Literature, Exile, Alterity: The New York Group of Ukrainian Poets

Literature, Exile, Alterity: The New York Group of Ukrainian Poets

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Maria G. Rewakowicz

Series: Studies in Russian and Slavic Literatures, Cultures and History
ISBN: 9781618114037 (hardcover) / 9781618117779 (paperback)
Pages: 250 pp.
Publication Date: August 2014

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This pioneering book is the first to present the postwar phenomenon of the New York Group of Ukrainian emigre poets as a case study for exploring cultural and aesthetic ramifications of exile. It focuses on the poets’ diasporic and transnational connections both with their country of origin and their adopted homelands, underscoring the group’s role in the shaping of the cultural and literary image of Ukraine abroad. Displacements, forced or voluntary, engender states of alterity, states of living in-between, living in the interstices of different cultures and different linguistic realities. The poetry of the founding members of the New York Group reflects these states admirably. The poets accepted their exilic condition with no grudges and nurtured the link with their homeland via texts written in the mother tongue. This account of the group’s output and legacy will appeal to all those eager to explore the poetry of East European nations and to those interested in larger cultural contexts for the development of European modernisms.


Born in Poland, Maria G. Rewakowicz is affiliated with the Slavic Department at the University of Washington. She holds a PhD in Slavic Languages and Literatures from the University of Toronto and has taught at Rutgers, Harvard, Columbia and the University of Washington. She is the author of four books of poetry in Ukrainian, two anthologies of the poetry of the New York Group and a book of essays Persona non grata (Kyiv, 2012). She also co-edited a collection Contemporary Ukraine on the Cultural Map of Europe (2009). She is currently working on a monograph on literature and identities in Ukraine since 1991.


This elegantly structured book of essays is the first study devoted exclusively to the poets of the New York Group, a remarkably diverse group of individuals who created an original corpus of programmatically modernist poetry in Ukrainian. … Rewakowicz captures the essence of the poets’ intellectual adventure, shaped by Western influences and rich in thematic and formal experimentation, which, as she writes, truly becomes their home.
— Yelena Severina University of California, Los Angeles, Harvard Ukrainian Studies 35, No. 1–4
Maria Rewakowicz’s cutting-edge and insightful book might be of great interest to several audiences: those who are interested in twentieth-century poetry, and the Ukrainian poetry of this period in particular; those who are keen to learn more about literature and exile; as well as those who are curious about a redefined map of modernisms. ... Rewakowicz’s book is ... an all-round study, and a thoughtful contribution to the increasing body of high-quality literature on Ukrainian poetry.
— Bohdan Tokarsky, University of Cambridge, The Modern Language Review, vol. 112, no. 3 (July 2017)
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 ... 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. ... 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.
— Nataliya Shpylova-Saeed, New Books Network, 23 February 2017
The book is replete with telling formulations, assured historical generalizations, and accomplished textual analyses. Rewakowicz assists the reader unfamiliar with the subject matter with generous quotations, accompanied by translations that manage to be simultaneously empathetic and accurate. A welcome addition to scholarship on modern Ukrainian literature, the book will be of value to all who inquire into literature at cultural and linguistic interstices.
— Marko Pavlyshyn, Monash University, Slavic Review, vol. 74, no. 4 (Winter 2015)
Long overdue, this book-length study of the New York Group, whose poetry appeared at an important juncture in Ukrainian diasporic literature, benefits from careful archival research as well as from the author’s personal knowledge of many of the poets. Encompassing aspects of literary politics, social history, and textual analysis, the book offers sensitive, sensible, and accessible readings of major themes and concerns in their oeuvre.
— Irene R. Makaryk, Professor, Department of English, University of Ottawa
Maria Rewakowicz’s collected essays—and de-facto a monograph—are a highly significant contribution to the contemporary understanding of this literary phenomenon and of the place of Ukrainian literary discourse within the world. This is the first monograph to thoroughly analyze the New York Group of writers from the perspective of such theoretical concepts such as the exile, alterity, and alienation at the interface of different aesthetic and cultural planes, be they geographical, generational, or otherwise. Given the very preliminary stage the English-speaking world’s familiarity with Ukrainian topics, this work is very timely.
   The conceptual framework, the selection of topics and materials, and especially the strength of research methodology places Rewakowicz’s book in dialogue with the most recent discussions in the field. In examining the works of the New York Group authors (Bohdan Boychuk, Bohdan Rubchak, Yuri Tarnawsky, Patricia Kylyna, Emma Andiievska, Zhenia Vasylkivska, Vira Vovk, and others), as well as the work of their predecessors (Vadym Lesych, Yuriy Kosach) and successors (Vasyl Makhno), Rewakowicz pays particular attention to stylistic and thematic aspects—their acceptance of the literary devices and philosophy of modernism and postmodernism, avant-garde, surrealism, and existentialism; motifs of eroticism and sexual orientation, gravitation to geographical nexuses as Spain, Latin America, and New York.
   The entire creative output of the group, from the time of its founding in 1958 to the present, has been engaged with the relationship of emigre literature to that of the homeland, since the language of the works was Ukrainian. The group members made a large contribution to the body of fundamental modernist text translated into Ukrainian. Through their literature they fundamentally modernized postwar Ukrainian literature and thus not only played an important role in its preservation, but also influenced its further development after Ukrainian state independence was achieved in 1991. Rewakowicz’s book provides us with the first exhaustive picture of this process. This study promises to become an important event in Ukrainian scholarly and intellectual life. It is augmented by detailed work with the New York Group’s archives, which in and of itself broadens the horizons of our literary scholarship. It deserves our attention.
— Halyna Hryn, Editor, Harvard Ukrainian Studies, Ukrainian Research Institute, Harvard University

Table of Contents

Note on Transliteration and Translation

Chapter 1. Introduction: New Land, New Poetry
Chapter 2. Discursive Practices: Poetry as Power
Chapter 3. Periphery vs. Center: The Poetics of Exile
Chapter 4. From Surrealism to Postmodernism: The Poetics of Liminality
Chapter 5. (Post)Modernist Masks: The Aesthetics of the Play-Element
Chapter 6. From Spain with Love, or, Is There a “Spanish School” in Ukrainian Literature?
Chapter 7. Transforming Desire: The Many Faces of Eroticism
Chapter 8. Eros and Exile
Chapter 9. Patricia Nell (Kylyna) Warren’s Constructed Alterities: Language, Self-Exile, Homosexuality
Chapter 10. Literary New York: The New York Group and Beyond

Selected Bibliography