Translations of Two Jewish Poets from Ukraine

I Read With An Accent

I read with an accent and I can’t open I 

can’t open my mouth speech snaps like a wire

in the wind, what can’t be fixed? Tongue

behind teeth, lip pressed to lip, phonetics

and linguistics drown me in me;

morphology leads dances around my body holding hands

with semantics I even think with an accent, Descartes

might say I breathe with an accent, life a teacher

lingers between my days like rows

of desks, how like my own is her wicked grin.

- Boris Khersonsky, Translated by Katie Farris and Ilya Kaminsky

Boris Khersonsky:

Widely regarded as one of Ukraine's most prominent Russian-language poets, Boris Khersonsky was a part of the Samizdat movement, which disseminated alternative, non-conformist literature in the USSR. After the fall of the USSR, he published many books of poetry which have been widely translated.

Translators:

Katie Farris is the author of Boysgirls (Tupelo Press) and A Net to Catch My Body in Its Weaving, which won the Chad Walsh Prize from Beloit Poetry Journal. Her book, Standing in the Forrest of Being Alive, is forthcoming from Alice James Books in 2023.

Ilya Kaminsky is the author of Dancing in Odessa (Tupelo) and Deaf Republic (Graywolf), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry.


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Yes Now She Understands It All

Yes now she understands it all.

It is necessary to insert a homo sapiens into a virus.

Preferably two young homo sapiens that couple

endlessly, making little homo sapiens,

sexing sex in every endless sex.

So that virus becomes infected with homo sapiens, and passes

the infection along to the next virus and the next and the next—

That is how you stop a pandemic.

- Ludmila Khersonsky, Translated by Ilya Kaminsky and Katie Farris

Ludmila Khersonsky 

Born in Tiraspol, Moldova in 1964, Ludmila Khersonsky is an award-winning poet and author of three collections of poetry. Her work has been honored with the Voloshin Prize and translated into several languages, including German and Lithuanian. She lives in Odessa, Ukraine.

Translators:

Katie Farris is the author of Boysgirls (Tupelo Press) and A Net to Catch My Body in Its Weaving which won Chad Walsh Prize from Beloit Poetry Journal. Her book Standing in the Forrest of Being Alive is forthcoming from Alice James Books in 2023.

Ilya Kaminsky is the author of Dancing in Odessa (Tupelo) and Deaf Republic (Graywolf), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry.

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