(1941, Kyiv – 2012, Kyiv)
Iryna Zhylenko is named ‘the younger sister’ to the Ukranian Sixtiers, as she grew up among them and was friends with Ivan Svitlychnyi, Ivan Dziuba, Yevhen Sverstiuk, Mykhailyna Kotsiubynska, Vasyl Stus, and Alla Horska. She was married to Volodymyr Drozd, an author of Ukrainian chimerical prose. However, Zhylenko was no dissident. Political and social themes are scarce in her poetry. Home, garden and private life constitute her poetic cosmos.
Iryna Zhylenko was born in Kyiv and lost her parents in the World War II. She started writing poetry at the age of 8, and saw her works published in 1958.
In 1964, Zhylenko graduated from the Taras Shevchenko University of Kyiv. She worked in the publishing offices of several newspapers (Molod Ukrainy, Literaturna Ukraina, and Ranok). Her book of essays Bukovyna Ballads and a children’s book The Corns are Ripe were published the same year (Zhylenko would write for children ever since). In 1965, Zhylenko’s first ‘grown-up’ book of poetry, Solo for Solfa, was published. The book received acclaim for freshness and originality, but was also criticized for ‘disconnection from the real life’.
Iryna Zhylenko wrote chamber poetry, very different from the work of her contemporaries, interested in the pressing agenda of the age. In her books Self-Portrait in Red (1971), A Window into the Garden (1978), The Market of Wonders (1982) and other works Zhylenko personified the smallest details of life and made poetry out of mundane things. In her poems, the sense of life as a wonder combines with melancholic contemplation of the world’s mutability and bitter irony. A bit of self-deprecation adds to the flexibility and originality of Zhylenko’s work.
Other locations in Kyiv related to Iryna Zhylenko: Zhylenko was, among other places, very fond of the Mykilsko-Botanichna Street, where she once had lived. This place inspired a trilogy named The Seventh Heaven of Childhood.