Ilya Kaminsky

Cindy Seip

Ilya Kaminsky was born in the former Soviet Union. He is the author of Dancing in Odessa, a poetry collection, and co-editor of The Ecco Anthology of International Poetry. He was a 2014 finalist for the Neustadt International Prize for Literature. Ilya Kaminsky’s collection of poems Deaf Republic (Graywolf Press) opens in an occupied country in a time of political unrest. When soldiers breaking up a protest kill a deaf boy, Petya, the gunshot becomes the last thing the citizens hear―they all have gone deaf, and their dissent becomes coordinated by sign language. The story follows the private lives of townspeople encircled by public violence: a newly married couple, Alfonso and Sonya, expecting a child; the brash Momma Galya, instigating the insurgency from her puppet theater; and Galya’s girls, heroically teaching signing by day and by night luring soldiers one by one to their deaths behind the curtain. At once a love story, an elegy, and an urgent plea, Kaminsky’s Deaf Republic confronts our time’s vicious atrocities and our collective silence in the face of them. The New York Times Book Review noted “These poems bestow the power of sacred drama on a secular martyrology. . . . By situating these poems in a country at war, Kaminsky forces the reader to consider both the ways in which we define our social belonging and the loyalties according to which we operate.”