Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Canadian Author, and a Kobzar?

Each new Canadian arrives here with some experience of the ancestral, the cultural, language and traditions of another home - an older world. Leaving the older world gives way for exciting synergistic energies, the melding of old and new, the fusion of ideas that draw the world to our shores.

Perhaps it is too early in the evolutionary curve to see the unique trajectory Canada's culture is taking, however some subtle hints can be gleaned. Ideas like the rule of law, ethical standards, younger economies, respect for nature and care for her health all have some resonance.  Some of these values are cumulatively different from the lives in ancestral homelands, but the older lands are also deep wells of accumulated wisdom.

Thank heavens for the Ukrainian experience of of Taras Shevchenko - Ukraine's Great Kobzar (bard). Twice recognized by UNESCO as a world cultural leader - his work continues to be a beacon of truth and hope. Reading Taras Shevchenko's poetry, whether in English or in the original Ukrainian is such a grounding experience. The words written over a hundred fifty years ago still ring true. Learn, he says, all the languages of the world, and get to understand people around you! Learn from their wisdom! Look forward and plan using these things you have learned, but always remember whence you came - and whisper a thank you, acknowledge those whose steps led you here.

Because of this terrific perspective, the Ukrainian community has for 8 years running, honoured Canadian writers who have used the Ukrainian Canadian experience in their literary work, with a Kobzar Literary Award. Who are are these Canadian bards - kobzari?

Larissa Andrysyshyn wrote Mammoth (2010)- a debut collection of poems celebrating life and loss, tragedy and beauty. 

Rhea Tragebov wrote about the sometimes difficult immigrant/emigration process in Knife Sharpener's Bell: A Novel (2009).

Shandi Mitchell's Under the Broken Sky is an engaging read about Canadian pioneers, farm life, survival and loss.

Myrna Kostash's strong voice in depicting the Ukrainian Canadian experience is again taking us on an epic journey through the Prodigal Daughter: A Journey to Byzantium.

Myroslav Shkrandrij's Jews in Ukrainian Literature is a refreshingly warmer assessment of this interesting relationship.

So here is a recommendation for the reader on your Christmas list. Try these nominees, or opt for the winner of the 2012 Kobzar Literary Award - Shandi Mitchell's Under the Broken Sky. At least you know what is on my list for the holidays!

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