In 19th century Ukrainian poetry stayed on three main pillars: Taras Shevchenko, Ivan Franko and Lesya Ukrainka. But in the beginning of the 20th century whole galaxy of new young and talented poets entered national literature and enriched it.
Taras Shevchenko (1814-1861)
Taras Hryhorovych Shevchenko is a prominent Ukrainian poet, writer and artist. He is a symbol of Ukrainian nation, founder of new Ukrainian literature. Taras Shevchenko poems gave birth to development of new revolutionary – democratic literary orientation.
Shevchenko was first in Ukraine who acted like a truly national poet whose poems reflected workers` feelings and thoughts, their eternal national liberation struggle.
In 1840 Taras Shevchenko published his famous poetry collection “Kobzar” that included eight poems, such as “My Thoughts, “Kateryna”, “Poplar tree” etc. “Kobzar” opened a new epoch of Ukrainian literature development. His poems about Ukraine inspired whole generations of revolutionists, stilled the wills of serf system victims.
Five years later in 1845 Shevchenko wrote the poem “Testament” (“Zapovit”) that became the anthem of national liberation struggle of Ukrainian people and had a great influence on the Ukrainian culture. This poem is considered to be a quintessence of all his creative work. It contains main ideas, motifs and images of angry muse of the poet-fighter.
Ivan Franko (1856-1916)
Ivan Franko is one of the most famous figures in Ukrainian literature. A talented poet, writer, journalist, critic, political activist, Franko made a significant contribution to Ukraine literary treasury.
Ivan Franko is the author of approximately half a thousand poems that were published in eleven collections of poetry. His whole poetic creativity can be divided into several periods:
- “youth romanticism” poetry (1873-1876) contains early romantic poems published in “Ballads and Stories” and “From the Years of My Youth” ;
- “prophecy and rebel” poetry (1876-1889) reflects Ivan Franko interests in scientific realism and socialism (“From the Top and Bottom” two editions in 1883, 1887);
- intimate lyrics (1890-1901) is represented in collection of poems “Withered leaves” (1896);
- mature poetry by Ivan Franko as a “humble modernist” (1901-1906) (“My Izmaragd”, “From the Days of Sorrow”, “Semper Tiro”)
- poetry that didn`t belong to any collections and poetry that was written during 1st World war period (1924-1916).
Franko also wrote fifty long poems, but thirteen of them remained unfinished. His long poems include: fairy-tales, legends, novellas, historical, ethological and philosophical poems.
Poems by Ivan Franko are always filled with love to the native land, to Ukraine. His poem “Anthem”, as well as Shevchenko`s “Testament”, was one of unofficial anthems of Ukrainian people.
Lesya Ukrainka (1871-1913)
Lesya Ukrainka (real name Larysa Kosach-Kvitka) is an outstanding Ukrainian poetess, writer, political and civil activist. She is the author of numerous Ukrainian poems, lyrics, epos, drama and prose works.
The author had an active position in life, was convinced only persistent struggle could help Ukrainian nation. The poetess published three collections of poems: “On the Wings of Songs” (1893), “Thoughts and Dreams” (1899) and “Echoes” (1902), that was a significant contribution to the Ukrainian literature. In spite of her serious disease (tuberculosis) she was an optimistic woman and continued creating masterpieces.
Lesya Ukrainka poems are filled with the motives of struggle for Ukrainian people`s future, for her own life. In poem “To be or not to be”, based on Hamlet`s monologue, Lesya Ukrainka described her own feelings, desperate and doubts – to be or not to be a poet, which way of life to choose. The main idea of this poem, as well as, her whole creative work is that people should never give up, only self-belief and optimism can lead to the bright future.
Mykola Khvylovy (1893-1933)
Mykola Khvylovy (real name Mykola Fitiliov) was one of the brightest Ukrainian talents of the 20th century. He was the poet, writer, publicist and founder of a new genre in Ukrainian literature – pro-revolution prose.
In 1919 Mykola became a member of Communist party, two years later he wrote his first collection of poems “Youth” (1921) and the poem “In the Electrical Age” (1921), which were published in soviet magazines “Ways of Art”, “Arena” and almanac “Poems”. His second collection of poetry “Twilight Symphonies” (1922) finalized his poet career and he switched on writing prose works.
Mykola Khvylovy poems, influenced by neo-romanticism and impressionism tendencies, gained very high appreciation among literary critics of that time. As a romantic poet, Khvylovy in his Ukrainian love poems could depict in a sophisticated manner the moments of some intimate emotions, shared his thoughts concerning inappropriate rejection of people`s past.
Maksym Rylsky (1895-1964)
Prominent Ukrainian poet of the 20th century, Maksym Rylsky, made a great contribution to Ukrainian poetry. His first poem Maksym wrote when he was twelve years old, three years later, in 1910 was published his first collection of poems “On The White Islands”. The nature of his native land became the main theme of his early works, such as “Beneath the Autumn Stars” (1918), “On the edge” (1918).
Maksym Rylsky belonged to the Neoclassicists group, which focused on antique classic, on continuation of humanistic traditions of European poetry. His apolitical style and isolation from the Soviet policy led the poet to imprisonment. That incident changed his creative work orientation, and in 1932 Rylsky published his new poetry collection “The Sign of Libra”, where he proclaimed an active perception of Soviet reality.
During the Soviet times he published 35 collections of poems, such as “Summer”, “Ukraine”, “ Kyiv”, “The Harvest of Grapes”, “Roses and Grapes” etc.; did a lot of translations; was awarded Lenin and Stalin Prizes and headed the Institute of Fine Arts, Folklore, and Ethnography (1944-1964).
Lina Kostenko (1930)
Lina Vasylijivna Kostenko is an outstanding Ukrainian poet and writer, recipient of the Shevchenko Award (1987), Antonovych Prize (1989) and Petrarka Award (1994).
Lina Kostenko is one of the brightest representatives of poets of the sixties (1950-1960). Such group of poets – sixtiers established a new style in Ukrainian literature creating something vanguard, atypical and totally critical towards the governing regime. Exactly during that period she wrote her first collections of poems “Rays of the earth” (1957), “Sails” (1958), “Wanderings of the Heart” (1961). As Lina was a participant of dissident movement, some of her collections of poems (“The Stellar Integral”) were banned to publish for their “ideological harm”.
The poetess is a real professional in the literary world. In her works she comprehends philosophically the content of the problems, reveals the most significant human feelings, sophistication, contradiction and beauty. Poems by Lina Kostenko are filled with reflections about the role of art, about author`s responsibility in conditions of totalitarian society.
Vasyl Makhno (1964)
Vasyl Makhno is a contemporary Ukrainian poet, translator, writer, member of National Writer`s Union of Ukraine. He wrote nine collections of poems such as “Schyma”, (1993) “Caesar`s loneliness” (1994), “The Book of Hills and Hours” (1996), “February Elegies and Other Poems” (1998) etc.
Born in Ukraine, he moved to New York City in 2000, where he went on writing. In his poems Vasyl Makhno pays attention to native land thematic that is especially important for Ukrainian emigrants in the USA. Half of his poems transfer the reader abroad, depicting all the obstacles, pleasures and adventures of the emigrants.
Some of his poems Vasyl devoted to the problem of poetry and the poet`s role in the modern society (“Ten Poets Read for Ten Listeners”). Being the author with non-formalized thinking, he uses his special writing style to communicate with his readers. His texts are always saturated with diverse compares, contrasts and allusions, which can be read on the same breath.
Ilya Kaminski (1977)
Ilya Kaminski is a talented world famous poet, translator and critic, Ukrainian by the origin. He is the author of such collections of poetry as “The Blessed City” (1992), “Musica Humana” (2002), and “Dancing in Odessa” (2004).
The author was born in Odessa, but in 1993 he emigrated to the USA, where he began writing English poems. His first collection of poems he published in Odessa in Russian when he was fifteen. But the worldwide recognition Ilya Kaminski received due to his second English chapbook “Dancing in Odessa”. In this book the author described different moments of the deaf boy`s life. This collection of poems earned him many prestigious literary prizes such as “Lilly Fellowship in Poetry” (2001), “The Dorset Prize” (2002), “Whiting Award” (2005) and others.
In 2013 Ilya Kaminski was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature. His main rivals were Haruki Murakami, Alice Munro and Peter Nadas.