Author: Hanna Komar
Translation from Belarusian: Hanna Komar
Original title: Трыпутнік
Publishing date: August 2023
Pages: 164 | ISBN 978-1-7391287-8-4
With the help of poetry, Hanna Komar have been healing her personal wounds. This is where her art has been life-saving for her.
Ribwort is a space to sit down with your pain and listen. You may think it’s not helpful, like a leaf of ribwort on a bleeding wound. The pain will probably be growing more and more acute, but if you face it, if you hold space for it. Eventually it will shrink to the size of a scratch which a leaf of ribwort can help to heal. When we have healed, we become leaves of ribwort for others, so we can sit down with their pain and listen. Listen with compassion and without fear, without getting defensive or running away. This is what keeps us going.
In the summer of 2021, Hanna Komar
brought the script for this book to a publisher in Belarus. He told her his business was going to be shut down for her protest poems. He couldn’t publish them. Since then, almost all independent publishers of Belarusian books in the Belarusian language have had their business suspended or liquidated. Books have been labelled “extremist” and people have been imprisoned for selling or owning them, while writers have been persecuted for writing them.
This is just a tiny tip of the iceberg of the repressions which unfolded in Belarus when the people stood up against the falsified election results on 9 August 2020 and the violence which followed afterwards. Every day, still, dozens of people are arrested in Belarus on political grounds. Some call that summer the awakening of Belarusians; others call it the birth of a new, free Belarus. No matter what it’s called, these years have felt for the nation, and for the author of this poems, like unlearning what was already learnt helplessness. Yet these have also been maturing years through courage, solidarity, hope, pain, suffering, and disillusionment. A lot of wounds have opened.
This book doesn’t start with the protest poems of 2020. It consists of sections which tell about the poet’s relationship with her parents and with herself, about her romantic relationships, about her relationship with her homeland, and the poetry of civil resistance. Each of them is administering a leaf of ribwort to help the wounds heal.
Translated from Belarusian by the author, with the English version edited by the American poet Mary Kollar.
Hanna Komar is a poet, translator, writer. She has published four poetry collections, “Страх вышыні” [Fear of Heights], a collection of docu-poetry “Мы вернемся” [We’ll Return] and "Вызвалі або бяжы" [Set Me Free or Run] in Belarusian, as well as a bilingual collection Recycled. Her work has been translated into Polish, Ukrainian, Swedish, Norwegian, German, Czech, Lithuanian, Slovenian and Russian. She translates her work into English. Hanna is a member of PEN and Freedom of Speech 2020 Prize laureate from the Norwegian Authors’ Union. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Westminster. She is interested in using poetry to support Belarusian women to share experiences of gender based violence and patriarchy.
‘In the quiet of my body
a forgotten dream
the apple I’ve eaten
blood gushes out with asters,
muscles wheeze, the voice
of the ligaments breaks,
and lamenting sweat
pierces my pores.
Only tears, quieter
than quiet itself,
can hear my deafness
to the polyphony of fate …’
‘ Hanna Komar’s poems display a refined ear for sound and sense both in Belarusian and translated by her into English. Her poems move seamlessly from the personal to the political, speaking with the urgency of a life experienced with compassion, dignity and resolve.’
Mary Kollar, poet and educator, USA