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A Crimson Bush Amidst Silence: Transreading Ukrainian Poetry

Going stir crazy during the pandemic?

Why not take a poetic tour to Ukraine and be inspired by some of Europe’s greatest and least known writers? Some of the greatest English poetry has been inspired by other poetic traditions. T.S. Eliot powerfully imported French symbolism into English and the English sonneteers were influenced by Petrarch. This course will take you on a five week canter through a poetry which has the potential to enrich your own writing but which is little known in the west. And don’t worry there is no need to know any Ukrainian or grapple with its Cyrillic alphabet- I have done that for you and the course is really for anyone looking to develop their own poetry writing.

We will look at a whole generation of writers who were crushed by Stalin but whose work exploits ancient pagan traditions. We will also look at Vasyl Stus a man who managed to write a poem a day between brutal interrogations in the Gulag where he died. But despite the dark conditions in which they worked these writers were powerfully optimistic and resilient. Their poetry is an antidote to the pandemic of depression that Covid has caused and often tells us that the best response to despair is laughter.

We will look at English language poets during the course, to see how poetry speaks to our common humanity. Both Stus and Plath wrote poems called Winter Trees, and both were isolated in different ways and can help anyone explore the strange sealed world of the pandemic. Ukrainian and English poetry celebrate nature in different ways but both poetic traditions can remind us of how much just looking and listening matters.

Steve Komarnyckyj’s Transreading Ukrainian poetry: ‘a crimson bush amidst silence’ class, will run fortnightly between 12 May and 21 July. Join the waiting list by emailing [email protected]

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