Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Two Colors Of The Soul: The Selected Poetry Of Dmytro Pavlychko


Two Colors Of The Soul:
The Selected Poetry Of
Dmytro Pavlychko
Copyright 2012© by Dmytro Pavlychko
Cervena Barva Press
Edited and with an introduction
by Michael M. Naydan
Somerville, Massachusetts
Softbound, 90 pages, $17
ISBN: 978-0-9883713-0-9

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

When reading a translation of poetry, usually one poet has translated. In this volume of Dmytro Pavlychko’s verse the Ukrainian-to-English is accomplished by eight translators.
One would think that eight different people bringing a Ukrainian poet to the English speaking word would result in an uneven, choppy book. However, the opposite is true in this presentation by Cervena Barva Press. The eight translators have made a unified collection, bring to English readers a Ukrainian poet who deserves wider recognition.

In the poem I Must, translated by Dzvinia Orlowsky he presents us with what Americans would refer to as a “bucket list” but is more like a self-awakening:

I Must

I must read books
so that I won’t become blind.
I must speak
so that I won’t grow mute from grief.
I must hear a song
so that I won’t fall deaf with silence.
I must fall in love
for joy to move toward me.
I must see my friend
for the day to become brighter.
I must write a poem
for my heart not to break.
I must work
to feel worthy of bread.
I must die at midnight
so the in the morning I may rise again!

In a poignant encounter with the Chernobyl dead zone, Pavlychko tells us how a possession once owned by someone might feel about no longer being owned.

The Plaything
(translated by Aliona Sydorenko)

In the Chornobyl dead zone
in a hut on a bench
there sits a man
sculpted of clay
the likeness of a god
unafraid of the radiation

He has been sitting for fourteen years
looking at the door with sadness
waiting for it to be opened
by his maker
the blond-haired boy
But the boy does not come
does not open the door
and the clay man
continues to sit and wait

A number of Pavlychko’s poems have built in irony, none more ironic than Too Late Too Soon in which we discover how unnecessary we are:

Too Late Too Soon
(translated by Aliona Sydorenko)
In whatever century
you’re born,
it will always be too late and too soon!
Too late, because everything most important
in this world
has already happened without you,
too soon, because everything most important
in this world
will happen without you too.

Pavlychko’s poetry is truly in the Eastern European mold which if you have not discovered you should. The photograph of him on the back cover is one of a stern, hard person who has lived through a lot, seen even more. Graying, balding with thick eyebrows and deep set blue eyes, Pavlychko looks more the stern politician than poet.

However, make no mistake his poetry is deep, accessible and worth a reading – and to be sure you enjoy its fullness, read it twice.

Zvi A. Sesling
Reviewer, Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene
Author, King of the Jungle and Across Stones of Bad Dreams
Editor, Muddy River Poetry Review
Editor, Bagel Bards Anthology 7
Editor, Bagel Bards Anthology 8

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