The extraordinarily inventive Ukrainian poet and literary critic Bohdan Ihor Antonych (1909-1937), the son of a Catholic priest, died prematurely at the early age of 28 of pneumonia. Originally from the mountainous Lemko region in Poland, where a variant of Ukrainian is spoken, he was home-schooled for the first eleven years of his life because of frequent illness. He began to write poetry in Ukrainian after he moved to the Western Ukrainian city of Lviv to continue his studies at the University of Lviv. He published just three collections of poetry in his lifetime: A Greeting to Life (1931), Three Rings (1934), and The Book of the Lion (1936), with the latter two firmly establishing his reputation as one of the best poets of his time in Ukraine. Three additional collections, The Green Gospel (1938), Rotations (1938), and The Grand Harmony (1967), were published posthumously.
A collection of poems on religious themes written in 1932 and 1933, The Grand Harmony is a subtle and supple examination of Antonych’s intimately personal journey to faith, with all its revelatory verities as well as self-questioning and doubt. The collection marks the beginning of Antonych’s development into one of the greatest poets of his time. During Soviet times it was banned for its religious content. It was first published in its entirety in 1967 in New York.
The Grand Harmony first appeared in English translation in a bilingual edition with Litopys Publishers in 2007, which has long been sold out. The poems “Musica Noctis,” “De Morte I,” “Ars Poetica 1” and “Liber Peregrinorum 3” were reprinted in The Essential Poetry of Bohdan Ihor Antonych: Ecstasies and Elegies (Bucknell University Press, 2010). One can find additional poetic renderings of Antonych’s selected poetry in the translations of various well-known American poets under the title A Square of Angels (Ann Arbor: Ardis Publishers, 1977), which was edited by Bohdan Boychuk.