Lines from the Front

Carolyn Forché on a wartime anthology of Ukrainian poetry

<em>ROOMS 22</em> (2022) by Ashley Ashford-Brown
ROOMS 22 (2022) by Ashley Ashford-Brown

Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, but Vladimir Putin’s forces have been nibbling at the edges of the country since 2014. Or one could say that the war began “long before 2014 by way of colonial imperial politics, suppression of language cultures, mass hunger, and terror,” as the poets Carolyn Forché and Ilya Kaminsky write in the introduction to In the Hour of War, their new anthology of contemporary Ukrainian poetry. “This is a poetry marked by a radical confrontation with the evil of genocide,” they write. “Does poetry have the tensile strength to embody such a confrontation?” The anthology seeks to answer that question with the help of its diverse contributors: “soldier poets, rock-star poets, poets who write in more than one language, poets whose hometowns have been bombed and who have escaped to the West, poets who stayed in their hometowns despite bombardments, poets who have spoken to parliaments and on TV, poets who refused to give interviews, poets who said that metaphors don’t work in wartime and poets whose metaphors startle.” Forché joins us this week on the podcast to talk about the surprising “life-giving force of these poems.”

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Stephanie Bastek is the senior editor of the Scholar and the producer/host of the Smarty Pants podcast.


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