Alessandro Achilli: Changes of Kiev’s Image in Contemporary Ukrainian Poetry

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Dr. Alessandro Achilli is Lecturer in Ukrainian Studies and Director of the Mykola Zerov Centre for Ukrainian Studies at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. His research interests include modern and contemporary Ukrainian literature, with special attention to poetry, and comparative literature.


About Dr. Achilli’s lecture:

In contemporary Ukrainian poetry, the urban text is once again linked to the war text. Ukrainian poets tend to represent Kyiv as both distant from the battle front and as part of it, given the visible and invisible traces left by the Revolution of Dignity. I shall show how contemporary poetry has redefined the image of Kyiv as a synecdoche for today’s Ukraine, situating the city at the crossroads of war and peace, and of past, present and future. Before focusing on most recent Ukrainian poetry through examples taken from collections by Pavlo Korobchuk and Iia Kiva, I will also discuss instances of a more traditional depiction of Kyiv in Ukrainian poetry of the 1990s through the example of Attyla Mohyl’nyi.

A Presentation is available for this lecture ( pdf document / powerpoint document ).


2 Kommentare

  • Было очень интересно послушать и весь доклад, и посмотреть на свои тексты глазами Алессандро в той части, что касается анализа двух моих стихотворений. Я только сейчас обратила внимание, что в обоих текстах есть слово „довоенный“, и это в некотором смысле их объединяет, хотя в первом случае речь о Второй мировой, а во втором — о войне сегодняшней. Русско-украинская война действительно во многом влияет на переосмысление Второй мировой, наративов и памяти о ней. А освоение нового для меня киевского пространства совпало с размышлениями об этих двух войнах, которые очень по-разному присутствуют в географическом и культурном ландшафте Киева.

  • Comment on Alessandro Achilli’s lecture by Anna Fees

    In his paper, Alessandro Achilli depicts an image of Kyiv between war and peace, created by several contemporary Ukrainian poets. At the beginning of his lecture, Achilli defines the time frame of contemporary Ukrainian poetry: from 1991 until today, and from the Euromaidan revolution and the beginning of the War in Donbas up to the present day. Accordingly, this classification informed, the choice of the poets for his lecture. All three poets (Attyla Mogyl’nyi, Pavlo Korobchuk, and Iya Kiva are urban poets and their poetry represents a Kyivan urban space.

    The first poet mentioned in the paper is Attyla Mogyl’nyi (1963-2008). His poetry represents the life of an individual and a society within the urban space of Kyiv during the 1970s and -1980s. The two poems chosen for analysis introduce a sense of community in the late Soviet and early Post-Soviet city as well as the traditional image of Kyiv as an ancient Slavic city with its historic roots (“The garden over Vydubychi, / The Varyag princess / In Slavic fur” ). These motifs would become extremely important for contemporary Ukrainian poets after 2014.

    The second poet in the lecture is Pavlo Korobchuk (b. 1984) who is originally from the Western part of Ukraine but has been living in Kyiv since ten or twelve years already. As many other contemporary Ukrainian poets, Korobchuk started writing political or revolutionary poetry during the Euromaidan revolution. It took place in Kyiv during four months between 2013-2014 and brought a state of war to the capital of Ukraine. Korobchuk’s poem “Poem on the Uprising on Hrushevsky Street” (2014) was written in the midst of the revolution showing battle scenes in the center of the city. It also includes a sense of community as depicted in the poems by Mogyl’nyi. The speaker of the poem is represented by a collective “you” that share a battle together: “now you’re fighting there, where you’re unable to die, / you run through the square among hot shell casings, / and you’re throwing cobbles, which express a clear / political stance, and help you hold back your tears” . The war which was represented through the revolution changed the topos of Kyiv and has become part of its texture. Achilli argues in his paper, that the war has changed Kyiv and its self-perception for good.

    The third poet, Iya Kiva (b. 1984), comes from Donetsk, situated in the Eastern part of Ukraine and is a bilingual writer. She is an internally displaced person who moved to Kyiv after the beginning of the War in Donbas in 2014. Through her traumatic experiences of displacement, she reconnects with history and tragic events in Kyiv in her poetry. She refers to the urban space of Kyiv where the Euromaidan took place and compares it to the urban space of the Second World War. Such tragic historic events as war, Babyn Yar, and displacement have impacted the poetics of Iya Kiva.

    Although Kyiv is not the center of the War, which takes place 700 kms away, in the East of Ukraine, it has experienced many killings during the Euromaidan, and the impact of the War has massively changed the city’s image. Contemporary Ukrainian poets reacted immediately on the political events after 2014 and created a new “old” genre of poetry – war or revolutionary poetry in the city of Kyiv. Eventually, Alessandro Achilli’s paper shows three excellent examples of contemporary Ukrainian poets who write about the city between war and peace.

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