yuri Andrukhovych’s novels The Moscoviad and Twelve Circles, and a volume of his selected poems Songs for a Dead Rooster (with Ostap Kin). Translations of Sophia Andrukhovych’s novel Felix Austria and of Winter King, a poetry collection by Ostap Slyvynsky (with Iryna Shuvalova) are forthcoming.


Photo by Lisa Kalloo


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Read previous poems in the Poetry Travels series:

THE SPIDER by Danae Sioziou, translated by Panagiotis Kechagias and Mania Meziti

UNTITLED by Johanna Venho, translated by Anselm Hollo

THE KNOWLEDGE OF EVERYTHING by Eleni Cay, translated by the Author

ALIBI by Ewa Brzoza Birk, translated by Anna Blasiak

PATIENCE by Ziba Kirbassi, translated by Stephen Watts

HARLEQUIN by Arjola Zadrima, translated by Vlora Konushevci

SIRENS by Victoria Amelina, translated by Anatoly Kudryavitsky

JOB: A WOMAN by Dominika Lewicka-Klucznik, translated by Anna Blasiak

BAGS by Blerina Rogova Gaxha, translated by Vlora Konushevci

TONGUEFISH by Yolanda Castaño, translated by Keith Payne

WHAT DO YOU NEED by Friederike Mayröcker, translated by Christina Daub

A WORK OF BIOGRAPHY by Max Jacob, translated by Ian Seed

UNTITLED POEM by Ivano Fermini, translated by Ian Seed

AGAINST TRAVEL. FOR DANA by Rachel Levitsky

LIGHT by Vasyl Makhno, translated by Olena Jennings

A MESSAGE FROM THE ISLE OF WIGHT by Wioletta Greg, translated by Maria Jastrzębska and Anna Blasiak

HOME by Nataša Sardžoska, translated by the Author

ONLY THE BEGINNING COUNTS (4) by Jan Baeke, translated by Antoinette Fawcett

*** (RABID WINDS) by Gerður Kristný, translated by Rory McTurk

ANSWER TO THE PRAYERS by Vainius Bakas, translated by Kerry Shawn Keys

AGGRESSOR’S MONOLOGUE by Artūras Valionis, translated by Jura Avizienis

THAT’S ALL by Jurgita Jasponytė, translated by Jura Avizienis

UNTITLED by Linas Umbrasas, translated by Audra Skukauskaitė

FIRST SPRING OF THE WAR by Vytautas Kaziela, translated by Jura Avizienis

A LETTER TO A CHILD by Lina Buidavičiutė, translated by Ada Valaitis

UNTITLED by Aneta Kamińska, translated by Anna Blasiak

TWO LYRICS OF LOVE AND MEMORY by Lina Kostenko, translated by Stephen Komarnyckyj

CROW STUDY by Yuri Andrukhovych, translated by John Hennessy and Ostap Kin

UNTITLED POEM by Serhiy Zhadan, translated by John Hennessy and Ostap Kin

UNTITLED POEM by Ludmila Khersonsky, translated by Maya Chhabra

UNTITLED POEM by Iryna Vikyrchak

From THE ANDROMEDA NEBULA by Anna Gréki, translated by Souheila Haïmiche and Cristina Viti

TEAPOT by Nurduran Duman, translated by Andrew Wessels

IT’S COMING AGAIN by Michael Strunge, translated by Paul Russell Garrett

REPORT FROM ANOTHER CITY by Marcin Niewirowicz, translated by the Author

INTERIOR by Ana Blandiana, translated by Paul Scott Derrick and Viorica Patea

THIS IS LOVE by Joanna Fligiel, translated by Anna Blasiak

REVELATION IN H&M by Menno Wigman, translated by David Colmer

*** (I WANT TO FOLD THIS DAY) by Inga Pizāne, translated by Jayde Will

THE SIEGE by Marcin Świetlicki, translated by Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese

FISH by Jana Putrle Srdić, translated by Barbara Jurša

THE WELL by Maarja Pärtna, translated by Jayde Will

THE SHADOW by Pentti Saarikoski, translated by Emily Jeremiah and Fleur Jeremiah

A FAREWELL TO MY DEAD CLASS by Irit Amiel, translated by Anna Blasiak and Marta Dziurosz

THE GIRLS IN BERGEN-BELSEN by Nora Gomringer, translated by Annie Rutherford

DECEMBER, by Jaume Subirana, translated by Christopher Whyte

ROSE RED, by Ulrike Almut Sandig, translated by Karen Leeder

*** (I D[R]IPPED MY PEN…) by Mario Martín Gijón, translated by Terence Dooley

WHAT COMES by Magda Cârneci, translated by Adam J. Sorkin and Mădălina Bănucu

TRANSLATION by Justyna Bargielska, translated by Maria Jastrzębska

*** (MY EYES, DENSE NIGHT…) by Gëzim Hajdari, translated by Ian S

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