Interviews & Profiles

Interview with Edward Clifford

I write in lines. So the lines find their way on paper whether I overhear two boys insulting each other at the gas station, or see a gull cleaning her feet, or two old men playing dominoes on a hood of a car, or two young women kissing at the fish market. They become lines on receipts, on my hands, on a water bottle, on other people’s poems. Lines collect for years, but once in a while they discover that other lines are sexy and, well, the poems may come from that sort of a relationship. If I am lucky. Which isn’t often. But one has to have faith.

Interview with Colleen Marie Ryor

"...I wrote verses in Russian for quite some time before we came to America. When we came to this country, I was sixteen years old. We settled in Rochester, New York. The question of English being my 'preferred language for literature' would have been quite ironic back then, since none of us spoke English — I myself hardly knew the alphabet. But arriving in Rochester was rather a lucky event — that place was a magical gift, it was like arriving to a writing colony, a Yaddo of sorts. There was nothing to do except for writing poetry! Why English then — why not Russian? My father died in 1994, a year after our arrival to America. I understood right away that it would be impossible for me to write about his death in the Russian language, as one author says in of his deceased father somewhere, 'Ah, don't become mere lines of beautiful poetry!' I chose English because no one in my family knew it — no one I spoke to could read what I wrote. I myself did not know the language. It was a parallel reality, an insanely beautiful freedom. It still is." 

Profile by Brenna Silberstein

"...the advice which I extracted from him after a great deal of coaxing: 'Wake up! Life is a miracle! We are here for the last time. We must allow the possibilities for magic in our life. The ordinary is beautiful, and frankly, it's all we've got.' It is a hot day when I interview Ilya. Katie, who was delayed in joining us, comes home a bit wilted from her journey and offers us some ice cream. I assure her Ilya has been an excellent host. 'Yes, he practices aggressive hospitality,' she agrees happily, which describes well his persistent and exuberant foisting of Pepperidge Farm cookies at me. Beautiful, young, lithe, Katie goes to fetch the ice cream, and I hear a crash and an exclamation. 'There are books in the freezer!' she shouts in disbelief, and then lets go with a hearty belly laugh. 'Kaminsky, it's gone too far!' I find this hilarious. He goes to her, eagerly, to see what can be done with the mess. It is easy, amid talk of magic and daily miracles, to imagine them being forever newlyweds." 

Conversation with Tatyana Mishel

" third impulse is to say that while poetry does not offer material success, it does offer a form of spiritual satisfaction. But to say that is to lie again — poetry is no easy way to understand why we are here on this planet; there is a lot of internal struggle, necessary and unnecessary conflict, a lot of choking with words. A poet achieves the essential on the page, for a moment, and then that moment is gone. So, let's not idealize this way of walking through the world!" 

Profile by Eric McHenry

"'...exile is good for you if you are a poet,' Kaminsky says. 'It teaches you that loss is also a gain. Of course, it teaches you that by beating you with a hammer on your head. You see your life from a distance; your days become your own commandments. You learn how to start your life anew. Exile (to misquote Auden) "hurts" you into poetry. So for a poet it is a great gift. But if you write no poetry, it simply hurts.'" 

“Tie This Guy Up, Make Sure He Stays at SDSU” by Thomas Lux 

"When we first walked in, Kaminsky went right to the shelves, trying to find something new. People nuts about poetry get to know the poetry shelves of the bookstores they frequent so well they can immediately tell if something’s changed — if there are new books, if books are gone, etc. Kaminsky’s got that eyeball. Within minutes of entering the store, Kaminsky had several books beneath his arm and was reading another with his free hand. At one point, I saw him write a note on his hand." 

Interview with Brian Leary & Diana Park

"Imagination is a great gift to any poet, I think. Somehow poets forget it these days in their relentless search for irony in things. That, I think, is a mistake." 

“Observing the Hours” — A Conversation with J. Marcus Weekly

"I don't really view my audience as anyone in particular — my readers, if I am lucky to have any, will be human beings, and that is one characteristic which makes them very similar to myself. All other characteristics pale in comparison, yes? Although, frankly, my two cats tend to gather around me very worried as soon as I start reading a poem out loud — which I do quite often, at least when I am writing that poem. And, my sleepy wife (I mostly write at night) yells from the other room, 'Kaminsky, shut up!'" 

Rhapsodies and Rude Epics
Audio & Podcast

The editors of the magazine discuss Ilya Kaminsky's Deaf Republic, Inger Christensen's musical poetry, and Hanoch Levin's Lives of the Dead.


"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 wonderful poet."

The Philadelphia Inquirer

With his magical style in English, Ilya Kaminsky's poems 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. His imagination is so transformative that we respond with equal measures of grief and exhilaration."

— American Academy of Arts and Letters Citation for Metcalf Award

“Simply one of the few boundless poets on the world scene, and already a centrifugal presence within American poetry, Ilya Kaminsky carries with him the power of the great Russian tradition and the obvious potential to be recognized, in an age where poetry is a reticent presence in the public’s eye, as one of the finest writers of the oncoming century.”

3 A.M. Magazine, (UK)

"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."

The Jerusalem Post

“Ilya Kaminsky’s poetry is to me the most exciting and enduring in recent memory”

Sonora Review

“Ilya Kaminsky’s writing is dizzying in the way it extols poetry’s promise and heft”

Charlottesville Weekly

“Destined to become international giant of a poet. Kaminsky has created something more expansive than a voyage. With simple tools and with great compassion, he has made a prayer for the living”

Middlebury News

“I believe Kaminsky has written Generation X’s most vital civic poem to date. His poem 'We Lived Happily During the War' measures up to Ginsberg’s authoritative power… Here’s the key: listen to the pronouns Kaminsky uses even as he criticizes America in his rhetoric and in his poem: we, our, us. His willingness to implicate himself in the triumphs and flaws of our country’s project make him a great civic poet. 'We Lived Happily During the War' is a watershed poem.”

— David Roderick, Southern Humanities Review