Ilya Kaminsky


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.

Ilya is the author of Dancing In Odessa (Tupelo Press, 2004) which won the Whiting Writer's Award, the American Academy of Arts and Letters' Metcalf Award, the Dorset Prize, the Ruth Lilly Fellowship given annually by Poetry magazine. Dancing In Odessa was also named Best Poetry Book of the Year 2004 by ForeWord Magazine. In 2008, Kaminsky was awarded Lannan Foundation's Literary Fellowship

In 2009, poems from his new manuscript, Deaf Republic, were awarded Poetry magazine's Levinson Prize.

His anthology of 20th century poetry in translation, Ecco Anthology of International Poetry, is published by Harper Collins in March, 2010.

In addition, Ilya writes poetry in Russian. His work in that language was chosen for "Bunker Poetico" at Venice Bienial Festival in Italy.

In late 1990s, he co-founded Poets For Peace, an organization which sponsors poetry readings in the United States and abroad with a goal of supporting such relief organizations as Doctors Without Borders and Survivors International.

Ilya has read from his work and served as a Writer In Residence at numerous literary centers, colleges and universities, from Harvard to Naropa. Ilya has also worked as a Law Clerk at the National Immigration Law Center, and more recently at Bay Area Legal Aid, helping impovershed and homeless in solving their legal difficulties.

Currently, he teaches Contemporary World Poetry, Creative Writing, and Literary Translation in the Master of Fine Arts Program in Creative Writing at San Diego State University .

He lives in San Diego, Califonia with his beautiful wife, Katie Farris.

"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

"With his magical style in English, poems in Dancing In Odessa seem like a literary counterpart to Chagall in which laws of gravity have been suspended and colors reassigned, but only to make everyday reality that much more indelible. This young poet has brought over into English the heritage of Akhmatova, Mandelshatm and Tsvetaeva, but at the same time his verses are as fresh as tomorrow's advertising jingle and as familiar as folk music. Kaminsky's imagination is so transformative that we respond with equal measures of grief and exhilaration." --American Academy of Arts and Letters Citation for Metcalf Award

"What a glory Musica Humana is, all the depths and outer reaches of a human heart sung and spoken into visible existence. It is a book I wish I'd written, full of weeping and laughing and clapping and howling. It reaches far back into collective human imagination and charges our present moment with a great sense of destiny. I will read it again and again.
--Li-Young Lee

"A superb and vigorous imagination, a poetic talent of rare and beautiful proportions, whose work is surely destined to be widely and enthusiastically noticed and applauded.
--Anthony Hecht

"Kaminsky is more than a promising poet; he is a poet of promise fulfilled. I am in awe of his gifts."
--Carolyn Forche

"Passionate, daring to laugh and weep, direct and unexpected, Ilya Kaminsky's poetry has a glorious tilt and scope."
--Robert Pinsky

"Ilya Kaminsky's poems are sometimes deliriously happy and sometimes full of horror, but they are always immense in their ideas and their reach. Kaminsky's verse spans continents and centuries, and feels like it belongs to Russian immigrant dreamers, American tourists and the millions who perished in the Holocaust and Stalin's purges, all at once. If you sit and read his poems out loud, you'll quickly move into cities of seaweed and wide waters that lead to wider waters."
--The Jerusalem Post

"Dancing in Odessa is a rich, reverberative dance with memories of a haunted city -- and memory itself: "letters with a child's signature, a raspberry, a page of sky."
--Carol Muske-Dukes, Los Angeles Times

"Dancing in Odessa is born under two signs-- memory and ecstasy. Ilya Kaminsky proceeds like a perfect gardener--he grafts the gifts of the Russian newer literary tradition on the American tree of poetry and forgetting."
--Adam Zagajewski

"Rare and exilarating pleasure"
--Boston Review

"How does Ilya Kaminsky, who is only 27 and a deaf Russian immigrant, write so gorgeously in a second language he's never clearly heard? Maybe it's that he has the right ambition: "All I want is a human window / in a house whose roof is my life."
--San Francisco Magazine

" This is an intricate, muscular, startlingly powerful collections, one that amazes by image and statement, by its shaped whole, and by the sheer scope of its poetic observation. Kaminsky is truly a descendant of Odysseus, after whom his birth city was named, and his poems reflect both Odyssean wanderings and the liberation of mind that opens the way to craft. Inventiveness of language, the investigative passion, praises, lamentation, and a proper sense of the ridiculous are omnipresent. Kaminsky poems are wholly local yet unprovincial, intimate yet free of ego. This book is a breathtaking debut ."
--Jane Hirshfield, Ploughshares


Forthcoming in March 2010:

"From canonical modernists like Valery, Vallejo and Pasternak to younger poets of today, the Ecco Anthology collects an amazing spectrum of poetic voices from around the world in gifted translations, often by other well-known poets. It becomes immediately indispensable." - John Ashbery

"This astonishing anthology deeply substantiates Ruben Dario's claim that "a poet moves in the world." It is a modern book of wonders, of airy correspondences and earthly dialogues, of faraway voices and unlikely global encounters, of borders magically crossed and deaths transfigured, of candles lighting each other, like souls. It is inexhaustible."- Edward Hirsch

"An impossible task well done is a great thing. And for those of us more or less islanded in English, this sample of the planet's poetic riches translated from many tongues is a precious gift, a privileged opening to a larger world. The editors' allegiance to what connects and enlarges us led to the bold decision to arrange these 20th Century poets-not by language or nation-but chronologically, making time their shared dwelling place, and poetry a human space in a barbarous century." - Eleanor Wilner

"Starting from the shared and shareable human heart, the poems in this stunning, indispensable anthology guide us readers by a thousand paths across that landscape of terror and beauty that was the twentieth century. By journey's end, we've traversed the whole globe and stand on the threshold of the new millennium in a world made small, and whole, and home by these poets, these poems." - Gregory Orr