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.
Kaminsky writes with a subtleness and depth that few modern poets ever fully realize. Enchanting.
Ilya Kaminsky writes in a language from which he is double estranged, chasing an essential and ungraspable music: “in a language not mine, [I} speak of music that wakes us, music / in which we move. For whatever I say // is a kind of petition”…a remarkable debut, one that affords a rare and exhilarating pleasure: the sense of being at the start of something marvelous.
In a radically original, playful style full of surprising jumps, varying rhythms and astonishing images…in the poem ‘Praise’ he writes: ‘This is how we live on earth, a flock of sparrows. / The darkness, a magician, finds quarters/ behind our ears. We don’t know what life is,/ who makes it, the reality is thick/ with longing. We put it up to our lips/ and drink.’ We as readers and writers are indeed blessed by his presence in our lives through his amazing poetry.
In the most profound sense, Kaminsky answers to Mandelshtam’s demand that poetry should infuse human world — made progressively icier by technology and ideology — with ‘teleological warmth’, and thus humanize it. All fascination with the purity of an inhuman or superhuman is alien to him. The adjective of the chapbook’s Latin title is present here as a wish and its fulfillment. Montale would have found much to praise in this complexity of tone, and indeed much to recognize in this young poet’s evocation of a landscape of childhood suffused with both beauty and threat. In the first poem [Kaminsky] writes: ‘poetry is the self—I resist / the self’. The delighted difficulty of this poetic ‘I’ is a great gift to American poetry.