When poetry is the weapon of the information frontAbout Us

When poetry is the weapon of the information front

During 2021 Mystetskyi Arsenal collaborated with the StAnza Festival (Scotland).  The idea of ​​the Beyond Any Curtain project is very simple and large-scaled at the same time: four Ukrainian poets have tried to feel how their poems will sound in Scottish. And four Scottish poets, respectively, in Ukrainian. During the year, project participants together with translator Uilleam Blacker transposed poetry between English and Ukrainian languages, Shetland and Hutsul dialects.

The project was curated by Oksana Schur (Ukraine, Mystetskyi Arsenal) and Annie Rutherford (Scotland, StAnza Poetry Festival).

As of March 2022, project Beyond Any Curtain has:

  • bilingual e-book of poetry and translations created within the Beyond Any Curtain project via issuu.com;
  • music tracks created by Grigory Semenchuk, that use the fragments of poetic texts and translations by the participants of the project via soundcloud.com;
  • lyrics videos created by Eugene Arlov, featuring the music by Grigory Semenchuk via youtube.com;
  • The Evening of Poetry and Wine, online presentation of “products” of the project;
  • Ukrainian-Scottish poetry readings during the Book Arsenal Festival in Kyiv in 2021 via youtube.com.

The Ukrainian poets were meant to appear as the final part of a Project about poetry, translation and music. However, due to the war, the planned finale did not work out. But since poetry is a powerful weapon of the information front, it was decided to reformat the finish of the project on a Europe tour. Curator of the project and one of the participants, poet Lyuba Yakymchuk in March 2022 went on a refugee-poetry-tour (St. Andrews – Paris – Warsaw).

Oksana Shchur, curator of a project: “Since March 2021 — honestly, even longe, since the beginning of writing the grant application — we have been preparing for this March. Four Ukrainian poets, two women and two men, had to go to Scotland to present the results of our yearlong work: an e-book of translations, music tracks based on the poems in this book, to talk about how a poet can feel a text from a neighboring language without being a professional translator… After all, it was about how long-term collaboration between artists can build bridges between cultures that are more enduring than political relationships. We were preparing, and we really expected it. At the end of February it became clear that a choice had to be made: it was easier to cancel everything due to force majeure. We would most likely be forgiven. Or we could try to fight. Since poetry is really able to speak as strongly as television news stories”. The tour aimed to tell foreigners who Ukrainians are and what is happening now, in the 21st century. That the war started not now, but 8 years ago. More precisely: in 2008, when Georgia was attacked, it was said — Ukraine will be next.

  • How was it?

“Lyuba, just from Kyiv, read poems written over a period of eight years: about Donbas, about leaving home and coming back, about anticipation of the next stage of this war, about family, home and love. And then answered the questions.  Among those who came to her performances in Scotland, as well as at transfers in Paris and Warsaw (I worked as a manager, writing from trains, buses and airports to all friends and friends of friends – no one refused! – for support, arrangements with venues for performances, about the dissemination of information, about translations of announcements and about place to sleep for a night or two): a variety of people.  Foreigners that give shelter to refugees and organize donations. Ukrainians who already live abroad for a long time and now generously share their experience, and at the same time transfer everything necessary to Ukraine. Cultural figures, such as the director of the Cultural Center of Kosovo in Paris, who came to support us. They asked what was going on and how we lived there; how to treat newcomers better and what not to do in any case; why we do not give up and how we see our own future.  This is media coverage, this direct contact was important. Thanks and support from us.”

Project is supported by the European Union within the House of Europe programme.