Bohdan Ihor Antonych

The remarkable Ukrainian poet and literary critic Bohdan Ihor Antonych lived for only a brief 28 years. In 1920 he entered the Queen Sophia State Gymnasium in Syanok, which he completed eight years later. Antonych then matriculated at Lviv University. Lviv is the cultural center of Western Ukraine, which in Antonych’s lifetime was part of Poland. During his study of Ukrainian philology at the university, Antonych adopted Ukrainian as his literary language, and he also became extremely active in the literary and intellectual life of the multi-cultural city of Lviv, a city that he grew to love dearly. Antonych served as a kind of cultural bridge between Polish and Ukrainian literary circles, which at the time did not mix to any great degree. He died in 1937 of complications from pneumonia after a successful operation for appendicitis, just a few short months before his planned wedding to Olha Oliynyk. His premature death occurred at the height of his creative talent, when he already had emerged as a poet of extraordinary maturity and erudition.

In the brief span of his life, Antonych  proved to have been an exceptionally innovative poet and an accomplished essayist. As Lydia Stefanowska observes in her critical writings on the poet, Antonych was greatly influenced by Polish avant-garde poetry of the 1920s and was one of the first literary critics to note the talent of the then young future Nobel Prize winner Czeslaw Milosz. Antonych’s poetry was a breath of fresh air for Ukrainian poetry in the 1930s, and like a number great poets, he was perceived in many different ways by his reading public. He has been described as an imagist, a mystic, a symbolist, and a pantheist. While these labels may fit certain moments in his poetry, they do not individually convey the totality of his oeuvre. His relatively small corpus of published works has been extraordinarily influential on a number of Ukrainian poets for generations to come, especially during the periods of the 1960s and 1980s, which were particularly trying times for Ukrainian society under Soviet repression. Antonych’s poetry covers a number of themes from the mundane, the joy of life in little things, to the profoundly metaphysical, to nature and man’s place in it, to urban themes, to an impending sense of apocalypse, which, regrettably, came true with the Nazi invasion. As opposed to the patriotic tendencies of a number of Western Ukrainian poets in his time, Antonych’s approach was an art for art’s sake one with high-minded aesthetic principles. 

The Grand Harmony first appeared in English translation in a bilingual edition with Litopys Publishers in 2007, which has long been sold out. The poems “Musica Noctis,” “De Morte I,” “Ars Poetica 1” and “Liber Peregrinorum 3” were reprinted in The Essential Poetry of Bohdan Ihor Antonych: Ecstasies and Elegies (Bucknell University Press, 2010). One can find additional poetic renderings of Antonych’s selected poetry in the translations of various well-known American poets under the title A Square of Angels (Ann Arbor: Ardis Publishers, 1977), which was edited by Bohdan Boychuk.


The Grand Harmony

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9781911414353 | Pub. date: April 2017
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The Grand Harmony
Catalogue 2017

Catalogue 2017

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