Oleh Lysheha
(Ukraine, 1949)   
Oleh Lysheha

Oleh Lysheha, a bearded recluse, is a living legend of Ukrainian poetry. A dissident, he was forbidden to publish in the Soviet Union from 1972 to 1988, which did not prevent him from being called the "poets' poet".

"I live in places with no Microsoft or McDonald's. Archaic is my ideal," he likes to repeat. Indeed, Lysheha is the Ukrainian Henry Thoreau of the beginning of the 21st century. The way of life of ordinary people does not seem to apply to him. He exists in a parallel universe – he likes to walk barefoot in the city, to swim in the ice-cold river in winter, he catches fish with his teeth, knows how to make paper from mushrooms, never uses public transport, and does not have a job.

Lysheha was born in 1949 in Tysmennytsia – a village in the Ukrainian Carpathian Mountains. Anglo-American literature of the 19th and 20th century, and ancient Chinese philosophy and poetry are the most important influences on his work. He translated T.S. Eliot and E. Pound into Ukrainian and was the co-author of a book of translations from Chinese, The Stories of Ancient China. Strange though it may be, Oleh Lysheha published only two poetry books – The Big Bridge (1989) and To Snow and Fire (2003). His miracle play Friend Li Po, Brother Tu Fu is considered a true masterpiece of Ukrainian drama.

His poetry, well known to Western readers through the English translations by American poet James Brasfield, has nothing in common with the Ukrainian poetic tradition. Rather, it is influenced by natural philosophy, shamanistic meditation, total denial of a technocratic world, and escapism.

© Andriy Bondar (Translated by Kateryna Botanova)

The Big Bridge (poems, 1989);
To Snow and Fire (poems, 2003);
The Selected Poems of Oleh Lysheha (English) (poems, 1999).


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