Ilya Kaminsky

I don’t write in a language in which I have ever heard lullabies as a child. My English is the world I make as I go. It is already a private language, an imaginary language. Already a wreckage. My job is to find, among those wreckages, what is beautiful, what might have lasting value (however mistaken I might be about that value) what is worth learning by heart, repeating, becoming a spell. That is the goal.
 
 

guggenheim fellow

Whiting Award

American Academy of Arts and Letters Metcalf Award

 

 

 

 
Kaminsky B&W2.jpg
 

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Pulse-quickening, glinting like unburied ore, grounded equally in the imaginative, political, moral, and personal realms, Deaf Republic is a thunderclap book. American poetry needs what Ilya Kaminsky’s performative, possibility-enlarging, boundlessly surprising pages bring to it. Or at least, I do.
— Jane Hirshfield
I read Deaf Republic with feverish excitement and deepening wonder. There is rage in these pages, urgency and force and also a great, redeeming beauty. Ilya Kaminsky’s lines buzz with a kind of electric freshness; reading them is like laying your hand on the live wire of poetry. He’s the most brilliant poet of his generation, one of the world’s few geniuses.
— Garth Greenwell
Like Joseph Brodsky before him, Kaminsky is a terrifyingly good poet, another poet from the former U.S.S.R. who, having adopted English, has come to put us native speakers to shame... It seemed to take about five minutes to read this book, and when I began again, I reached the end before I was ready. That’s how compulsive, how propulsive it is to read. It wraps you in a world created by a new and wonderful poet
The Philadelphia Inquirer

Ilya Kaminsky is the author of Dancing In Odessa (Tupelo Press, 2004), and Musica Humana (Chapiteau Press, 2002). Deaf Republic is his highly anticipated forthcoming book, to be published by Graywolf Press in March 2019. Poems from Deaf Republic were awarded Poetry magazine's Levinson Prize and the Pushcart Prize. Kaminsky has won the Whiting Writer's Award, the American Academy of Arts and Letters' Metcalf Award, the Dorset Prize, a Ruth Lilly Fellowship, and the Foreword Magazine’s Best Poetry Book of the Year award. Recently, he was on the short-list for the Neusdadt International Literature Prize. His poems have been translated into numerous languages and his books have been published in many countries including Turkey, Holland, Russia, France, Mexico, Macedonia, Romania, Spain and China, where his poetry was awarded the Yinchuan International Poetry Prize. His poems have been compared to work by Anna Akhmatova, Osip Mandelstam, and Marina Tsvetaeva.

He is the editor of several anthologies, among them The Ecco Anthology of International Poetry (Ecco, 2010), co-edited with Susan Harris, which John Ashbery praised as “immediately indispensable;” A God in the House: Poets Talk About Faith (Tupelo Press, 2012), co-edited with Katherine Towler;  Gossip and Metaphysics: Russian Modernist Poets and Prose (Tupelo Press, 2014), co-edited with Katie Farris and Valzhyna Mort; and In the Shape of the Human Body I am Visiting the Earth: Poems from Far and Wide (McSweeney's, 2017) with Dominic Luxford and Jesse Nathan.  With Jean Valentine, he has co-translated Dark Elderberry Branch: Poems of Marina Tsvetaeva.

In an interview with the Poetry Society of America on poetry and politics, Kaminsky notes, “Poetry is the art of language. It was Brodsky, I think, who said that poetry and politics have only two things in common, letter p and letter o. I agree with this. But, poetry is also the art of attentiveness. Attentiveness, Celan teaches us, is the natural prayer of the human soul. I don't think there is much poetry of attentiveness that isn't political. (The decision not to be political is also political.)”

Kaminsky was born in the former Soviet Union city of Odessa. He lost most of his hearing at the age of four after a doctor misdiagnosed mumps as a cold, and his family was granted political asylum by the United States in 1993, settling in Rochester, New York. After his father’s death in 1994, Kaminsky began to write poems in English. 

In the late 1990s, Kaminsky co-founded Poets For Peace, an organization that sponsors poetry readings in the United States and abroad. He has also worked as a Law Clerk at the National Immigration Law Center and at Bay Area Legal Aid, helping the poor and homeless to overcome their legal difficulties. He teaches at the MFA program at San Diego State University. He lives in San Diego with his wife, Katie Farris.

 

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