Ilya Kaminsky

Ilya Kaminsky

He // Him // His

[ID: A person wearing rimless glasses and a purple sweater sits in front of a stone wall looking slightly away from the camera.]

Portrait photo courtesy of the artist.

Atlanta, GA
2023 USA Fellow

This award was generously supported by the Mellon Foundation.

Ilya Kaminsky is the author of Deaf Republic (Graywolf Press) and Dancing In Odessa (Tupelo Press). Kaminsky is also a cotranslator of Dark Elderberry Branch: Poems of Marina Tsvetaeva (Alice James Books) and coeditor of Ecco Anthology of International Poetry (Harper Collins). He has received the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and has been a finalist for the National Book Award. Kaminsky’s books have been translated into over twenty languages.


Author’s Prayer

If I speak for the dead, I must leave
this animal of my body,
I must write the same poem over and over,
for an empty page is the white flag of their surrender.
If I speak for them, I must walk on the edge
of myself, I must live as a blind man
who runs through 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.