CHICAGO – The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art in Chicago hosted an evening of poetry with Vasyl Makhno and Oleksandr Fraze-Frazenko before an audience of community literature enthusiasts, who came to hear the poets on May 12 despite a last-minute notice.
After readings of their poetry, the authors were rewarded with enthusiastic applause and a lively discussion, as the listeners were inspired by their exploration of the beauty, nuances and elegance of the Ukrainian language. Both authors recited their own works, and they offered a special treat, as Mr. Fraze-Frazenko accompanied readings by Mr. Makhno on a flute and clarinet.
The poetry had a cathartic effect on the listeners, with references to the fleeting nature of life, the mysteries of human nature, the universal need for love, the process of understanding one’s identity as individuals and as Ukrainian immigrants, and as Ukrainians at this time of Russia’s aggression.
The authors were in Chicago to interview poets Oleh Kowerko and Yuri Kolomayets for a film about the New York Group, a Ukrainian émigré avant-garde group of post-World War II writers, described in the book “Literature, Exile, Alterity: The New York Group of Ukrainian Poets,” by Maria Rewakowicz (Academic Studies Press, 2014).
The New York Group included Ukrainian poets Bohdan Boychuk, Yurii Tarnawsky, Bohdan Rubchak, Emma Andiievska, Vira Vovk, Mr. Kolomayets, Mr. Kowerko, Marko Carynnyk, Maria Rewakowicz and others. The group also included some Ukrainian artists, such as Bohdan Pevny, Yaroslava Gerulak and Jurij Solovij.
Mr. Makhno, poet, essayist and translator, was born in Chortkiv, Ukraine. He is the author of numerous collections of poetry, including “Winter Letters and Other Poems” (2011), and “I Want to be Jazz and Rock’n’Roll” (2013). He has also published the books of essays, “The Gertrude Stein Memorial Cultural and Recreation Park” (2006) and “Horn of Plenty” (2011).
Mr. Makhno has translated Zbigniew Harbert’s and Janusz Szuber’s poetry from Polish into Ukrainian. His own poems and essays have been translated into 25 languages, and he is the 2013 recipient of Serbia’s Povele Morave Prize in Poetry. Mr. Makhno currently lives in New York City.
Mr. Fraze-Frazenko, poet, screenwriter, cinematographer, singer and translator – a man of many gifts – represents the younger generation of poets from Ukraine. At the presentation, he recited his poetry, which is filled with lyricism that fascinates with the strength of his conviction.
Mr. Fraze-Frazenko shared his admiration of the New York Group of poets, who searched for contemporary forms of expression in the Ukrainian language, while scattered throughout the diaspora after the war. He noted that writers in Ukraine were isolated and did not know their work until later, when the poets of the 1960s were influenced by them.