Semenko, Mykhail’ [Семенко, Михайль] (1892–1937) By Ilnytzkyj, Oleh S.
Mykhail’ Semenko was the founder, theoretician, and major poet of the Ukrainian futurist movement, as well as the editor of the journal Nova generatsiia [New Generation] (1927–1930). He was executed during the Stalinist terror on trumped-up charges of Ukrainian nationalism. A prolific poet, he began writing in the spirit of Symbolism, but turned to Futurism in 1914 with the collections Derzannia [Bravado] and Kvero-Futuryzm [Quaero-futurism] (1914), which created a major scandal. His 1924 collection, Kobzar, appropriated the title of Ukraine’s greatest romantic poet, Taras Shevchenko (1814–1861), further alienating a conservative public. Semenko relished being the “bad boy” of Ukrainian poetry, offering a broad spectrum of innovative—and sometimes shocking—verse, ranging from vers libre to playful trans-sense lyrics to self-deprecating, prosaic love poems. He wrote visual poetry, dubbed “poetry-painting.” Urban themes and satirical topical verse are a hallmark of his creativity. As a theoretician, Semenko developed Panfuturism, which he defined in 1922 as being “at once Futurism, Cubism, Expressionism, and Dadaism—but […] not simply a synthesis of these useful things” (Semenko 12). Influenced both by Italian and Russian Futurism, Semenko rightly insisted on the originality and autonomy of his movement, which became a major force in transforming Ukrainian culture in the 1910s and 1920s.