your evergreen forest
knit from pine boughs and hemlock
frayed by even the gentlest winds
without the swell of your breath
to shelter beneath
roots loosen quicker than I can tie them
slipping through my fingers to tangle
deeper into the earth
still, I forage in circles
We’re pleased to offer these new translations from ON CENTAURS & OTHER POEMS by ZUZANNA GINCZANKA, translated by ALEX BRASLAVSKY, out from World Poetry Books this month. This is the first selected volume in English of Zuzanna Ginczanka, a visionary Polish-Ukrainian-Jewish poet of the inter-war years whose life was cut short by the Holocaust.
Zuzanna Ginczanka (1917-1945) was a Polish-Ukrainian-Jewish poet of the interwar period. Born in Kiev, which her parents fled to avoid the Russian Civil War in 1922, Ginczanka began writing seriously as a child in Równe, Poland (now Rivne, Ukraine). She was nationally recognized for her poetry by sixteen years of age. Encouraged by a correspondence with poet Julian Tuwim, she moved to Warsaw in 1935. There she became associated with the Skamander group and the satirical magazine Szpilki, and befriended many writers including Witold Gombrowicz. Her 1936 collection, On Centaurs, was widely lauded upon its release. At the start of World War II, she moved east, living in Równe and Soviet-occupied Lviv. In 1942, after the German takeover of Ukraine, she escaped arrest and fled to Kraków on false papers to join her husband. She was arrested in 1944 and shot by the Gestapo a few days before Kraków was liberated by the Soviets. After the war, her last known poem “Non omnis moriar…” was used in court to testify against her denouncers.
From my window I see a boy shaking the bougainvillea for flowers. My parents talk of pruning it. They talk of little else. The tree, spilling wildly past our house into the gulley—where boys come to smoke or piss, lanky against betel-dyed walls—acrid ammonia, posters begging for votes, pink crowning above them. The boys linger even when it rains. Each drop caught briefly under the golden streetlight, and me, holding my breath.
Editor’s note: In October a friend told me about Kevin McIlvoy’s recent passing, days after I had read and been deeply moved by the following poems. We are honored to offer them to you here.
Kevin McIlvoy, known to his friends as Mc., published six novels, a story collection, and a collection of prose poems and flash fictions. A long-standing faculty member in the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers, he was my colleague but, more importantly, my friend. Mc. loved books and, like many writers, he loved them so much eventually the only way to love them more was to add to them by writing. These poems were sent out prior to his death on September 30, 2022. He is missed by many, but thanks to his work, his voice is still with us.