Oksana Zabuzhko: The Sky Above

The Ukrainian writer Oksana Zabuzhko is an essential voice of our times. I met Oksana when we spent a month together with other international artists in a residency in Spain, and I photographed her hands as part of my writers’ hands series.

Here you can find some of her poems to share on 29th April for Poem in Your Pocket Day! She is one of the Ukraine’s most important public intellectuals.  The author of over twenty books including collections of criticism, essays, poetry, and novels she is also widely translated.

She is the recipient of a MacArthur Grant (2002), the Antonovych International Foundation award (2008), the Order of Princess Olha (2009), and the the Angelus Central European Literary Prize (2013) among others.

Oksana Zabuzhko

Jakub Knera in the Guardian writes: “This year, on 8 March, she spoke at a plenary session of the European parliament in Strasbourg, the first time a person who is neither an EU citizen nor an official has done so.” You can listen to her speech here. She speaks about how women form a “living shield” and the horrendous dangers women and children face. She describes women giving birth in bomb shelters with doctors present only online. She says, “Don’t be afraid to protect the sky above them.”

Saxifraga

Gannet Rock juts out

of the Bay of Fundy: a blown-off-course

Townsend’s Solitaire

flies over: a few days later a briar rose

begins to germinate in a crevice: no soil, 

just pure stone and a lighthouse

rising from the hard foundation: one flight

dropped pip. The Ukrainian writer picks

up the crust of bread she dropped and kisses

it: her ancestors forced to hand

over their farm seeds: starvation

of millions. Gift me the seed-lip

that is your thought

and I will live this

even when a sea

separates us: I will split

stones in two

for you.

from Wavelengths of Your Song (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2013).