Alexander Korotko is a member of the Israeli Writers’ Union, an academician of the European Academy of Sciences, a poet-philosopher who occupies a special place in the modern creative elite not only in Ukraine, Israel or Russia. His work is both echoes of the Silver Age, and the traditions of classical poetry, and a brightly expressed modernist orientation. Alexander’s works attract the sophisticated reader with their avant-garde and uniqueness.
Today on gUrU we want to talk to author of more than 30 books about his new poem – “STUS”
gUrU: Alexander, you write in different styles, touch on different topics in your works – what prompted you to take up a poem about Vasyl Stus?
Alexander Korotko: At one time I wrote an essay about two Ukrainian poets, two Vasyls – Stus and Symonenko. I admit that this essay was not deep enough, although I have read a lot of their works. But I did not have a complete idea of Vasyl Stus as a poet and a sacrificial person, since I knew only his verses.Recently, in a telephone conversation with our friends Nikolai and Olga Ilchuk, residents of Vinnitsa, fellow countrymen of Vasyl Stus, we touched upon the tragic fate of this poet. From Nikolai and Olga I learned a lot of terrible details from his life and was shocked by what I heard. Immediately after our conversation, I collected everything about Stus, that was in my library – first of all, a collection of poems, his personal correspondence and memoirs of contemporaries, compiled by his son Dmitry Stus, as well as prison diaries published in various publications, letters from Kolyma and links, which I read with a pencil in hand, making the necessary notes for myself. However, the information that I had was not enough, so I called my friends again, they began to send unique materials about Stus, and I completely immersed myself in their study.I was overwhelmed with the facts of Stus’s tragic life. The thought never left me that there was hardly a person with a similar fate among his contemporaries in Europe. I was shocked by the integrity and strength of the spirit of the poet, who had fought all his life for the freedom of Ukraine. I felt an incredible need to speak out, share my experiences and remind my countrymen about the poets and the prisoner of the inhuman regime, and not just remind, but do everything that depends on me so that Vasyl Stus takes a worthy place in Ukrainian literature and among those who fought for the independence of Ukraine.
So began the work under the poems.
gUrU: You wrote a poem in 10 days – this is a rather tight deadline for such a large-scale work performed in the avant-garde style. Please tell us how the workflow developed and what techniques did you use?
Alexander Korotko: My creative process always consists of working on the idea of a work and on its implementation – that is, the embodiment. The idea is always primary for me, I work it out to the smallest detail. If the plan corresponds to what is maturing in me, then its implementation will be worthy.I never technically write the plot until I finally have it and the circle closes. And I devote much more time to this than to the very embodiment of the plan. Therefore, to say that the poem was written in ten days is not entirely correct – it took much more time.In order to make the poem more convex, multidimensional and reliable, I used two techniques. Firstly, I incorporated the Ukrainian speech into the text, and secondly, I brought direct quotes from poetry, letters and diary entries of Stus, which, as it seems to me, made it possible to strengthen the emotional perception of the poem.
gUrU: Is the choice of the hyperbolized image of the poet a conscious introduction of the reader to aesthetic experiences or a desire to allegorically introduce mythological space into the outline of the poem?
Alexander Korotko: Sorry, but we are not talking about any mythologization. I think that if Vasyl Stus found out that someone would like to mythologize him as a poet and as a person, he would be enraged, since he was concrete and alive. My task was actually as difficult as it was simple. Using the materials at my disposal, I tried to tell the truth – and convey it in poetic language.It is generally accepted that the work took place when the literary truth is higher than the earthly, but in the case of Stus and his fate, his truth of life is higher than any literary truth. I am sure that you should not be afraid of the truth, no matter how terrible it may be. Speaking of Stus, we can only paint his fate in black and white, which I did.
gUrU: In one of your interviews in 2016, you said that the reader is got out and the writer needs to think about him. In your opinion, has the situation changed today, has the reader begun to search for and “seek” a writer, or has everything worsened even more – the writer is forced to dodge, trying to attract attention to himself?
Alexander Korotko: It’s better not to write at all if, before you start work, you think how to please the reader. I will allow myself to express one provocative thought: for a creative person, such a category as a reader should not be on his axis of coordinates. It is up to the reader to find his own writer and, at the same time, realize that comprehension of what has been written is no less a creative process than the creation of a work.To say that the wrong reader lives now is a deliberately flawed position. It’s like repeating – the people are bad, they choose the wrong ones, and the Motherland is not very good … But the Motherland is like a mother, there is only one.The world is diverse, and real literature is not pop music, it cannot have many fans. Real reading is a chamber, even intimate thing. It is primarily a spiritual experience and an existential experience. There is no need to grumble at all and about the unfortunate reader in particular.
gUrU: Do you think this is more and more connected with the fact that people began to perceive information more in pictures, memos? Why does a text with descriptions of nature, state, or filled with allegories cause fear in the reader?
Alexander Korotko: It’s very simple. It is much easier to go to fast food than to prepare a homemade healthy and useful meal. Pictures, memos are a manifestation of disorder, illness of most of the society. This is the unwillingness to work on oneself, to overcome oneself. It is much easier to climb into the world’s garbage dump called the Internet and poke around in intellectual waste to the point of being stupefied.
gUrU: Alexander, thank you for the fascinating conversation and, in the end, I ask you to tell us about your creative plans for the near future.
Alexander Korotko: Now my poetry, prose, miniatures are translated a lot in the West. In England it is Michael Pursglove and Hilory Shears, both renowned professionals and great people. Just today I received confirmation from Michael that he will undertake the translation of the poem “Stus”. My concept: the translation should be as close to the original as possible, and this is achieved only by the joint work of the author and the translator, in our case by constant online discussion.I have three large manuscripts on my desk now, which I am finalizing. I’m not a superstitious person, but I think it’s premature to talk about what’s in the works. You can find some fragments of future books on my personal pages of social networks Facebook and Instagram, as well as on my official website korotko-poetry.com