Zhadan and Friends 2020

Zhadan & Friends 2020

April 2020


Event Poster: 

Zhadan & Poets 
Zhadan & Jazz

Zhadan & Poets



Event Program: 

Zhadan & Poets video of virtual event

Zhadan & Jazz



Event Program:

Zhadan & Jazz video of virtual event

Zhadan & Friends 2020

Yara Arts Group and the Ukrainian Museum in New York presented two virtual events with Serhiy Zhadan. On Friday, April 24, 2020, Zhadan read his poetry in Ukrainian from two books, “What We Live For, What We Die For” (2019) and “Antenna” (2018), while American poets Dzvinia Orlowsky, Wanda Phipps, Isaac Stackhouse Wheeler and Olena Jennings reacted to them with their own poems in English. On Saturday, April 25, Zhadan read from his recently released book “List of Ships” (2020), as well as his newest unpublished poems. Poet Bob Holman and Yara actors read English translations together with jazz pianists Anthony Coleman and Fima Chupakhin.

April is National Poetry Month in America and every year Yara creates a series of poetry events in the spring. Two years ago, Serhiy Zhadan arrived for the launch of his book, “Mesopotamia." His poetry reading at the 2018 PEN Festival in New York was sensational. Last spring, Yale University Press published his selected poetry as “What We Life For /What We Die For” in translations by Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps. Times Literary Supplement wrote: “World-class poet” … “masterfully translated.” Yara organized two book launches at the Ukrainian Museum in New York that were sold out. This year there were plans for a festival of events with Serhiy Zhadan in New York, Philadelphia and Australia. A virus changed all plans, but it did not cancel them. Yara reimagined the events as a virtual festival.

Serhiy Zhadan was born in the Luhansk Region of Ukraine and educated in Kharkiv where he lives today. He is the author of twelve books of poetry. His prose works include Big Mac (2003), Depeche Mode (2004), Anarchy in the UKR (2005), Hymn of the Democratic Youth (2006), Voroshilovgrad (2010), Mesopotamia (2014) and Orphanage. He is the front man for the band Zhadan and the Dogs, and has collaborated with Yara Arts Group since 2002. Last spring, Yale University Press published his selected poems as What We Live For/What We Die For translated by Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps, which was nominated for the 2019 PEN Translation Award.

You can order What We Life For, What We Die For selected poetry by Serhiy Zhadan, translated by Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps from Yale University Press, Amazon or bookshop.com which supports your local bookstore.

Yara’s Spring Poetry Events were made possible by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, New York State Council on the Arts and the Self Reliance Foundation. Since 2015, they have been hosted by the Ukrainian Museum of New York.

Press on Zhadan 2020 events


          Like many arts organizations, Yara Arts Group is going virtual during the pandemic, taking the opportunity to involve artists in other parts of the world. On April 24 and 25, Yara had their first virtual events with well-known Ukrainian poet Serhiy Zhadan, live from outside of Kharkiv. The events were hosted by Virlana Tkacz with technical assistance by Darien Fiorino.

The first event of Zhadan and Friends featured poets responding to Zhadan’s work with their own poetry and Julian Kytasty responding on the bandura. The poets were Dzvinia Orlowsky, Isaac Stackhouse Wheeler, Wanda Phipps, and myself.

The second event of Zhadan and Friends featured Yara Arts Group actors, musicians Anthony Coleman and Fima Chupakhin, poet Bob Holman, and Serhiy Zhadan. Yara Arts succeeded in drawing a virtual crowd. The event on Zoom by invitation and on Facebook live had over 500 views.

In 2019, Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps released their book of various translations of Zhadan’s poems What We Live For, What We Die For (Yale University Press.) For these virtual events, Tkacz and Phipps translated a new body of poems. They started their new translations with poems from List of Ships.

            Saturday’s event began with a reading by Bob Holman of an essay written by Zhadan called “Phonebook of the Dead” which serves as an introduction to his poems. From this essay, we learn that Zhadan’s father has recently died causing Zhadan to take a journey through the landscape of memory. He writes about diary entries and bad photos, both help him to remember. He finds his father was someone he didn’t know, he “wrote about all of us in his odd handwriting, the handwriting of somebody we didn’t know.” Later, Zhadan calls to the places in his landscape that evoke memory, “book of trees,” “book of stones,” and “book of trampled soccer fields.”

            He also sets a tone for us to consider what writing is, comparing it to nature, “Writing is like a river. Wading into the water, not everyone looks at ease.” Jazz musician Anthony Coleman emphasized these lines with his piano playing, which complemented Bob Holman’s reading perfectly.

            Actors Sean Eden, Chris Ignacio, Maria Pleshkevich, Darien Fiorino, and Maksym Lozynski read from New York’s East Village to San Francisco. They all did justice to Zhadan’s work, but Zhadan most carefully recited the words that are close to his heart. Anthony Coleman continued to play through their readings. Zhadan’s laid-back nature created a sense of comfort like the piano playing.

            In one of the favorite poems “I Imagine How a Bird Sees This,” read by Darien Fiorino in English translation and Serhiy Zhadan in the Ukrainian original. Zhadan writes about the “discarded pages on the streets” making another comment about writing, what is given away and becomes part of nature. Later in the show, we learn about the sun like scripture, a beautiful combination of nature and writing.

            Zhadan read from another book in progress called Psalm of Aviation. This is another instance in which he speaks of writing in the poem “There were words.” “There were words I said about people and their stories.”

            The end of the event was a special treat in that Zhadan read from another book, the most recent, in progress with the accompaniment of Fima Chupakhin on piano.

            This event was a homage to the words used to express death and other emotions. The event will linger in my memory, perfect in a time when the pandemic might occupy most of our thoughts. Yara Arts, as always, is doing a great job creating a diverse community, even during a time of social distancing.

by Olena Jennings, The Ukrainian Weekly, May 3, 2020



Yara Arts Group

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New York, NY 10003 USA

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