Iryna Vikyrchak (Ukraine)



Iryna Vikyrchak (Ukraine)

Iryna Vikyrchak (1988) is a Ukrainian culture manager and poet. She directed and curated numerous literary festivals and events in Ukraine and Europe. Also, she worked as a head of the National Desk of Creative Europe in Ukraine (2016-2017) and as an assistant to the Nobel Prize Laureate Olga Tokarczuk (2019-2021). Author of three poetry collections, the latter of which tittled “Algometria” was published in Kyiv in 2021.
She is a member of PEN-Ukraine and a PhD student of the Wroclaw University in Poland. Writes in Ukrainian and English.

Originally Written in English

You are a poet, they say, we expect you
to give us answers
you are a poet, they say, explain us
everything with a poem
a painful one, strong, render your loss
and grieve over your dead
with some new metaphors
make the words in your language meet
in the order they’ve never met before
you are a poet, they say.

What can I answer them, as a poet, a woman,
a friend who lost their friends
to the monster of war?
Who has friends and friends of friends
who will never return?
Who left their home libraries burn
with the buildings destroyed by the lethal arms
so they themselves can flee and live?
Homeless, bookless, wordless, but yet alive.

Who am I as a poet, not coming from the regions affected,
a war victim impostor, an empath
with cinematographic imagination
the free verses in my head,
not giving myself the right to speak
on the war that is not even mine.

You are a poet, they say,
you come from THAT country
we expect you to be giving answers
to write poems, you know.

How can I answer them with a poem,
when anxiety cut off my voice,
played on my vocal cords, ate up my words?
Haven’t you read it all in the
New York Times, in The Guardian and also
your local press?
Haven’t you used your empathy and
some visuals from movies you’ve seen?
Would you like me to send you a link?

I am not even writing this poem
in the language of victims
although I should
for it’s all them who are seeking the answers,
for it’s not up to me to know any.

Watch From the Distance

A war
is a very productive state
for a poet –
gives you so many
new motives to write.

But it takes not like a distant, impartial war,
it takes enemies in your country
it takes missiles that hit your home,
it takes friends who become refugees,
it takes your family members in shelters.
It takes your soul, takes your tears, eats you up.
It costs you nerves, tight like cords,
it takes shelling of civilian people
takes gunfire at families evacuating
and a bomb on a kindergarten.

A war
is a very productive state
for a poet –
it’s enough to watch from the distance
gives you so many new motives to write:
anger and love, lots of love, lots of anger
weakness and strength, adrenaline rush
unity, strength
animalistic fear
And last but not least –

Friendship in a Wartime

In the 21st century, in Europe
friendship starts in the small hours,
simultaneously with air raid alerts.
As soon as I open my eyes I check
the cities under attack today
to quickly run the list of my friends there.

In the 21st century, in Europe, in wartime
friendship looks like keeping your friends
in you thoughts and prayers,
holding them by the hand – virtually,
what else can you do from your safety?

Sending short messages “ how are you?
how’s your cat? how’s your dog?
and your kids, have you managed
to get them to safety?”
While they, my dear brave friends,
stay locked up in the bathrooms for hours –
the safest space in the flat, they say,
according to the principle of two walls
(the first one takes the missile, the second one – debris).

Holding their cats, their dogs, their children
responding with only one word – “fine” or
“it must have hit nearby”.
And me I am holding them tightly
with my thoughts, common past memories
and those we still have to make.

Please not you, not today

Ania in Dnipro
Yulia in Odessa
Ania in Kharkiv

Luckily I have no one in Mariupol
otherwise my heart would blow up
it is not big enough
to ever contain Mariupol

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