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Oksana Maksymchuk

Oksana has white skin and long brown hair and a long fringe. Her lips are red and she stands in front of greenery outdoors
Books by this author: Still City
  • About
  • Reviews
  • Oksana Maksymchuk was born in Lviv, Ukraine, in 1982. She is the author of two award-winning poetry collections, Xenia and Lovy, in the Ukrainian, as well as a co-editor of Words for War: New Poems from Ukraine, an anthology of contemporary poetry. Her English-language poems appeared in The Irish Times, The London Magazine, The Paris Review, Poetry London, PN Review, The Poetry Review and elsewhere. Oksana was a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts translation fellowship and a winner of Scaglione Prize from the Modern Language Association of America, Peterson Translated Book Award, American Association for Ukrainian Studies Translation Prize, Richmond Lattimore Prize, and Joseph Brodsky/Stephen Spender Prize. She holds a PhD in ancient philosophy from Northwestern University. In recent years, Oksana has been dividing her time between her home in Lviv and various visiting appointments in the United States and Europe.
    Praise for Oksana Maksymchuk 'We have needed this book of poems for centuries, for generations; a poet who shatters all the quiet retreat like an alarm clock that will never shut off. Forget the front pages of newspapers causing breakfast paralysis; it's Oksana Maksymchuk we need to tell us, "In the dictionary of victims / there's no space / for a hair to fall."'
    'Poet, philosopher, anthologist, translator Oksana Maksymchuk is someone whose work I have known and admired for years, and yet nothing prepared me for her new book, Still City. How can one prepare for war? This is precisely the question this poetry makes memorable music of. But how does one make music of something like that? "Waking up in a borrowed room, in a body / borrowed for a time, in a time / borrowed," the poet says as she points us to "bodies in the street / scorched trees / Black squares / for windows / Black buttons / for eyes." That's when air-raid sirens start. "Pack all you need to survive" is the music's advice.
    "What I didn't suspect about / war is that there'd be / music," the poet says. "Not the kind that compels you to move," she admits, "but the kind that irradiates / every surviving nucleus / rendering you a creature // absolutely new / facing the passage of time / naked." That kind of music. There is terrifying restraint in these poems of war wherein realism becomes a song, realism becomes hallucination, realism is a naked nerve set to a tune. Terrifying, yes, but necessary. Still City is an important book.'
    Ilya Kaminsky
    'In Oksana Maksymchuk's Still City, war is everywhere. It is impending, it arrives, and swallows, infusing every detail of life, and every act of figurative language that can be used in the service of those details. Even the cat rolling a ball of yarn rolls it like a grenade. Even "this poem you're inside - / won't it need a lock?" she asks. Maksymchuk's management of tonal nuance is extraordinary, from the relative innocence of the book's opening lines, "I bought a hat / of faux mink fur / to wear in the war," to later, the "body turned inside out... a spectacle / resembling a bag spilling its private content." The book's relationship to language is clean, elegantly crafted, but never simple. Maksymchuk accesses myth, philosophy, imagination, allusion - and remains utterly accessible, an act of generosity akin to the great poets of tyranny and war, so that "[Y]ou too bear witness to / the interminable." Gradually, a necessary coldness takes hold, as Maksymchuk questions poetry itself, describing a poem as "flattened... like roadkill," and reminds us that tyrants, too, mouth their barbaric verses. I am grateful for Maksymchuk's radical honesty, for her willingness to take me to her homeland, to its lit display cabinets filled with cakes, its candied pinecones, the lushness of its flowers, its classrooms filled with children, so that I can begin to understand the brutality of its violation. She teaches me that life, it turns out, is as tenacious as war. "[I]t says yes/ Always - yes // No use / denying it."'
    Diane Seuss
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