Ilya Kaminsky has been called ”a poet of promise fulfilled”; his talent, “rare and beautiful”; his poems “stunning.” He has won the Whiting Writers’ Award; the Milton Center’s Award for Excellence in Writing; the Florence Kahn Memorial Award; Poetry magazine’s Ruth Lilly Fellowship; Philips Exeter Academy’s George Bennett Fellowship; and a Lannan Foundation fellowship. His first book of poems, Dancing in Odessa (Tupelo Press, 2004), won the Dorset Prize, the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Metcalf Award, and ForeWord Magazine’s Best Poetry Book of the Year award.
Public acclaim notwithstanding, poetry remains, for him, a private affair. “Only after you get private with yourself,” he has said, can you truly start writing. Silence, too, is a powerful stimulus for him, if only to speak out against it. Deaf since the age of 4, he knows its power. In Dancing in Odessa, he seeks “to honor and give voice to the Russian poetic past.”
Kaminsky began writing as a child in that city of his memory. When life in Ukraine became too risky for Jews, his father applied for asylum to the United States. Granted in 1993, the family settled in Rochester, New York. A year later, upon the death of his father, he began to write his first poems in English. In addition to Dancing In Odessa, he has published Musica Humana (Chapiteau Press, 2002); co-edited the Ecco Anthology of International Poetry (2010); and edited and co-translated Polina Barskova’s This Lamentable City (2010). His second book of poetry, Deaf Republic, is nearing completion; excerpts from it have won Poetry magazine’s Levinson Prize.
Kaminsky earned his BA in political science from Georgetown University and his JD from the University of California Hastings College of the Law. He co-founded Poets for Peace, and has worked for the National Immigration Law Center and Bay Area Legal Aid. He lives with his wife in San Diego, where he teaches in the Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing at San Diego State University.
Awards and Accomplishments
- Poetry magazine’s Levinson Prize
- Whiting Writers’ Award
- Milton Center’s Award for Excellence in Writing
- Florence Kahn Memorial Award
- Poetry magazine’s Ruth Lilly Fellowship
- Philips Exeter Academy’s George Bennett Fellowship
- Lannan Foundation Fellowship
- Dorset Prize
- American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Metcalf Award
- ForeWord Magazine’s Best Poetry Book of the Year Award