If I speak for the dead, I must
leave this animal of my body,
I must write the same poem over and over
for the empty page is a white flag of their surrender.
If I speak of them, I must walk
on the edge of myself, I must live as a blind man
who runs through the rooms without
touching the furniture.
Yes, I live. I can cross the streets asking “What year is it?”
I can dance in my sleep and laugh
in front of the mirror.
Even sleep is a prayer, Lord,
I will praise your madness, and
in a language not mine, speak
of music that wakes us, music
in which we move. For whatever I say
is a kind of petition and the darkest days
must I praise.
Ilya Kaminsky was born in Odessa, former Soviet Union, in 1977, and arrived to the United States in 1993, when his family was granted asylum by the American government.
He is the author of Dancing In Odessa (Tupelo Press), which won the Whiting Writer’s Award, the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Metcalf Award, the Dorset Prize, and the Ruth Lilly Fellowship given annually by Poetry magazine. Dancing In Odessa was also named Best Poetry Book of the Year by ForeWord Magazine.
Kaminsky was awarded Lannan Foundation’s Literary Fellowship.
Poems from his new manuscript, Deaf Republic, were awarded Poetry magazine’s Levinson Prize and the Pushcart Prize.
Recently, he was on the short-list for Neusdadt International Literature Prize.
His anthology of 20th century poetry in translation, Ecco Anthology of International Poetry, was published by Harper Collins.
His poems have been translated into numerous languages and his books have been published in many countries including Turkey, Holland, Russia, France, Mexico, Mecedonia, Romania, Spain and China, where his poetry was awarded the Yinchuan International Poetry Prize.
Kaminsky has worked as a law clerk for San Francisco Legal Aid and the National Immigration Law Center. He currently works as the Court Appointed Special Advocate for Orphaned Children in Southern California.
Currently, he teaches English and Comparative Literature at San Diego State University.