Deaf Republic

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.
— Kevin Young, The New Yorker
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.
— Colum McCann
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.
— Craig Morgan Teicher, NPR
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.
The New York Times
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.
— Roxane Gay
In Kaminsky’s soulful new collection the language is exquisite; the ethical questions Kaminsky poses are provocative.
Entertainment Weekly
Stunning. . . . At once intimate and sensual but also poignant and timely.
Booklist, starred review
Intoxicating and wondrous. . . . In these sincere, striking poems, Kaminsky posits the beauty of this world as essential.
Book Page
...evocative, satirical, internationally revered. This work was 15 years in the making, a political allegory, a boldly sensual love story
The Times (UK)
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Riveting and emotional.
Publishers Weekly, starred review
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 Guardian
The product of 15 years of meditation, this chilling work heralds the maturity of an important voice in world poetry.
Library Journal, starred review
Ilya Kaminsky’s Deaf Republic is a dramatic masterwork, a parable-in-poems that confronts the darkness of war with the blazing light.
Poets & Writers magazine
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.
Irish Times
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.
Poetry Northwest
Tour-de-force collection of poems
Atlanta InTown
If you were to read only one book of poetry in 2019, this should be it.
Poetry Review (UK)
...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...
— Andrew Motion, TLS
What is silence? Something of the sky in us. Deaf Republic is changing my life.
— Patricia Smith
It’s an astounding, urgent and fresh creation.
Financial Times (UK)
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
The Seattle Times
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.
The Los Angeles Review
Deaf Republic demonstrates that Kaminsky’s immense talent. It is a must-read for our turbulent times.
Michigan Quarterly Review
Deaf Republic is a contemporary masterpiece. This book is proof that in 2019 great poetry can enjoy tremendous popularity.
Washington Examiner
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.
World Literature Review
American Poet
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.
— Raymond Antrobus, The Telegraph (UK)
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.
The Critical Flame
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.
— Kwame Dawes
Prescient and incisive.
Minneapolis Star Tribune
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.
— Jane Hirshfield
Cutting-edge, sweeping drama
The Washington Post
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
Aggrieved, inconsolable, and yet ecstatic, comic, and indefatigably in love with the world. Deaf Republic is a book of wonders.
— Li-Young Lee
This book has brought to the poetry world a kind of trembling, manic anticipation. . . Deaf Republic is a masterfully wrought collection.
The Los Angeles Review of Books
Deaf Republic is a book of transcendence....[it] will be spoken about for years to come.
— Nick Ripatrazone, The Millions
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.
The Rumpus
Deaf Republic is conscience, terror, silence, rage, made to coexist moments of tenderness, piercing beauty, empathic lyricism.
— Tracy K. Smith
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.
— John Freeman, LitHub
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.
The Sewanee Review
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.
— Aviya Kushner, The Forward
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.
— Raymond Antrobus, The Telegraph (UK)
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.
— Anthony Domestico, Commonweal
— Jewish Currents
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.
Stunning poems
Brooklyn Rail
The exposed nerve of human compassion
The Carolina Quarterly (Duke University)
Deaf Republic left me with one of those ethereally haunting feelings (still lingering). It is indeed a ‘fable’ of poetically epic proportions.
— Denise Hill, New Pages