Posts Tagged ‘Lina Kostenko’

Legendary Ukrainian poet Lina Kostensko: “Look for the censor within you.”

Tuesday, December 6th, 2022
The poet in 1948

The legendary Ukrainian lyric poet Lina Kostenko is 92 and still going strong. “We truly only value our life if we have something far more important, far more precious than the life itself,” she has said. Clearly her time is now.

Recently, she shared a few of her poems with the gifted Russian-American poet, essayist, publisher, and translator Boris Dralyuk.

According to Boris, Kostenko is known “not only for her immense lyrical gift but also for her refusal to bow to political pressure.” You can see that in the first poem below, “Look for the censor within you,” excellently translated by Boris. Never was it more timely, wherever you are in the world.

Kostenko is not only a poet, but also a novelist, and something of an aphorist, too. In 2005, an attempt was made by then-President Viktor Yushchenko to decorate Kostenko as a Hero of Ukraine,  the highest state honor. However, Kostenko refused the prize, declaring, “I will not wear political jewelry.”

During the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, she criticized the use of obscene language and publicly opposed its legalization. She wrote on the social media, “There is, perhaps, no other such thing [as the Ukrainian language] in the whole world. The language is a nightingale, while the devil is blabbering on.”

The second poem strikes a more natural note, prompting Boris to tweet (along with his translation): “May both the landscape of Ukraine, now scarred, and the beautiful names of its rivers and valleys, towns and villages, arise and flourish!” We couldn’t agree more.

The verdict? “This is genius,” said Peter Pomerantsev on Twitter, where you can follow Lina Kostenko here: @L_Kostenko