Ilya Kaminsky (born April 18, 1977 in Odessa, Soviet Union, now Ukraine) is a Ukrainian-American poet, critic, translator and professor. He began to write poetry seriously as a teenager in Odessa, publishing a chapbook in Russian entitled The Blessed City. His first published poetry collection in English was a chapbook, Musica Humana (Chapiteau Press, 2002). His second collection in English, Dancing in Odessa (Tupelo Press, 2004), earned him a 2005 Whiting Writers' Award, the American Academy of Arts and Letters Metcalf Award, the Ruth Lilly Fellowship, and the Dorset Prize, and was named the 2005 ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year in Poetry. In 2008, he was awarded a Lannan Literary Fellowship. His poems have appeared in literary journals and magazines including The Kenyon Review, New Republic, Harvard Review, Poetry.
Dancing in Odessa and its chapbook forbear, Musica Humana, have earned Kaminsky superlative praise from reviewers and prominent poets. The Philadelphia Enquirer wrote, "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." Jane Hirshfield wrote, "Inventiveness of language, the investigative passion, praises, lamentation, and a proper sense of the ridiculous are omnipresent. Kaminsky’s poems are wholly local yet unprovincial, intimate yet free of ego. This first full-length book is a breathtaking debut." Carolyn Forche wrote, "Kaminsky is more than a promising young poet; he is a poet of promise fulfilled. I am in awe of his gifts."
Kaminsky is particularly well known for his passionate, almost ecstatic reading style.
Kaminsky was born in Odessa, former Soviet Union (now Ukraine), on April 18, 1977. According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "Kaminsky lost most of his hearing at age 4. He lost his homeland at age 16, when family sought political asylum." At the time, he spoke no English, and continued to write in Russian while learning English.
Kaminsky earned his Bachelor of Arts at Georgetown University, and went on to receive his J.D. from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. He has been invited to teach and read poetry at literary centers, colleges and universities from Harvard to Naropa. He has also worked as a Law Clerk at the National Immigration Law Center, and more recently, at Bay Area Legal Aid, helping the poor and homeless to solve their legal difficulties. He currently teaches in the graduate creative writing program at San Diego State University, and lives in San Diego with his wife, Katie Farris.
Honors and awards
- 2008 Lannan Literary Fellowship
- 2005 Whiting Writers' Award
- 2005 ForeWord (magazine) Book of the Year Award in Poetry
- 2005 American Academy of Arts and Letters Metcalf Award
- 2002 The Dorset Prize
- 2001 Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship
Full-Length Poetry Collections
- Musica Humana (Chapiteau Press, 2002) ISBN 978-1-931498-32-6
- "Ecco Anthology of International Poetry" (Harper Collins, 2010)
- Review: Patricia Fargnoli reviews "Dancing in Odessa" in Valparaiso Poetry Review
- Review: TE Ballard reviews "Dancing in Odessa" in Tryst
- Review: Sally Ball reviews "Dancing in Odessa" in Pleiades
- Review: Ace Bogges reviews "Dancing in Odessa" in Adirondack Review
- Review: Erick McHenry on "Dancing in Odessa" in Seattle Post Intelligencer
- Review: Aviya Kusher on "Dancing in Odessa" in The Jerusalem Post
- Review: Adam L. Dressler on "Dancing in Odessa" in Perihelion
- Review: Eric Gudas on "Dancing in Odessa" in Slope
- Review: Jeannine Hall Gailey on "Dancing in Odessa" in The Pedestal
- Review: Jerome Rothenberg on "Dancing in Odessa" in Poems and Poetics
- Review: Peter Kline on "Dancing in Odessa" in Meridian
- The Centrum Writers Exchange- August 1, 2008 - The Sunlight of Odessa: Poet Ilya Kaminsky by Jordan Hartt
- Tupelo Press > Author Page > Ilya Kaminsky
- The Kenyon Review > February 2009 > That Map of Bone and Opened Valves by Ilya Kaminsky
- Blue Flower Arts > Author Page > Ilya Kaminsky
- June 2, 2004 > In His Memories of Odessa, A Poet Pays Tribute to His Forebears by John Timpane
- Ploughshares Spring 2006 > Authors & Articles: Editor's Shelf > Dancing in Odessa by Ilya Kaminsky
- Chapiteau Press Titles > Musica Humana by Ilya Kaminsky
- Seattle Post-Intelligencer (seattlepi.com) > Friday, September 10, 2004 > Ilya Kaminsky's Poetry Turns His Losses into gGifts to Readers by Eric McHenry > Special to the Post-Intelligencer
- The Centrum Writers Exchange > August 1, 2008 > The Sunlight of Odessa: Poet Ilya Kaminsky by Jordan Hartt
- Ilya Kaminsky's Website > Bio
- Poetry Foundation > Previous Ruth Lily Poetry Fellowship Recipients
- Official website
- Tupelo Press > Author Page > Ilya Kaminsky
- Author's Booking Agency: Blue Flower Arts > Author Page > Ilya Kaminsky
- Ryor, Colleen Marie. "Interview with Ilya Kaminsky". The Adirondack Review. Retrieved 2009-05-23.
- San Diego State University > MFA Program
- Audio: Ilya Kaminsky Reading for From the Fishouse
- "A Lyric Voice: A Lyric Essay on Osip Mandelstam" by Ilya Kaminsky in Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature and Fine Arts (26.1)