Confession of a poet after a year of war

If you think of yourself as a poet or a poetess and you are considering taking this path seriously, most likely sooner or later you will ask yourself this question: what can I do for poetry?

Really, what is the point of playing around with words, especially in difficult times, if all your efforts yield only fleeting, ephemeral results, if they come and go unnoticed and bring no useful or lasting effects? If they cannot save lives, cannot stop bullets or help unbury the survivors trapped under debris of a multi-storey building destroyed by a Russian missile last night?

After having 365 days of dramatic experiences and devastating news every single day I have rephrased this egocentric question. And now I feel gratitude to poetry as such and I have found my remedy within it .

Having a war in your country is trying to continue living your normal life in the abnormal circumstances. It is giving all your energy to simply function within the environment of the utmost violence and uncertainty. It is carrying on of seemingly normal activities when each bomb explosion leaves a huge crater somewhere deeply in yourself. And poems are like plasters on these wounds: practically useless for fixing reality, but mentally holding you together, one poem at a time.

The new question I ask myself now on daily basis is this one: what poetry can do for me today?

It has become my coping mechanism: writing out my pain through it, soothing the fresh burning wounds, serving as an instant glue when my heart breaks into million pieces for each ruined life. It is a placebo for my helplessness, for inability to do the impossible, to stop the war, to punish the evil to bring back the dead. It serves as a prothesis for the phantom pain of my heart, which is somewhere far outside of me and out of my reach.

Poetry is not an antidote for the war, but if it can unite my pain with the pain of at least one other hurting person and bring us both healing or, at least, a temporary relief so we can take a breath in order to survive, that is a precious. For a short moment, for one deep breath, poetry can help us stay afloat and, may be, in a long run, save us eventually — breath by breath.

For more than 365 days I had no tears, only poetry to breath with.

* This text was written on February 28, 2023 — Editor’s note

Confession of a poet after a year of war

Author: Iryna Vikyrchak, Ukrainian writer

Illustrator: Victoria Boyko

Content Editor: Maryna Korchaka

Program Directors: Julia Ovcharenko and Demyan Om Dyakiv Slavitski