In the first days of the new 2023, the judges Vasyl Makhno, Maria Revakovych, and Oksana Lutsyshyna announced the winners of the Lesia and Petro Kovaliv Foundation Literary Award of 2022. Held annually under the patronage of the Ukrainian National Women’s League of America, this contest distinguishes the best books in the categories of poetry, prose, and essay. According to the jury’s professional opinion, the winners are Iryna Vikyrchak for her collection of poems Algometry (2021), Oleh Kotsarev for his collection of poetry The Contents of a Man’s Pocket (2021), and Halyna Kruk for her book of short stories Anyone But Me (2021).
Iryna Vikyrchak is a Ukrainian poet, writer, translator, and culture manager. Before Algometry, she published a poetry collection named Conversation With An Angel (2004) and a bilingual poetry album Time Train: Chernivtsi-Prague-Vienna (2011).
“Poetry is often hidden in places where it has not been sought,” Halyna Kruk, also this year’s laureate of the Kovaliv Award, writes about the collection of her colleague. “Because where it has already been sought and found, there are whole mountains of poetic clichés and stereotypes of verbal combinatorics.” In the creative plane where Iryna Vikyrchak’s Algometry lives, images are weightless and as intuitive as memory or dreams. The book’s title comes from the name of a space experiment: it established that humans feel pain on Earth much more than in space. However, the collection almost ignores physical pain in the collection: it is rather the pain of growing up, the pain of not returning to the past, which, despite its familiarity, is as unattainable as the depths of the universe.
The Contents of a Man’s Pocket
Oleh Kotsarev‘s creative career is replete with published books. He created the novel People in Nests (2017), poetry collections Short and Long (Kyiv, 2003), My First Knife (2009), A Coincidence Near Yahotyn (2009, What Time Is It (2013), The Circus (2015), Black Bread, White Whale (2015), Smooth Rivers (2015), Charlie Chaplin’s Square (2018), and the collection of short stories The Incredible Story of the Reign of Chlorophytum the First. His work has been translated into many languages, and in addition to prose and poetry, it also includes literary criticism and translations.
The Contents of a Man’s Pocket, published by the Kyiv publishing house Luta Sprava in 2021, seems to be a kaleidoscope of topics. There are all sorts of things in this creative pocket: playfully ironic love poems, meditative contemplations, and philosophical sketches about the meaning of life. As the contest judge Vasyl Makhno rightly notes, this is a book about the passage of time. According to Oleh Kotsarev, “time is said to untie all the knots / erase all the nonsense / but even when the past is forgotten and closed / it can draw itself again.”
Anyone But Me
The only prose book among this year’s laureates, Halyna Kruk‘s Anyone But Me, was published in 2021 by Vivat Publishing House. The author is a philologist-medievalist. She graduated from the Ivan Franko State University of Lviv and now teaches literature at the same institution. The author of many scientific studies on various genres of school literature of the XVII-XVIII centuries, she also published several poetry collections: Travels in Search of A Home (Lviv, 1997), Footprints on the Sand (Kyiv, 1997), Faces Out of the Picture (Kyiv, 2005) and Singing/Existence (Lviv, 2013), as well as numerous publications in literary periodicals.
Despite its title, Anyone But Me is about all of us. These short stories are deeply personal, as if peeped through a keyhole, and highly poignant. “You trust the heroines and heroes of the stories unconditionally because they are mostly shown in the moment of the highest vulnerability – and therefore paradoxical openness to the world: in times of loss, illness, loneliness. And at the same time, this is extremely life-affirming prose, where there is room not only for tragedy but also for humor, and bright moments of family life, and growing plants – and thus for love and faith,” Vasyl Makhno explains.
All laureates will receive diplomas and a monetary award of $1,000 from the Lesia and Petro Kovaliv Foundation. Established in 1967 by the Ukrainian National Women’s League of America, the Foundation aims to support the creators of Ukrainian science and literature.
The Kovaliv family was originally from the central Ukrainian lands. Until 1919, Petro Kovaliv worked as an attaché of the diplomatic mission of the Ukrainian People’s Republic in Holland and Belgium. Later the Kovaliv couple lived in Switzerland. By creating the Foundation, they manifested their patriotism and awareness of the importance of literature and science for national development.
This year’s winning books were published in pre-war 2021. Undoubtedly, the images and themes revealed on their pages are being interpreted and experienced in a new way. It remains for us to both contemplate and create a new stage of Ukrainian literature: cultural and existential resistance to military aggression.
Read this article in Ukrainian in the April 2023 issue of Our Life.