The poet Vasyl Makhno was born in Chortkiv, in the Ukrainian province Ternopil, in 1964. After completing his studies at the Pedagogical Institute in Ternopil, he graduated in literature and worked as a lecturer at the college. In 1999 his doctoral thesis about Bohdan-Ihor Antonych, a prominent representative of Ukrainian modernism, was published. Modernism represented the most significant milestone for contemporary younger poets after a time when Ukrainian national literature had been repressed by the Tsars and its development inhibited by the doctrine of Socialist Realism as well as the Soviet politics of Russification.
Makhno’s early collections of poetry, including »Knyha pahorbiv ta hodyn« (1996; t: The book of hills and hours) and »Liutnevi elehii ta inshi virshi« (1998; t: February elegies and other poems) are still in this modernist tradition. After his travels had led him out of the and after teaching at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow in the late nineties, he moved to New York in 2000. His collection of poetry, »Plavnyk ryby« (2002; t: The fish fin) – half written in Europe, half in – is a visible testimony to this transition. In Makhno’s »complex metaphorical imagery and dense verbal texture of his poetry, as well as the nearly anarchic utilization of grammar in his works, with virtually no punctuation«, new images emerged (translator Michael M. Naydan). Verve and variety, as well as the profane, now dominate the observant cadence of his free verse and create a stimulating contrast to his weighty diction and nature metaphors. »Our Ukrainian culture … is part of the tradition that assumes a romanticized approach to poets, to poetry writing and so on. Because of that, various taboos took root: you can write about this, but not about that. Thus for many people it is hard to let go of these stereotypes«, the poet commented in an interview about developments in recent Ukrainian poetry, which he has helped to carry forward.
Makhno’s poetry has been translated into Polish, English, Serbian, German, Russian, Romanian, Slovene, Lithuanian, Malayalam, Czech and Belorussian. After his sixth collection of poetry was published, »38 virshiv pro N’iu-lork I deshtsho inshe« (2004; t: 38 poems about New York and other things), a book of selected old and unpublished poems was released, »Cornelia Street Café« (2007). In addition, Makhno has published translations, including a volume of poems by Zbigniew Herbert and edited an anthology of new Ukrainian poetry, two plays and the book of essays »Park kultury ta vydposhynku ymeni Gertrudy Staijn« (2006; t: The Gertrude Stein Memorial Culture and Recreation Park), in which he focuses on American-European modernity. The author lives in New York, where he works for the Shevchenko Scientific Society.
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