I was honored to share the stage with so many talented writers at the Ukrainian American Poets Respond launch last weekend. Our poems were a cry for justice, a prayer for peace, a call for remembrance, and a demand to be seen and heard.
Last night was the second annual Induction Ceremony for the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame. I’m tired, trying to catch my breath. It was wonderful event, and I am so proud to be a part of it, but truly it deserves its own post. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe when I can add photos by 8 eyes Photography. It’s so much better to have photos, and I was backstage the entire time and so unable to take any.
I still have so many things to catch up on. I attended an all-day seminar at the Art Institute for volunteers who teach in the schools. It was nice to be back at the Art Institute, to learn about some new and existing resources. I really don’t get down there enough. I also need to bring the kids downtown more often, to enjoy the incredible cultural treasures that Chicago has to offer.
Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art had a wonderful reading series with some of my favorite Ukrainian writers/artists visiting from out of town: Askold Melnyczuk the novelist and founder of AGNI, and Virlana Tkacz, a poet, writer, and the founder of the amazing Yara Arts Group. It was nice to just sit in the audience and listen.
Also reading were Alexis Buryk and Roman Skaskiw. I really enjoyed their work, and especially appreciated the voice and characterization in Skaskiw’s writing.
It was a mix of styles from writers new and seasoned. Though their voices and perspectives were different, I was struck by the repeating themes of identity, home, and authenticity.
As diaspora writers, we retain a collective memory and vision about our ancestral home–Ukraine. Many of us have been raised with an appreciation of our almost mythic motherland–its physical location, history, and achievement are praised and preserved. Yet we are also a part of a new world, an American reality, and there is a natural desire to also be a part of that world. So we stand on the threshold, between the old and new, longing for two things simultaneously.
In his introduction, Askold Melnyczuk mentioned that as writers, we often have themes or obsessions in our work. I think for me (at least right now) this idea of thresholds is an obsession: I’m fascinated by doorways in between worlds and realities, shades of gray in between the light and darkness, the places where the sacred and profane meet and cross.
“The threshold is the limit, the boundary, the frontier that distinguishes an opposes two worlds–and at the same time the paradoxical place where those worlds communicate, where passage from the profane to the sacred world becomes possible.” ~Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane
That’s the thing about thresholds: they suggest passage, possibility, transformation. A good story is a threshold, as is a good storyteller. They sweep us up in the complex beauty of words that are not truth but become true. We cross over and enter the world of a story, and if the writer is successful and if the reader is open, we bring a little of that world back with us.