Poet, critic, translator, and poetry professor Ilya Kaminsky was born in Odessa, then Soviet Union, in 1977. After contracting mumps at the age of four, he became hard of hearing. In 1993, he immigrated to the United States with his family and settled in Rochester, New York. There, at the age of sixteen, Kaminsky received a hearing aid for the first time and from then on was able to experience the world acoustically. For his later writing, however, the childhood experience was formative: »I got to know the world through pictures. Writing is something visual for me.«
Kaminsky, who had already begun writing while at school, has been writing his poems in English since 1994. His first collection of poems, »Musica Humana« was published in 2002. He gained international fame with the book of poems »Dancing in Odessa« , which has been translated into more than twenty languages. It is a book of memories of the city of his childhood and the individual people there, and a book of reflections on remembering as well as a processing of personal, family, and cultural history with references to Joseph Brodsky, Marina Tsvetaeva, Isaak Babel, Paul Celan, and others. In his history poem »Deaf Republic« , written over the course of nearly ten years, Kaminsky tells of war, of violence, but also of solidarity: after the shooting of a deaf boy by soldiers, the inhabitants of the town of Vasenka, itself at war, gather and resist by pretending to be deaf. They write »No one can hear you« in chalk on the wall of the soldiers’ barracks. Against the backdrop of Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine, the book seems prophetic today. But it also ironically highlights the supposedly safe position of the spectators, watching the war from afar.
Kaminsky’s honors include the Academy of American Poets Fellowship, the National Book Award, the Metcalf Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Whiting Award, and the Lannan Fellowship. The BBC named him one of twelve artists who changed the world in 2019. Kaminsky is an advocate for the translation of international literature in the United States. He has been poetry editor at »Words Without Borders« and »Poetry International« and has edited several anthologies of international poetry, including the »Ecco Anthology of International Poetry«, which is required reading at schools in the United States. He is also the editor of the »Poets in the World« book series. Kaminsky was a legal intern for San Francisco Legal Aid and the National Immigration Law Center. Recently, he volunteered as a court-appointed special advocate for orphaned children in Southern California. He currently holds the Bourne Chair in Poetry at the Georgia Institute of Technology and lives in Atlanta.