Saturday, November 5, 2022

The Urgency of Publishing Ukrainian War Poems



Recently the Dresser received an early-in-the publishing-process ARC—advance review copy—And Blue will Rise over Yellow: An International Poetry Anthology for Ukraine edited by John Bradley. Like the war Vladimir Putin has exacted on Russia’s neighbor Ukraine, this ARC is shockingly messy with errors that reviewers must ignore to support immediately the spirit that feeds the Ukrainians in the lethal struggle to save themselves, their country, and the democracy they have built in the face of Putin’s plan for their annihilation.


Herein is a peek into four poems of this remarkable collection of which notable blurbist Yusef Komunyakaa states, “Each poem here has risen out of need and feeling, acknowledgement and daring, a choice of weapons.”


Poem #1


Take the clear tomato red my father loved best

after the war—geraniums placed just so


excerpt from “Sunset Assembly” by Rebecca Foust


To open this war anthology, Bradley chooses a poem that speaks to the time after war where invoking the color red is not to point to blood spilled, but to appreciate the beauty of tomato red geraniums.


Poem #2


dark energy

flashes and bursts


at night I got a call

from my first karate trainer


he said he wants to kill putin


that first he tried himself

to send energy currents



that we need to join forces


we need at least a hundred molfars



excerpt from “A Good Plan” by Dmytro Lazukin as translated by Tatiana Retivov


Energy is a keyword in Putin’s war on Ukraine. Putin’s personal energy tied up with narcistic power-mongering is possibly that “dark energy” flashing and bursting as Dmytro Lazukin’s poem “A Good Plan” opens. Lazukin assigns the risky statement of killing “putin” (notice the disrespectful lowercase spelling) to his “first karate trainer,” an unidentified martial arts advisor. The unexpected twist is that killing energy currents will be produced magically by Ukrainian shamans known as molfars.


Poem #3


In a damp basement in Avdiivka,

a six-year-old girl named Varvara

draws a green alien with a black


eye that can see into the infinitely


finite future. It sees Vladimir Putin,

feet up on his 55-ton desk, staring at a photo

of Joseph Stalin. …




excerpt from “Bomb-Shelter Futurism” by John Bradley


With his own poem, editor John Bradley captures the heart-breaking role a child plays in the trajectory of this surreal war. Sequestered in a bomb-shelter, the six-year-old Varvara draws a cyclops, a green alien to her world, who Bradley says can see into a finite future that contradictorily is endless and which sees Putin at his desk admiring a photo of his predecessor Joseph Stalin, a man of monstrous deeds.


Poem #4


Where a woman, hand full of sunflowers

Dwarfs a tyrant, shames a soldier

Lays a curse upon cowards

There we who are small and watching

Merely watching, safe behind screens

Are maybe redeemed

And blue will rise over yellow


excerpt from “They Will Bloom When You Die” by Douglas Anthony Cooper


“They Will Bloom When You Die” is the last poem of the anthology and it is from where the anthology title derives. It opens as the first poem opens with flowers as a symbol of life. In “Sunset Assembly,” the geraniums represent art and civilization. In “They Will Bloom When You Die,” the sunflowers represent defiant living strength over an unnamed tyrant who is smaller than the sunflower. Is it the soldier standing in front of the defiant woman or the very small-in-stature Putin? Notice that the woman “lays a curse upon cowards.” Who are those people “safe behind screens”—her neighbors peering out their screened windows or doors or we readers on our computers not stepping up to help the people of Ukraine?


Each of these four poems have much more to discover. The anthology includes such well-known/well-published poets as D. Nurkse, Andrea Hollander, Linda Nemec Foster, Kim Stafford, Norman Dubie. The choice of weapon is the pen. Look for this risk-taking collection from Kallisto Gaia Press at the end of 2022.