If I speak for the dead, I must leave this animal of my body,/I must write the same poem over and over,/for an empty page is the white flag of their surrender.
- Ilya Kaminsky, from Author's Prayer
Two weeks ago, a group of Upper School students listened to Pen America's harrowing live broadcast of Ukrainian poets reading their work from Kyiv and Lviv as the Russian invasion unfolded. This past week, in recognition of National Poetry Month and the heartbreaking and deteriorating situation in Ukraine, Poet-in-Residence Joni Wallace worked with Upper and Middle School faculty and students to show how the horror of war clarifies art's potential to create meaning.
During Exploration 4, Upper School students explored more work by Ukrainian poets including Taras Shevchenko, Ukrainian-American poet Ilya Kaminsky, and others writing from front-lines in Ukraine. Additionally, both Upper and Middle School students learned about the meaning and symbolism behind the Ukrainian vinok, or flower crown, and made their own from real and synthetic flowers.
During Exploration 1, Ms. Wallace introduced the history of elaborate vinoks, created by young people in Ukraine to a group of Middle and Upper school students. Eleri Conroy ‘23 extended the conversation, demonstrating tissue paper florals in Mexican crowns for celebrations. Students worked independently on their versions of whatever they wished to express through weaving imitation flowers and/or tissue flowers into a personal floral crown. Students listened to Ukrainian folk tunes and these beautiful, personal creations evolved, sometimes focusing on supporting the colors of the Ukrainian flag, while others formatted them for personal decoration.
An exhibition of Ukrainian poets/poems, in the form of gorgeous broadsides and vinoks created by Upper School students, is currently on display in the TGS boardroom. Please stop by if you have the chance.