Referred to as “the poet’s poet,” Oleh Lysheha was born in 1949 in Tys’menytsia, a village in the Carpathian Mountains. After his expulsion from Lviv University in the 1970s for translating modern American poetry into Ukrainian, his works were banned from publication between 1972 and 1988. During this period, Lysheha was sent to serve in the Red Army in the Buryat Republic of Siberia. During his exile, he developed a lifelong love and interest in Asian and indigenous cultures which had a distinct influence on his poetic style.
In 1999, the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute published the Selected Poems of Oleh Lysheha, translated by Lysheha and James Brasfield, for which they received the 2000 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation. Sometimes referred to as the Ukrainian Henry David Thoreau, Lysheha inhabits the margins of technology and society, stating: “I live in places with no Microsoft or McDonald's. Archaic is my ideal.” In his biography for Poetry International, fellow poet Andriy Bondar states: “He likes to walk barefoot in the city, to swim in the ice-cold river in winter, he catches fish with his teeth, knows how to make paper from mushrooms, never uses public transport, and does not have a job.”
Translators Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps are founding members of Yara Arts Group and have worked together on translations of Ukrainian poetry since 1989. Through Yara Arts Group they have also incorporated Lysheha’s poems into a number of theatrical works, including Dream Bridge, which explored Lysheha’s earliest works.
After dining in the moonlight, He sorted the bones — The small and the larger separated accurately On ground that was still warm — What if someone should come along and decide To carve a hole in one
And make a flute.. To greet the dawn.. Otherwise things were the same — The wild garlic was growing darker, the blackberries were filling out.. And his paw was still strong enough, To protect the night.