Oksana Maksymchuk

 

Oksana Maksymchuk is a bilingual Ukrainian American poet, scholar, and literary translator. Her poetry appeared or is forthcoming in Blackbird, Cincinnati Review, Prairie Schooner, Salamander, Sugar House Review, Tar River Poetry, and other journals. Judges Cole Swensen, Oliver de la Paz, and Maggie Smith named Oksana’s manuscript Tongue Ties a finalist for Tupelo Press’s Snowbound (2019), Berkshire (2019), and Dorset (2020) prizes, and individual poems had been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. In the Ukrainian, she is the author of poetry collections Xenia (2005) and Lovy (2008) and a recipient of Ihor-Bohdan Antonych (2005) and Smoloskyp (2007) prizes, two of Ukraine’s top awards for younger poets. Oksana’s translations were featured in Words Without Borders, Poetry International, Modern Poetry in Translation, and Best European Fiction series from Dalkey Archive Press. With Max Rosochinsky, she co-edited Words for War, a NEH-winning anthology of contemporary Ukrainian war poetry (Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute/Academic Studies Press, 2017). Oksana won first place in the 2004 Richmond Lattimore and 2014 Joseph Brodsky-Stephen Spender translation competitions and was awarded a National Endowments for the Arts Translation Fellowship in 2019. She is the co-translator of Apricots of Donbas, a collection of selected poems by Lyuba Yakimchuk, and The Voices of Babyn Yar, a book of poems by Marianna Kiyanovska, forthcoming with Lost Horse Press and Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute/Harvard University Press, respectively. Oksana holds a PhD in philosophy from Northwestern University. Most recently, she has been named 2020-2021 Writer in Residence by the Institute for Advanced Study at the Central European University.

 
 

Books

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The Voices of Babyn Yar is a bilingual collection of poems dedicated to the Babyn Yar massacre of 1941. Artful and carefully intoned, the poems present the experiences of ordinary civilians from a first-person perspective to an effect that is simultaneously immersive and estranging. Conceived as a tribute to the fallen, the book also raises challenging questions about memory, responsibility, and honoring those who had witnessed an evil that, some may say, verges on the unspeakable.
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Apricots of Donbas­ is a bilingual collection of poetry by Lyuba Yakimchuk, one of Ukraine’s most distinguished younger poets. Reflecting the complex emotional experiences of a civilian witnessing a gradual disintegration of her familiar surroundings, Yakimchuk’s poetry is versatile, ranging from sumptuous verses about the urgency of erotic desire in a war-torn city to imitations of child-like babbling about the tools and toys of military combat. Playfulness in the face of catastrophe is a distinctive feature of Yakimchuk’s voice, evoking the legacy of the Ukrainian Futurists of the 1920s.
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How does one find words to write about war? The armed conflict in the east of Ukraine brought about an emergence of a distinctive genre in contemporary Ukrainian poetry: the poetry of war. The anthology Words for War brings together some of the most compelling poetic voices from different regions of Ukraine. Young and old, female and male, somber and ironic, tragic and playful, filled with extraordinary terror and ordinary human delights, the voices recreate the human sounds of war in its tragic complexity.
 
 

Translations

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Nine poems by Yanis Sinaiko
Ukrainian Literature, issue 6, Fall 2021
"She says: we don't have the right kind of basement in our building" 
by Anastasia Afanasieva
The London Magazine, April / May 2015 
"A Woman and Her Fish"
by Tanya Malyarchuk
Berlin Quarterly, Issue 2, Summer 2014
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 "Ashtray," "Mutual Friends," and "Asylum, A Dance" by Lyuba Yakimchuk
Washington Square Review
issue 46, 
September 2021
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"When you clean your weapon"
by Borys Humenyuk
"Funeral Services" by Lyuba Yakimchuk
Poetry International, September 2017
"Mysteries of the Fields" and 
"Whether I puff on a pipe, leaning on Greenwich" by Yulia Fintiktikova
Sand Journal, issue 15, May 2017
"Decomposition," "Caterpillar," and
"How I killed" by Lyuba Yakimchuk
In Letters from Ukraine: An Anthology
Ternopil: Krok Books, 2016
"Me and My Sacred Cow"
by Tania Malyarchuk
In Best European Fiction 2013. Edited by Aleksandar Hemon and John Banville.
Champaign: Dalkey Archive Press, 2012
 

Praise for Words for War

Stephanie Sandler

Harvard University

"We necessarily come to these poems in a time of war, and that war’s grotesque political dimensions and endless violence are painfully felt on these pages. But these are poems that should command our attention even in a time of peace, should it ever come to our troubled planet: these are poems in which the spirit of creative imagination, free expression, emotional clarity, and ethical courage reigns supreme."

About translations

The Joseph Brodsky Stephen Spender Prize 2014

Judges' Reports

"Oksana Maksymchuk and Max Rosochinsky's 'Untitled' by Anastasia Afanasieva is such a new translation, of such a new poem, on such a brand new miserable reality not so far away – Eastern Ukraine – that at every round I would think, merely, 'there's nothing much wrong with this for what it is' until there it still was, at the top of the pile, because it's so beautifully phrased, its movements are so authentic in terms of what's seen and felt, and its line-breaks are flawless. It manages without any punctuation whatever (except the colon at the top, which is introductory and perhaps unnecessary) and simply lets voice and silence ebb and flow, go on, get by, down the page and through the bleak day. There's nothing else it can do, it does nothing else, does it superbly."

— Glyn Maxwell

"Oksana Maksymchuk and Max Rosochinsky's rendition of Anastasia Afanasieva's poignant and creatively bald portrait of the tragedy of civil war in Eastern Ukraine is evoking life's fragility with discreet craft."

"Maksymchuk and Rosochinsky's version of Vladimir Gandelsman's 'Ode to a Dandelion' was marvelously rhythmic and expertly captured the offhand reflectiveness of the original." 

—Catriona Kelly, 

Oxford University

"The winning translation of Anastasia Afanasieva's poem about surviving the war in Eastern Ukraine combined a thoughtful and compassionate approach with perfect instinct for phrase, line break and rhythm. This apparently artless poem is constructed from snippets of narrative: the sort of thing you might hear in a news broadcast or on social media about a distant war. But it requires the translator to dig very deep and to filter the words through our own language's consciousness of war and survival in order to shape a poem in English that moves with the precisely awful banalities of war and comes to rest delicately and finally, 'if so, then we must be experiencing / moments after death'."

—Sasha Dugdale

Modern Poetry in Translation