Ilya Kaminsky was born in Odessa, former Soviet Union in 1977, and arrived to the United States in 1993, when his family was granted asylum by the American government. Kaminsky is the author of Deaf Republic (Graywolf, 2019) and Dancing In Odessa (Tupelo, 2004). He has also co-edited and co-translated many other books, including Ecco Anthology of International Poetry (Harper Collins) and Dark Elderberry Branch: Poems of Marina Tsvetaeva (Alice James Books). His awards include the Guggenheim Fellowship, the Whiting Writer’s Award, the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Metcalf Award, Lannan Foundation’s Fellowship and the NEA Fellowship. Currently, he holds the Bourne Chair in Poetry at Georgia Institute of Technology and lives in Atlanta.
From Deaf Republic
Our country is the stage.
When soldiers march into town, public assemblies are officially prohibited. But today, neighbors flock to the piano music from Sonya and Alfonso’s puppet show in Central Square. Some of us have climbed up into trees, others hide behind benches and telegraph poles.
When Petya, the deaf boy in the front row, sneezes, the sergeant puppet collapses, shrieking. He stands up again, snorts, shakes his fist at the laughing audience.
An army jeep swerves into the square, disgorging its own Sergeant.
Disperse immediately! the puppet mimics in a wooden falsetto.
Everyone freezes except Petya, who keeps giggling. Someone claps a hand over his mouth. The Sergeant turns toward the boy, raising his finger.
You! the puppet raises a finger.
Sonya watches her puppet, the puppet watches the Sergeant, the Sergeant watches Sonya and Alfonso, but the rest of us watch Petya lean back, gather all the spit in his throat, and launch it at the Sergeant.
The sound we do not hear lifts the gulls off the water.
- Writer’s website
- From “Deaf Republic.” The New Yorker 11 February 2019.
- “A Soldier Kills a Deaf Boy, and Rebels Respond with a Barricade of Silence.” New York Times. 6 April 2019.
- “Silence That Is Not Silence.” LA Review of Books. 8 March 2019.
Ilya Kaminsky & John James Reading I September 24, 2019
Reading I September 24, 2019
Reading with Nikola Madzirov and Valzhyna Mort | March 29, 2011
Reading with E. Ethelbert Miller | March 11, 2008