Details of an Hourglass chronicles the anti-world of Soviet prison camps in miniature-poem reflections. It’s author, Mykola Horbal, spent 16 years in the notorious Gulag system where he suffered under grueling labor, deprivation, and humiliation. Stripping down the poetic word to its bare form, Horbal’s verses are brief, terse, and densely layered with metaphor. Alongside emptiness, anger, irony, and absurdity, there is beauty, hope, and faith. Horbal describes his harsh reality as a “freeing spiritual journey.” He distances himself from falsehood, servility, and despair by seeking solace and peace in an inner world filled with nature and God’s grace.
Today, the Soviet prison system has collapsed, but the need to bear witness to that past is vital. World-wide human rights repressions and unjust incarcerations thrive through both subtle, sophisticated methods and brazen military aggression and brutality. Horbal’s poetry is an aphoristic testament that you can imprison the body but not the spirit.
Mykola Horbal (b. 1940) is a Ukrainian poet, musician, and human rights activist of Lemko heritage. Repressed by the Soviet regime for his dissident writing, Horbal was imprisoned three times in the Gulag for “anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda.” Relatively unknown outside of Ukraine, his poems from imprisonment are a unique example of fortitude and creativity in captivity. Published originally in 1983 by Smoloskyp and republished in expanded form in Kyiv in 2008, Horbal’s Details of an Hourglass merit their rightful place among the works that laid foundations for the Ukrainian national renaissance and political independence that have paved the way for contemporary Ukrainian literature.
Translator Myroslava Stefaniuk is a teacher, writer, and translator based in Michigan. Her published translations include Icarus with Butterfly Wings by Vasyl Holoborodko (Exile Press, 1991) and Wild Dog Rose Moon by Mykola Vorobiov (Exile Press, 1992) as well as poetry and prose in numerous anthologies and literary journals.
Lost Horse Press Contemporary Ukrainian Poetry Series
$24.00 / 979-8-9865715-6-0 / Pbk. / 172 pages
Available in September 2023