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Mykhail Semenko

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Mykhail Semenko

(1892, Kybyntsi – 1937, Kyiv)

Semenko was the founder and irreplaceable leader of the Ukrainian futurism, its theorist and practitioner, and himself evolved from Querofuturism with its credo of constant artistic search to Panfuturism, a new synthetic art form aiming to include the wholeness of avant-garde. He was an enthusiastic organizer, who gathered around him a circle of writers and artists and published a number of periodicals.

His mother, Maria Proskurivna, was a writer conforming to a traditional ‘ethnographic’ style. Nonetheless, her Futurist son helped publish her works.

Semenko studied in the Non-classical school of Khorol and entered the St. Petersburg Bekhterev Psychoneurological Research Institute in 1912, but never finished his studies there.

In 1913, the debute book of poems Prélude was published, heavily influenced by Symbolism. In a year Semenko joined the avant-garde movement and co-founded his first Futurist group with his brother Vasyl and artist Pavlo Kovzhun. His manifesto Self from the collection Daring declared: ‘I’m burning my Kobzar’. It made a big stir, though Semenko didn’t intend to show disrespect for Taras Shevchenko (whom Ukrainian Futurists praised as a great innovator of his era) and only protested against the tradition that depicted Ukraine as a rural nation of peasants.

The beginning of WWI took Semenko to Vladivistok. He returned to Kyiv in 1918 and published eight books of poems in two years, among them Pierrot Prancing (1918), Pierrot Loving (1918) and Pierrot Dead-dodging (1919). Semenko created new models of love poetry with no fear of eroticism, spoken language or being indiscreet. He also worked with urbanistic motifs and painted a portrait of a city with dynamic versification and cacophony of sound.

In 1925–1927, Semenko was the editor-in-chief at the Odesa Film Factory, inviting his writing friends – Yurii Yanovskyi, Geo Shkurupii and Mykola Bazhan – to work with him. This period is depicted in Yanovskyi’s novel The Shipmaster, where ‘Mykhail’ is present as himself.

In 1926, Semenko moved to Kharkiv and became editor for the magazine Nova Generatsiia (1927–1930). Futurists aimed to show the whole of avant-garde in this periodical and published both literary works and articles on cinema, theatre, painting, photography, and architecture. Kazimierz Malewicz wrote a series of articles for the magazine. Nova Generatsiia also published materials translated from various European languages.

Mykhayl Semenko was executed by NKVD in a prison in Kyiv in 1937.


Other locations in Kyiv related to Mykhayl Semenko: Semenko and his family lived for a while in Levashovska (now Shovkovychna) Street, 36. By a sad twist of fate, he was arrested in the same building where the young Semenko recited his poems in KHLAM cafe. Now it’s Horodetskoho 5, where the Continental Hotel was situated.

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