Ilya Kaminsky

Ilya Kaminsky (b. 1977, Odessa) has described how, ‘for a refugee, there is a beauty in falling in love with a language’. His first poems were written in Russia; after his family emigrated to the USA in 1993, Kaminsky chose English because ‘no one in my family or friends knew it – no-one I spoke to could read what I wrote. It was a parallel reality, an insanely beautiful freedom. It still is.’

Deaf Republic, Kaminsky’s second collection, is a modern fable or parable; in an unnamed country, a deaf child is killed by soldiers dispersing a protest, and the town falls sympathetically deaf in response, coordinating their dissent via sign language. ‘This silence is personal’, writes Kaminsky. ‘I did not have hearing aids until I was sixteen and my family immigrated. As a deaf child, I experienced my country as a nation without sound. I heard the USSR fall apart with my eyes.’

Forward Prizes History:

  • 2019 Forward Prizes for Best Collection, shortlisted for Deaf Republic (Faber & Faber)