I ask Half-awake Is poetry possible At the moment history stirs Once its steps Reverberate through every heart?
— From “Can there be poetry after” by Anastasia Afanasieva, translated by Kevin Vaughn and Maria Khotimsky
With the current Russian invasion of Ukraine, we at The Common have been reflecting on the powerful words of many Ukrainian poets who have appeared in our pages. In recent years their work has been rooted in conflict, as the country struggled first with self-determination and later with the Russian annexation of Crimea and, since 2014, with a Russian-incited war in the East. This focus lends a feeling of prescience and timeliness to their work now, even though most of these poems are not new. We hope you’ll make time to read and reflect on the work of these poets, as we all keep Ukraine and the Ukrainian people in our thoughts.
Is Poetry Possible at the Moment History Stirs: Poets of Ukraine
with hunger and fear. I’d rip the crust
of my lips—and lick my lips; I recall
the fresh and salty taste.
And I’m walking, I’m walking, walking,
I sit on the steps by the door, I bask,
I walk delirious, as if a rat catcher led me
by my nose into the river, I sit and bask
on the steps; I shiver this way and that.