Relieving the terrible knots of history: An interview with Alex Averbuch

I can’t recall exactly when, but I came to know Alex Averbuch’s poetry somewhere in our shared intersections of Ukrainian studies, gender studies, and poetry. A native of Novoaider, a village in the Luhansk region of Ukraine, Averbuch spent fifteen years in Israel before moving to Canada to complete a PhD in Slavic Studies at the University of Toronto. A poet, scholar, and translator, his work engages questions of identity, liminality, history, and memory (although this list is not exhaustive). In addition to his own writing, he also organizes multilingual literary readings and festivals, including the Festival of Contemporary Ukrainian Poetry in the summer of 2020, and the first-of-its-kind series of bilingual literary events dedicated to contemporary Ukrainian poetry in Hebrew translation in 2022.

Averbuch’s most recent poetry collection, The Jewish King (Жидівський король), is his first written predominantly in Ukrainian, although importantly, as he clarifies, the letters (which make up over one-third of the collection) are in Surzhyk — a blend of Ukrainian and Russian languages that many throughout Ukraine speak. In October 2022, I talked with him about this new collection, the ‘dissections’ of his identities and selfhood, and the capacity for poetry to render of the historical.

Read more @Apofenie.