Kalyna Language Press received a PEN Translates grant to fund Steve Komarnyckyj's translations of Antonych in 2016. The book which subsequently developed, Night Music, will be published on 5 October 2016. But who was Antonych? Where did he come from? Read more below....
The Lemkos region (Ukrainian: “Лемківщина”), where Bohdan Ihor Antonych (1909 – 1937) was born, is situated among the Carpathians and consists of gently undulating pastures rising to fir-lined mountains and limestone escarpments. The Lemkos (Ukrainian: “Лемки”) were a Ukrainian mountain people whose culture and traditions were rooted in crop cycles and pagan mythology and, in Antonych’s poems, the boundaries between the narrator, the natural world and the music of the poems become blurred within an ecstatic pagan celebration of life. Antonych was only 27 when he died, but he seems to have lived several lives in one lifetime, producing six collections of poetry, reams of prose, an opera libretto, a novella, an unfinished novel, as well as editing a couple of journals.
Although he would have been surrounded by people speaking the Lemkos dialect in his childhood, he attended a Ukrainian language grammar school and, between 1928 and 1933, Lviv University. He wrote in literary Ukrainian, but his work was sprinkled with dialect terms and has a fevered energetic imagery reminiscent of Dylan Thomas. Moss warms “like cat fur”, and the nocturnal forest becomes an orchestra playing music that manifests itself as light. He uses many verse forms, ranging from sonnets comprising two quatrains and two tercets, to free verse, and numerous improvised stanza forms.
Antonych’s death deprived Europe of one of the greatest talents of his generation. His work, with its mystic overtones, was ignored by the Soviets. Starting from the mid-1960s, interest in his writing has revived in the Ukrainian diaspora, but he remains relatively unknown. His poetry with its elemental power is a worthy introduction to a great and neglected national literature.
Bohdan Ihor Antonych
Publication Date: 5 October 2016