Literature, Exile, Alterity
The New York Group of Ukrainian Poets
Academic Studies Press 2014
New Books in American StudiesNew Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in Literary StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in PoetryNew Books in Russian and Eurasian StudiesNew Books Network February 23, 2017 Nataliya Shpylova-Saeed
In Literature, Exile, Alterity: The New York Group of Ukrainian Poets (Academic Studies Press, 2014), Maria G. Rewakowicz explores a unique collaboration of the poets residing in the United States and writing poetry in the Ukrainian language. This research offers a systematized and chronologically organized vision of the group, which, in spite of the geographical limitations implied by its name, appeared to invite artists from a variety of geographical loci and aesthetic backgrounds.
Literature, Exile, Alterity focuses on seven founding members of the New York Group: Bohdan Boychuk, Yuriy Tarnawsky, Bohdan Rubchak, Zhenia Vasylkivska, Patricia Kylyna, Emma Andijevska, and Vira Vovk. Acquiring its shape during the 1950s and 1960s and actively participating in the cultural, social, and political dialogues during the subsequent decades, the New York Group expanded and eventually went rather far beyond its original core. Over the decades, the group also dispersed geographically; however, as Rewakowicz argues, it retained its aesthetic and philosophical essentials revolving around the notions of home/homeland, exile, the collaboration of the center and the periphery, political and social impetus of poetry, poetic forms and meanings they generate, etc.
Rewakowicz contextualizes the New York Group from the viewpoint of the poets relationship with their native language(s): writing in Ukrainian was a conscious choice for the majority of the groups members. Language thus is presented not only in terms of creative enterprise but also in terms of political, social, and cultural negotiations. As the research attests, the members of the group situate themselves in opposition to Soviet Ukraine, to the mainstream culture (both in Ukraine and the US), and to the literary conventions supported by the literary establishments. From this perspective, the groups focus on linguistic choices and preferences marks a gesture toward re-inventing selves and poetry, re-negotiating selves and others, and disrupting the mainstream.
In addition to the theoretical framework for the discussion of the New York Group phenomenon, Literature, Exile, Alterity also offers an exquisite analysis of the poetry. Rewakowicz illuminates the multilayeredness the poets embrace and presents the groups diverse poetic experimentations as the engagement with altered selves. Existential undertones that the poetic works lavishly comprise are discussed in the context of Western European modernism. In spite of the strong modernist influences that the works of the New York Group demonstrate, the researcher also initiates a discussion of the group in terms of the overlapping of modernism and postmodernism. Literature, Exile, Alterity contributes to the discussion of modern Ukrainian literature from the perspective of intercultural and interliterary connections and influences. Rewakowicz also engages in the conversation regarding diverse intricacies of literary developments.
Maria G. Rewakowicz, poet, translator, literary scholar, teaches Ukrainian literature at Rutgers. She received a PhD in Slavic Studies from the University of Toronto. Rewakowiczs research interests include: Ukrainian language, culture, and literature; language politics, literature and identity construction; feminism and nationalism in post-Soviet space; women and gender issues in literature; Ukrainian migr poetry; exile and literature; postcolonial studies.