Ilya Kaminsky’s long-awaited Deaf Republic is a contemporary epic. Evident throughout is a profound imagination, matched only by the poet’s ability to create a republic of conscience that is ultimately ours, too, and utterly his own—a map of what it means to live.
How is it that one poet can make the silence visible? How is that one poet can illustrate – and enlighten – our collective deafness? Deaf Republic is a remarkable book of poems from one of the great symphonic voices of our times. A deep bow.
In this extraordinary book-length narrative work, re-envisioning disability as power and silence as singing, Kaminsky has created a searing allegory precisely tuned to our times, a stark appeal to our collective conscience.
This extraordinary poetry collection is structured as a two act play in which an occupying army kills a deaf boy and villagers respond by marshaling a wall of silence as a source of resistance...These poems bestow the power of sacred drama on a secular martyrology...a superb and vigorous imagination, a poetic talent of rare and beautiful proportions...A visit to this republic will not leave the reader unchanged.
Ambitious, intelligent parable about the ways we are complacent in the face of things we should be up in arms about. Very interesting, both in terms of content and craft.
In Kaminsky’s soulful new collection the language is exquisite; the ethical questions Kaminsky poses are provocative.
Stunning. . . . At once intimate and sensual but also poignant and timely.
Intoxicating and wondrous. . . . In these sincere, striking poems, Kaminsky posits the beauty of this world as essential.
...evocative, satirical, internationally revered. This work was 15 years in the making, a political allegory, a boldly sensual love story
Riveting and emotional.
A narrative that explores how we think about silence – as rebellion, but also as fearful failure to act: “We lived happily during the war / and when they bombed other people’s houses, we / protested / but not enough”. Kaminsky, who lost most of his hearing at the age of four, left the former Soviet Union as a teenager and was granted asylum in the US; his tale of upheaval in an occupied territory speaks to our current political anxieties. But Deaf Republic imaginatively succeeds through its use of deafness as extended metaphor, when voices clamour and truth becomes “fake news”. Like the townsfolk he writes about, who invent a sign language as a riposte to atrocity and unrest, Kaminsky’s fluid yet fragmented verse drama is a novel response to conflict and miscommunication, hoping for peace rather than “silence, like the bullet that’s missed us”.
The product of 15 years of meditation, this chilling work heralds the maturity of an important voice in world poetry.
Ilya Kaminsky’s Deaf Republic is a dramatic masterwork, a parable-in-poems that confronts the darkness of war with the blazing light.
Kaminsky’s book bears comparison with other excellent North American imports of recent years: Anne Carson, Claudia Rankine [...] ,Deaf Republic should also compel readers on this side of the Atlantic.
I read Deaf Republic in one swoop, felled. Ilya Kaminsky’s poems quickened me in a way I returned to, waking, in the middle of the night.
Tour-de-force collection of poems
If you were to read only one book of poetry in 2019, this should be it.
...drama that combines themes of political violence, familial love, generation – and the subject of deafness. In some respects sombre, in others joyous, one of its several distinctions is to be properly observant of things-in-themselves, while at the same time being richly metaphoric. It’s a compelling mixture...
What is silence? Something of the sky in us. Deaf Republic is changing my life.
It’s an astounding, urgent and fresh creation.
Deaf Republic is nurtured by a commitment to poetry as a form of resistance, dialogue, and a noble spiritual vocation—ethos that hearkens back to poetry’s origins and its power.
Powerful. With lyrical and fearless language, Ilya Kaminsky has written an engrossing page-turner
It’s ‘we’ in Deaf Republic because we are all victims, victimizers and those who stand around and watch. And yet, there is so much love and lilt of morning.
Deaf Republic demonstrates that Kaminsky’s immense talent. It is a must-read for our turbulent times.
Deaf Republic is a contemporary masterpiece. This book is proof that in 2019 great poetry can enjoy tremendous popularity.
From this talented poet’s pen, magical phrases. Deaf Republic is a parable about society and the impact of reaction. Kaminsky, who has been mostly deaf since age four, transmutes disability into strength in this new collection. While deftly describing an imaginary place, this book seems to dangle us over the precipice of the here and now. The indomitable spirit of the townspeople—and of the poet Kaminsky—glistens in every line.
Deaf Republic, a fable of love and war [is] set in an imaginary town called Vasenka. Vasenka has an old-world feel yet —like all great poetry— its story speaks urgently to the present.
In Kaminsky’s lines, sound takes visible shape. The ordinary things of the world transmogrify, and a small detail, stripped down, takes on the weight of a country.
Deaf Republic a stunning and prescient drama, like the best books of Marquez and Kundera. Not many American poets, not many poets anywhere are engaged in this kind of work. I think that Deaf Republic will be a splendid, groundbreaking moment. Reading this book, my overwhelming sense is admiration and pleasure.
Prescient and incisive.
Pulse-quickening, glinting like unburied ore, Deaf Republic is a thunderclap book. American poetry needs what Ilya Kaminsky’s possibility-enlarging, boundlessly surprising pages bring to it.
Cutting-edge, sweeping drama
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.
Aggrieved, inconsolable, and yet ecstatic, comic, and indefatigably in love with the world. Deaf Republic is a book of wonders.
This book has brought to the poetry world a kind of trembling, manic anticipation. . . Deaf Republic is a masterfully wrought collection.
Deaf Republic is a book of transcendence....[it] will be spoken about for years to come.
Deaf Republic does more than engage us as readers—it pulls us into the narrative and demands we see ourselves in Vasenka, as a member of the town with choices to make about how to respond to the power that surrounds us.
Deaf Republic is conscience, terror, silence, rage, made to coexist moments of tenderness, piercing beauty, empathic lyricism.
In the poetry world, Kaminsky’s second book has been wondered about second-act on par to Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead. Why? The Ukrainian-born Kaminsky is a kind of walking IMDB of poetry, libraries of world’s verse and all their music live inside him. In ‘Deaf Republic,’ Kaminsky truly emerges and it’s a glorious thing to behold.
Deaf Republic is a work that may well survive civilization itself. It is a book of small graces, of resistance, of inordinate, unconditional humanity that brought me—I’m not ashamed to admit—to tears.
Kaminsky is and has always been a chronicler of humanity itself, an amplifier of all its music, heard and unheard. With this timely, occasionally terrifying, and perfectly structured book, Kaminsky proves something else: that he is also the clear heir to a magnificent tradition rooted in Odessa, his native city.
Sign language is often portrayed as primitive and pantomime-esque, or ridiculed as a “non-language”, but in the pages of Deaf Republic signs become symbols of residence and transformation. It is authoritarian soldiers who speak “the language no one understands.
All of Kaminsky’s work does what Wallace Stevens said modern poetry must do: “It has to be living, to learn the speech of the place. / It has to face the men of the time and to meet / The women of the time. It has to think about war / And it has to find what will suffice.” Kaminsky’s latest book, Deaf Republic, thinks deeply about war, opening with one kind of state violence (“And when they bombed other people’s houses, we // protested / but not enough”) and closing with another: “Ours is a country in which a boy shot by police lies on the pavement / for hours.” It finds, painfully and tenderly, what will suffice: the love between a husband and wife (“I am not a poet, Sonya, / I want to live in your hair”); the wonder of sensory experience (“How bright is the sky / as the avenue spins on its axis”). And through its sense-soaked imagery and bold experimentation, it is, to quote Stevens’s last requirement, living. Kaminsky speaks of our darkest days, of tyranny and death. Yet he sings of the world—of poetry and dance and sex and love—with the highest praise. As he writes in Deaf Republic, “You will find me, God, / like a dumb pigeon’s beak, I am / pecking / every which way at astonishment.
This is political writing at its best–not ideological or hectoring poster board invective but the sound of human anguish–read the poems, weep, and be shaken.
The exposed nerve of human compassion
Deaf Republic left me with one of those ethereally haunting feelings (still lingering). It is indeed a ‘fable’ of poetically epic proportions.