Introductions: Ilya Kaminsky
April 15, 2019
It was an immense honor to welcome the fabulous fabulist Ilya Kaminsky to Seattle Arts & Lectures as part of our Poetry Series on April 1, 2019. Kaminsky is the author of the bestseller, Dancing in Odessa, a co-editor of “The Ecco Anthology of International Poetry,” and, as of three months ago, Deaf Republic.
By Rebecca Hoogs, SAL Associate Director
Jeff Shotts, Ilya Kaminsky’s editor at Graywolf, described his new book, Deaf Republic, as “part dramatic theatre, part fractured narrative, a polyphonic tale told in lyrics, prose poems, and sign language.” It embodies its hybridity in other ways, as well. It braids together a deep grief and communal tragedy with moments that are incredibly tender, individual. It braids tragedy and violence with surprisingly sexy poems, lightly funny moments, and joyful poems of new parenthood—and we feel the counter strain of tragedy even deeper. It marries the DNA of a “there” and a “here.”
As the reader experiences the shooting of a young boy that sets off the silent protest of a community, one might feel at once in some far away and at once terribly near to home as it reminds us of the racialized violence our country and especially young black men experience every day.
And the we? The we is hybrid too—sometimes the we that is silent as a form of protest, sometimes the we that is silent as a moral failing. Sometimes we watch as witness, sometimes we watch as complicit bystander. Sometimes the we the town, sometimes we the audience. How do we watch, and what do we say, even when we’re silent? “My job,” Kaminsky said, “is to make this border between the shelter of fable and the bombardment of reality a lyric moment.”
Ilya Kaminsky is very, very good at his job.
The Los Angeles Review of Books praised the collection: “Kaminsky demands that we reevaluate our own language — about deaf culture, about silence itself — in a time when language in the larger, cultural public square has never been more vitriolic. . . . Deaf Republic is a masterfully wrought collection.” And NPR called it “a searing allegory precisely tuned to our times, a stark appeal to our collective conscience.”
If the word on the AWP street is true, you are about to experience something very special. Please join me in the singer of joy and grief, international treasure, Ilya Kaminsky.