Poetry Crossings April 2022: Something Extraordinary Happened Today

april 2022 kathy ellis poetry crossings poets reading the news ukraine Apr 15, 2022

Something Extraordinary Happened Today
By Kathy Ellis
Poetry Editor of Poetry Crossings

What do poets, translators, and peace dreamers have in common? They joined forces from around the world to support Ukraine and a program called "Voices for Ukraine - Words Together Worlds Apart."

On the afternoon of March 1st, the event was delayed due to massive interest, as hundreds of participants came into the Zoom meeting. Dear readers, in attendance there were over 850 poets, translators, and peace dreamers, largely Ukrainians, Americans, and Russians on 34 pages of Zoom. Featured poets read in Ukrainian, English, and Russian, and many poems were translated. Can you imagine the task of translating poetry?

By happenstance, I came across this event listed on Carolyn Forché’s Facebook page. Carolyn is one of the prominent American poet voices calling out injustices, earning quite a following and is an influencer. Carolyn had the honor to be the first reader. Ilya Kaminsky, a well-known Ukrainian writer residing in Atlanta, was a featured poet as well. Also present, eight notable Ukrainian poets were calling in from Ukraine. 

How can a person offer justice to describe the power and feelings of this deeply moving event? I invite you to listen to the video that is linked below:

Voices for Ukraine - Words Together, Worlds Apart - YouTube

“Hosts Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach and Olga Livshin unite Ukrainian poets and their translators alongside US poet allies in Voices for Ukraine, part of the reading series “Words Together, Worlds Apart.” Voices for Ukraine brought together transatlantic listeners, spanning from Kyiv, Odesa, and Lviv, to Los Angeles, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Little Rock, and beyond. Poets and translators shared work LIVE as well as some recordings of Ukrainian poets who were unable to join the event.”

*Recording is 2.5 hours, but even 30 minutes would be worth your while.


Extra! Extra! Read all about it…

Poets Reading The News is “journalism in verse” and offers poets a chance to respond what is in the news. You may find a poem or two that works well with your classes, trainings, and coaching.


Below is one such poem: 


Published on March 5, 2022  in Ukraine/World  by Sue Eisenfeld

The rabbi from Odessa has bought enough food
To feed his congregation for a year:1
Sugar, macaroni, canned fruit.
He has arranged security and evacuation buses, too.
In a place that was once the third largest Jewish population in the world,
Home to forty synagogues,
They remember the hangings in the streets, the burnings in the square,
Murders in the basements.
The whole of Odessa is a tomb.2

In a bed next to mine, my grandmother from Kiev
Used to wake up from nightmares, screaming.
From under my covers, in those childhood nights,
I was afraid of the ghosts in her eyes.
She could never shake the chill of Russia
And died at 60.

Now, her blood is still bound up within me.
Amid the thunk of trench digging, the thunder of war,
Are trading shawls for helmets and camouflage gear,
Taking up arms and training for combat.
And I hear her quivering voice
Echoing through the streets of Kyiv.
“Bubelah,” she whispers this time,
“When an invader comes, I will resist, and I will be furious.” 3
The worst thing in life is not death, she taught me;
It is being afraid.
                                       —for Marcine
 1. Rabbi Avraham Wolff, New York Times
2. Njusia Verkhovskaya, New York Times
3. Valentina Konstantinovska, BBC
4. Ruth Salton, New York Times