Trafika Europe Corner by Andrew Singer featuring Oleh Kotsarev

Oleh Kotsarev (photo credit Yulia Stakhivska)
Oleh Kotsarev (photo by Yulia Stakhivska)

Four poems by Oleh Kotsarev
Translated from Ukrainian by Ostap Kin

Oleh Kotsarev is a Ukrainian poet, prose writer and journalist. He graduated with a degree in journalism from Kharkiv National University, and then became an instructor there. Kotsarev received several literary awards for young poets in Ukraine. He has authored five poetry collections, Long and Short (2003), Twenty-Four Hours (with Bohdan Horobchuk and Pavlo Korobchuk, 2007), My First Knife (2009), What Time is It (2013), and Circus (2015), as well as the collection of short stories Unbelievable Reigning Story of Chlorophytum First (2009). A volume of selected poems and prose was published in Russian translation, A Concatenation of Circumstances near Yahotyn (2009) and a collection of poetry in Czech translation, Black Bread, White Whale (2015). He co-edited, with Yulia Stakhivska, Anthology of Ukrainian Avant-garde Poetry, 1910-1930s (2014). His poetry in English translation has appeared in St. Petersburg Review and Poem. Kotsarev presently lives in Kyiv. 

To enjoy more Ukrainian literature, check out our brand new issue–Trafika Europe 7– Ukrainian Prayer–- with a terrific selection of some very best new Ukrainian fiction and poetry in English translation.



You enter the doorway by yourself—
Like a picaroon enters surreptitious grotto
Only you don’t carry treasures
And it’s not a nectar bonfire
That awaits you
But a motionless lifeless branch of dark windows


The Last Day of June

in summer sounds are like a vast cup
Bach echoes
and children chase him
from the evening-honeyed street
leaves splash into a room
a woman pianist flips a page and says
holy smoke


Cold Mountain Station

I will never touch you
I will never
we’ll sit in the evening subway
and count how every five minutes
decreases the number of people in train cars.
above us good and evil ghosts
will rave near halogen lamps
how much I love your long stocking cap
how did we live all this time let’s talk
and the happy roaring of a commuter train will silence
our words about how good it is
to distinguish one hundred thirty-three shades of grey
how we should live through fall winter and spring
the spots of sweat on the buildings helped us
very dark and grey almost sea-like
I will never touch you
only you
will touch
my leg once
with your shoe.


Spheres of Their Heads

At times
I carry with me
One of my favorite books,
For example, an anthology of Paul Celan’s
Translated poetry–
Published in Chernivtsi in 2001.
I carry it–but I don’t read it at all,
Because I don’t have time,
And I don’t show it to anyone,
For I’ve become a bit snobbish since yesterday.
The book just warms me up,
It warms me slowly,
In coulombs of elevators,
In boats of windows,
And only once a day, the book silently
Reminds me how I used to read
the poems to you in German
And I didn’t understand a word,
And you didn’t understand a word either.
Then I want to fall asleep and think about
How several of Celan’s translators from Chernivtsi
Stand and mingle
On the wide yard of
Chernivtsi University,
the flakes of the first snow sit
among the patterns of smiling tile,
they sit on the trolleybuses with womanlike faces,
and on the fluffy spheres of heads
of people in the morning
the flakes also sit down.



By the way, for another Ukrainian poet’s take on Paul Celan, you can watch our brand new animated literary video, Bridges – it’s an avant-garde poem by Ukrainian poet Mariya Tytarenko dedicated to Paul Celan, who jumped from the Mirabeau Bridge with stones in his pockets, to death.

Trafika Europe showcases new fiction and poetry in English translation from across the 47 countries of Council of Europe.