Poetry Travels: Ukraine. UNTITLED POEM by Iryna Vikyrchak

You are a poet, they say, we expect you 
to give us answers
you are a poet, they say, explain us 
everything with a poem
a painful one, strong, render your loss 
and grieve over your dead 
with some new metaphors
make the words in your language meet
in the order they’ve never met before
you are a poet, they say.

What can I answer them, as a poet, a woman, 
a friend who lost their friends 
to the monster of war? 
Who has friends and friends of friends 
who will never return? 
Who left their home libraries burn 
with the buildings destroyed by the lethal arms
so they themselves can fleet and live? 
Homeless, bookless, wordless, but yet alive.

Who am I as a poet, not coming form the regions affected, 
a war victim impostor, an empath 
with cinematographic imagination
the free verses in my head,
not giving myself the right to speak
on the war that is not even mine. 

You are a poet, they say,
you come from THAT country
we expect you to be giving answers
to write poems, you know. 

How can I answer them with a poem, 
when anxiety cut off my voice,
played on my vocal cords, ate up my words? 
Haven’t you read it all in the
New York Times, in The Guardian and also 
your local press? 
Haven’t you used your empathy and
some visuals from movies you’ve seen? 
Would you like me to send you a link? 

I am not even writing this poem 
in the language of victims
although I should
for it’s all them who are seeking the answers, 
for it’s not up to me to know any.

By Iryna Vikyrchak

Originally Written in English


Iryna Vikyrchak (1988) is a Ukrainian culture manager and poet. She was born in the town on Zalishchyky in Western Ukraine but has lived and worked in numerous literary and cultural events in Chernivtsi, Kiev, and L’viv, as well as abroad in Europe as a director and curator. She is the author of three books of poetry, the most recent of which, The Algometry was published in Kiev in 2021. She is an active member of PEN Ukraine and a PhD student at the Wroclaw University in Poland.


Photo by Lisa Kalloo


Check out the Poetry Travels book list on bookshop.org.


Read previous poems from Poetry Travels:

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 Seed

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