05 Aug 2013

Andy Szpuk: “Poetry and Fate” and “Stories for Homes”

2 Comments Book Reviews


Today I am pleased to welcome back novelist and poet Andy Szpuk. He’ll be talking about his poetry and about Stories for Homes, a charitable  anthology he has contributed to.

Poetry and Fate


My interest in poetry blossomed when I was working on a historical memoir of my father’s life, Sliding on the Snow Stone (That Right Publishing 2011). The story opens in Ukraine in 1932 and is one man’s journey through famine, Soviet terrors, Nazi occupation during World War Two and subsequent eviction from his beloved homeland. It’s one man’s quest to get back home, and for personal and cultural freedom.

I included, with permissions, English translations of some sections of ‘Kobzar’ by Taras Shevechenko, the most revered of Ukrainian poets, and each chapter of Sliding on the Snow Stone opens with a Ukrainian proverb. At that stage I resisted the notion of writing any of the memoir as poetry, although there is a short section in chapter one adapted from a poem of my father’s, and because of that, perhaps seeds were planted.

As a debut, Sliding on the Snow Stone proved to be a powerful and profound experience, and I knew finding a project to follow it wouldn’t be easy.

One day, almost by accident, a year or so after it was published, I constructed a short 12 line poem, called ‘History’, all about Sliding on the Snow Stone, and it served to act as a closure of sorts. A burden was somehow shifted, and I then knew it was time to move on.

Not that I’d wasted any time. Following the publication of Sliding on the Snow Stone I set up my blog: One Author’s Very Own Discovery Channel (http://andyszpuk.wordpress.com), to showcase my work and to engage with readers and the outside world. I also worked on a couple of side projects, while looking for another full-length work to undertake. And I wrote poems.

Then, one day, I discovered a story I knew was the one to tackle. My mother’s family comes from a region in the Carpathian Mountains called Lemkovyna, an area split across the borders of Ukraine, Poland and Slovakia. At the conclusion of World War Two, the Ukrainian Partisan Army remained active in battling for a free Ukraine, and regular ambushes took place on Polish or Soviet patrols. My mother’s people, the Ukrainian Lemkos, provided support to the partisans, whose activities continued into 1947, until an event occurred that was to trigger an act of revenge. A Polish General was murdered in an ambush by the partisans, and retribution arrived in the mountains. To break support to the partisans, the Polish Army came to carry out a forced resettlement.

The working title is ‘Fate and Circumstance’, and it already includes some poems, reflecting the thoughts of one of the characters, Kasper, who runs away to join the partisans.

My intention is to preface the novel with my own translation of one of Shevechenko’s works, a 16 line poem called ‘Fate’, from the abridged version of ‘Kobzar’. It was quite a challenge to translate even such a short piece, it took several attempts to get it into shape, and my appreciation of the talents of translators has grown as a result:




Those poor, starving 
wretches, my brothers and sisters,
All over Ukraine, eked out an existence,
Without mercy, you 
crushed them under your boot,
But, as a young boy, you led me to school,
You guided me well, and
 I quenched my thirst,
For knowledge and
 learning, wisdom and verse.
‘One day, we’ll be
 something, so learn well, my love’,
Your words drove me
on, they were enough,
To make sure I listened 
and learned so much more,
But your words were 
deception, for still I am poor.
My eyes on a road
 that turned onto nowhere,
I followed you
 blindly, I followed you square.
But my heart is still 
open and so is my hand,
And we still walk
 together all over this land.
We journey to glory, we 
wander so far,
And my legacy rests in the depths of my heart.


This poem sees Shevchenko reflecting on the fortunate circumstances that enabled him to get an education, but his affinity with the common man is evident.

‘Fate and Circumstance’ is multi-themed, with three interwoven storylines. I hope to get it finished soon.




I was lounging on social media one day when a post caught my eye – it was a request for submissions to a short stories anthology called ‘Stories for Homes’. I took a look at the WordPress blog and then emailed the editor Sally Swingewood to ask whether she would consider poetry. She said to send some over, so I did, and then received an email a few weeks ago informing me my poems were to be included. It’s now available on Amazon Kindle! The proceeds from ‘Stories for Homes’ go to the housing organization, Shelter. It’s a worthy cause, and by way of a preview here’s one of my poems from the collection:


The Sign Said For Sale

The sign said for sale

And when the people moved out

Removal men came

To heave away the piano

Along with the beds and everything else

Until the house was empty

And standing forlorn

Like a dog without a tail

The letterbox flapped

And deliveries of junk mail

Landed in a pile

Gathering layers of dust

On a worn out, left behind, welcome mat

The doorbell didn’t ring

And no footsteps

Ran down the hall to answer it

The doors were all locked and bolted

Lamps left on timer switches

The seashells in the bathroom

Long gone with the goldfish

Now and then, people arrived

To poke around and peek in corners

Until, one day, a ray of sunshine came

And took the for sale sign down

Once again, the house could breathe

The world was returning

It might be two-year old terrors

Making mucky marks on the landing walls

Or people with a taste

For Sky dishes and wallpaper paste

The house opened its doors

And let them in




Here are some links to ‘Stories for Homes’ 

on Goodreads




More Links:









© Andy Szpuk 2013

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written by
Christoph Fischer was born in Germany in 1970 as the son of a Sudeten-German father and a Bavarian mother. ‘The Luck of The Weissensteiners’ is his first published work. He has written several other novels which are in the later stages of editing and finalisation.
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