|About the Book|
The remarkable Ukrainian poet and literary critic Bohdan-Ihor Antonych (1909-1937) lived for only a brief 28 years. Originally from the mountainous Lemko region in Poland, where a variant of the Ukrainian language is spoken, he was home-schooled forMoreThe remarkable Ukrainian poet and literary critic Bohdan-Ihor Antonych (1909-1937) lived for only a brief 28 years. Originally from the mountainous Lemko region in Poland, where a variant of the Ukrainian language is spoken, he was home-schooled for the first eleven years of his life until 1920 when he entered the Queen Sophia State Gymnasium in Syanok, which he completed eight years later. Antonych then matriculated at Lviv University. Lviv then, as it is now, was the cultural hub of Western Ukraine, which in Antonychs lifetime was under Polish rule. During his study of Ukrainian philology at the university, Antonych adopted Ukrainian as his literary language, and he also became extremely active in the literary and intellectual life of the multi-cultural city of Lviv, a city that he grew to love dearly. Antonych served as a kind of cultural bridge between Polish and Ukrainian literary circles, which at the time did not mix to any great degree. He died in 1937 of complications from pneumonia after an operation for appendicitis, just a few short months before his planned wedding to Olha Oliynyk. His premature death occurred at the height of his creative talent, when he already had emerged as a poet of extraordinary maturity and erudition.In the brief span of his life, Antonych proved to have been an exceptionally innovative poet and an accomplished essayist. As Lidia Stefanowska observes in her book on the poet, Antonych: Antonomii (Kyiv: Krytyka Publishers, 2006), Antonych was greatly influenced by Polish avant-garde poetry of the 1920s and was one of the first literary critics to note the talent of the then young future Nobel Prize winner Czeslaw Milosz. Antonychs poetry was a breath of fresh air for Ukrainian poetry in the 1930s, and as happens with many great poets, he was perceived in different ways by his reading public. He has been described as an imagist, a mystic, a symbolist, and a pantheist. While these labels may fit certain moments in his poetry, they do not individually convey the totality of his oeuvre. His relatively small corpus of published works has been extraordinarily influential on a number of Ukrainian poets for generations to come, especially during the periods of the 1960s and 1980s, which were particularly trying times for Ukrainian society under Soviet repression. Antonychs poetry explores a number of themes from the mundane, the joy of life in little things, to the profoundly metaphysical, to nature and mans place in it, to urban themes, to an impending sense of apocalypse, which, regrettably, came true with the Nazi invasion. As opposed to the patriotic tendencies of a number of Western Ukrainian poets in his time, Antonychs approach was an art for arts sake one with high-minded aesthetic principles. His published collections include: A Greeting to Life (Pryvitannia zhyttia- 1931), Three Rings (Try persteni- 1934), The Book of the Lion (Knyha Leva- 1936), The Green Gospel (Zelena Ievanheliia- 1938), and Rotations (Rotatsii- 1938). The latter two books were published posthumously. The Grand Harmony (Velyka harmoniia), a collection of poems on religious themes written in 1932 and 1933, is a subtle and supple examination of the journey along the razors edge of personal faith, with all its concomitant revelatory verities and self-questioning. None of the poems from the book were republished in Soviet Ukraine until 1989 because of their religious content. It first appeared in its entirety in Ukrainian in 1967 in a one-volume collected works edition in New York by Antonychs contemporary colleague and friend Sviatoslav Hordynsky - a noted poet, translator, and later icon painter - and émigré poet and literary critic Bohdan Rubchak. The most complete edition of Antonychs works to appear in Ukraine is the edition edited by Dmytro Pavlychko with an introduction by Mykola Ilnytsky: Bohdan-Ihor Antonych, Poezii (Kyiv: Radianskyi pysmennyk, 1989). Additionally the New York Group poet Bohdan Boychuk has published a well-received book of Antonychs selected poetry in the English translations of various American poets under the title A Square of Angels (Ann Arbor: Ardis Publishers, 1977). Nearly all the poems of The Grand Harmony are appearing here for the first time in English.