Yuriy Tarnawsky is one of the founding members of the New York Group, a Ukrainian émigré avant-garde group of writers, and co-founder and co-editor of the journal Novi Poeziyi (New Poetry; 1959–1972). He writes fiction, poetry, plays, translations, and criticism in both Ukrainian and English. His works have been translated into French, German, Hebrew, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, and Russian.
Tarnawsky was born in 1934 in Turka, Eastern Poland (now Ukraine). In 1952 he emigrated to the U.S., where he attended Newark College of Engineering (currently known as New Jersey Institute of Technology). Upon graduating, he took a job with IBM, where he worked first as an electronic engineer and then a computer scientist. He lived in Spain between 1964-65. He received a Ph.D. in theoretical linguistics from New York University in 1982. He retired from IBM in 1992. From 1993-96, he was professor of Ukrainian Literature and Culture in the Department of Slavic Languages as well as co-coordinator of Ukrainian Studies at the Harriman Institute at Columbia University in New York. Yuriy Tarnawsky is one of the founding members of the New York Group, a Ukrainian émigré avant-garde group of writers, and co-founder and co-editor of the journal Novi Poeziyi (New Poetry; 1959-1972). His first volume of poetry Life in the City (1956), with its urban motifs and concentration on the theme of death, was received by critics as a new word in Ukrainian poetry, such that broke with the language and subject traditions of Ukrainian literature and laid down a path which many of his contemporaries were to follow. The declaratively existentialist novel Roads (1961), which deals with the life of German youth in post-war Germany, is likewise considered a new word in Ukrainian fiction. The roots of Tarnawsky’s early works lie almost exclusively in Western literature, in particular in Hispanic poetry and the poetry of the French presymbolists, surrealism, and the philosophy of existentialism. With time, his technical and linguistic background began to exert more and more influence on his literary work, as a result of which it employs a radically new use of language, as for instance in the volumes of poetry Without Spain (1969) and Questionnaires (1970) and the novels Meningitis (1978) and Three Blondes and Death (1993). In the 1960's Tarnawsky switched fully to writing in English, first in fiction and then in poetry; although in the latter he subsequently made Ukrainian versions of the English-language works (the volume This Is How I Get Well (1978), and the next five collections). He joined the collaborative of innovative American writers Fiction Collective (later FC2) and published with it the novels Meningitis and Three Blondes and Death. In 2007 FC2 brought out his collection of mininovels (his own genre) Like Blood in Water, which relies on gaps of information Tarnawsky calls negative text. His collection of short stories Short Tails came out in 2011. It shows the influence of existentialism, absurdism, and postmodernism. The Placebo Effect Trilogy, three collections of topically related mininovels—Like Blood in Water (revised edition), The Future of Giraffes, and View of Delft—were published in 2013. His first book of poetry in many years, Modus Tollens, subtitled IPDs or Improvised Poetic Devices, consisting of poems based on ambiguity, which Tarnawsky calls Heuristic Poetry, appeared in 2013. The 2014 collection of stories Crocodile Smiles/short shrift fictions extends further the absurdism developed in Short Tails.
With Ukraine's independence in 1991, Tarnawsky returned to writing in Ukrainian, publishing literary works and articles in the press as well as separate books. His works now show elements characteristic of postmodernism, such as polystylism, collage, pastiche, and the taking on of many, sometimes opposing, stances or masks (for instance, the poetry collection An Ideal Woman (1999), and the book-length poems U ra na, (1992) and The City of Sticks and Pits (1999), as well as the cycle of plays 6x0 (1998)). This process culminates in the publication of a three-volume set of his writings in Ukrainian— 6x0 (collected plays, 1998), They Don't Exist (collected poetry 1970-1999, 1999) and I Don't Know (selected fiction, 2000). His own Ukrainian-language version of Short Tails was published in 2007. Many of his articles and interview in Ukrainian (some translated form the English) were published in 2012 under the title Flowers for the Patient. Tarnawsky has devoted a lot of energy to translating from Ukrainian into English and from various languages into Ukrainian. Perhaps the most important of these of his works is his translation into English (as a co-translator) of Ukrainian epic poetry Ukrainian Dumy published by Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute in1979. Tarnawsky’s works have been translated into a number of languages, including Czech, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, and Russian and have been the subject of numerous articles, monographs, as well as MA, Candidate of Sciences, and Ph.D. dissertations. In 1998 Tarnawsky was a resident artist at the well-known avant-garde New York theater company Mabou Mines, where the English-language version of his is play Not Medea was staged in an experimental, laboratory production. The 1994 film Journey into Dusk by the Ukrainian-American filmmaker Yuri Myskiw is based mostly on his poetry.
For his contribution to Ukrainian literature, in 2008, Tarnawsky was awarded the Prince Yaroslav the Wise Order of Merit of Third Degree by the Ukrainian government.
In 2009, Yuriy Tarnawsky won an &NOW award, gaining recognition for “Screaming (a mininovel)” in The &NOW Awards: The Best Innovative Writing. Tarnawsky is a participant in the biennial &NOW festival, a festival for experimental and innovative writing.
- Life in the City (1956, poetry, Ukrainian)
- Popoludni v Pokipsi (Afternoons in Poughkeepsie) (1960, poetry, Ukrainian, New York Group Publishing)
- Shljaxy (Roads) (1961, novel, Ukrainian, Suchasnist Publishers)
- Idealizovana biohrafija (An Idealized Biography) (1964, poetry, Ukrainian, Suchasnist Publishers, Munich)
- Spomyny (Memories) (1964, poetry, Ukrainian, Suchasnist Publishers
- Bez Espaniji (Without Spain) (1969, poetry, Ukrainian, Suchasnist Publishers)
- Questionnaires (1970, poetry, Ukrainian)
- Poeziji pro nishcho i inshi poeziji na cju samu temu (Poems About Nothing and Other Poems on the Same Subject) (1970, poetry, Ukrainian, New York Group Publishing)
- This Is How I Get Well (Oto jak zdrowjeje) (1978, poetry, English and later Ukrainian, Suchasnist Publishers)
- Meningitis (1978, novel, English, Fiction Collective)
- Bez nichoho (Without Anything) (1991, poetry, Ukrainian, Dnipro Publishers)
- U ra na (1992, book-length poem, Ukrainian, Berezil Publishers & M. P. Kots Publishers)
- Three Blondes and Death (1993, novel, English, FC2)
- 6x0 (1998, collected plays, Ukrainian, Rodovid)
- An Ideal Woman (1999, poetry, Ukrainian)
- The City of Sticks and Pits (1999, book-length poem, Ukrainian)
- Jix nemaje (They Don't Exist) (1999, collected poetry 1970–1999, Ukrainian, Rodovid)
- Ne znaju (I Don't Know) (2000, selected fiction, Ukrainian, Rodovid)
- Korotki xvosty (Short Tails, 2006; short stories, Ukrainian, Dmitri Burago Publishing)
- Like Blood in Water (2007, collection of mininovels, English, FC2)
- Short Tails (2011, collection of interconnected short fictions, English, Journal of Experimental Fiction Books)
- Kvity Xvoromu ( Flowers for the Patient, 2012; selected essays and interviews, Ukrainian, Piramida)
- Modus Tollens ( 2013; poems, English, Jaded Ibis Press, 
- The Placebo Effect Trilogy consisting of Like Blood in Water, The Future of Giraffes and View of Delft (2013; collections of mininovels, English, JEF Books)
- Crocodile Smiles short shrift fictions ( 2014; short stories, English, Black Scat Books)
- Tarnawsky's poetry on October Babies
- Tarnawsky's story Lenin's Brain on Exquisite Corpse
- Tanawsky's mininovel on The Collagist
- AD Jameson's Interview with Tarnawsky on Big Other
- Tarnawsky's poem "I Forgot Her Blue Ice" in [Agni]
- The &NOW AWARDS: The Best Innovative Writing (Volume 1)
- &NOW Festival