Translator's notes

Home Is Still Possible There...


In Kateryna Kalytko’s poetry beautiful images come together like pieces of a puzzle to create violent and shocking images of war and an atmosphere depicting the sense of loss and pain that is experienced during a search for safety and identity in violent times.

The challenge was to render the emotional temperature of Kateryna Kalytko’s poetry. She is – for the English-speaking world – very, very emotional. In Ukrainian, Kalytko uses a lot of approximate rhymes (Ukrainian, unlike English, is rich that way – with plenty of precise rhymes available, since it is a highly inflected language). But Kateryna chooses (and acts as a bit of a trend-se er in this regard) approximate rhymes, as if to show that nothing we know we really know, nothing is precise, and we approach life only by approximation. Her approximate rhymes, to us, are a sign of humility and deep understanding of the connectedness of things. 

Another challenge was in the rhyme itself. Rhyme is not so common for poetry in English, especially poems on serious, difficult topics, such as war, violence and grief. And yet, to strip Kateryna Kalytko’s poems of rhymes completely also seemed wrong. We agreed that it would be best to preserve a small number of rhymes, and to compensate for the losses inevitable in poetry translation by formal means: by sometimes breaking the stanzas into smaller ones, or changing the length of a line. This way, the rhymes, by suddenly appearing, punctuate the text, arrest the readers’ a ention, and emphasize the tragic nature of the events and feelings of the poem. The contrast of beautiful and violent images creates dense, emotional poetry in which the writer becomes a refugee in search of shelter and identity at the time of war.

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