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A Week with Zhadan (2)

Serhiy Zhadan, reading in Kharkiv, March 21, 2022

Editor's note: There are many ways to show solidarity with the people of Ukraine, and to stand for civilization, against barbarism. For the next seven days, we've decided to offer you a poem from Serhiy Zhadan, so that you will think of his words, and of his struggle today in Kharkiv, and of all the other heroic souls whose voices we have not heard, or heard sufficiently, as well as those we will never hear again: "incanting over every single / lost soul."

(To get together and talk ... )

(A woman walks down the street ...)

(Here’s another weird story...)

(On a village street...)

(You led the regiments and liberated cities...)

(Who could survive in the Middle Ages?...)



Sun, terrace, lots of green.
A guy and a girl,
most likely they’re students, sit at a table,
waiting, it seems, for their order.
Nearby, on the table, notebooks,
folders with documents,
they must have just stopped by between classes.
After lunch they’ll continue running errands.
So grown-up, so serious.

What else?

It looks like they rent an apartment,
don’t like to cook,
eat where they are.

Don’t want to waste time cooking.
Don’t want to waste time on little things.
You should treat life like clothing
that you try on before buying.
You’ve got to learn not to waste time
on little things.

Someday she’ll definitely have her own house.
Someday he’ll definitely find a good job.
You’ll need to learn everything,
you’ll need to learn to choose
the right words to talk about
love and humanity.

Dust, flowers, lots of green.
The spring of last year.

This is the only photo where we’re together, she says,
here I’m angry at him,
you see, I’m even looking in the other direction,
I’m not talking to him.
Then the war started.
He went.
And that’s it.


Serhiy Zhadan is a Ukrainian poet, writer, essayist and translator. All poems featured here are part of a book of translations by John Hennessy and Ostap Kin published by Lost Horse Press, A New Orthography (2021), co-winner of the Derek Walcott Prize for Poetry 2021 and a finalist for the 2021 PEN America Award for Poetry in Translation. English translations of Zhadan’s other work include three books of prose (Depeche Mode, Voroshilovgrad, and Mesopotamia (which also features poetry) and a collection of poetry What We Live for, What We Die For.

John Hennessy is the author of two collections, Coney Island Pilgrims and Bridge and Tunnel, and his poems appear in many journals and anthologies. Hennessy is the poetry editor of The Common, a print magazine based at Amherst College, and he teaches at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Ostap Kin is the editor of New York Elegies: Ukrainian Poems on the City and translator, with Vitaly Chernetsky, of Songs for a Dead Rooster by Yuri Andrukhovych and, with Ali Kinsella, of The Maidan After Hours by Vasyl Lozynsky.



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