"This is Kaminsky's first book of poems. At 27 he comes with a voice very much his own. 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... It seemed to take about five minutes to read this book, and when I began again, I reached the end before I was ready. That's how compulsive, how propulsive it is to read. It wraps you in a world created by a new and wonderful poet.."
--John Timpane, The Philadephlia Inquirer
"With his magical style in English, poems in "Dancing In Odessa" seem like a literary counterpart to Chagall in which laws of gravity have been suspended and colors reassigned, but only to make everyday reality that much more indelible. This young poet has brought over into English the heritage of Akhmatova, Mandelshatm and Tsvetaeva, but at the same time his verses are as fresh as tomorrow’s advertising jingle and as familiar as folk music. Kaminsky’s imagination is so transformative that we respond with equal measures of grief and exhilaration."
--American Academy of Arts and Letters' Citation for 2005 Addison M. Metcalf Award
"What a glory Musica Humana is, all the depths and outer reaches of a human heart sung and spoken into visible existence. It is a book I wish I'd written, full of weeping and laughing and clapping and howling. It reaches far back into collective human imagination and charges our present moment with a great sense of destiny. I will read it again and again.
"A superb and vigorous imagination, a poetic talent of rare and beautiful proportions, whose work is surely destined to be widely and enthusiastically noticed and applauded.
"Kaminsky is more than a promising poet; he is a poet of promise fulfilled. I am in awe of his gifts."
"Once in a rare while, if you are terribly lucky, you read a poet whose poems are so numinous, so breathtaking, whose rhythms are so full of music that you wish htey could enter your body, could breathe with the lift and fall of your own breath--whose images, no matter how foreign to your own experience, enter your mind and are fixed tehre, changing forever your perception of the world. Ilya Kaminsky is such a poet and his first book, Dancing In Odessa, bursts with such poems."
--Patricia Fargnoli, WIRE
"Passionate, daring to laugh and week, direct and unexpected, Ilya Kaminsky's poetry has a glorious tilt and scope."
"Ilya Kaminsky's poems are sometimes deliriously happy and sometimes full of horror, but they are always immense in their ideas and their reach. Kaminsky's verse spans continents and centuries, and feels like it belongs to Russian immigrant dreamers, American tourists and the millions who perished in the Holocaust and Stalin's purges, all at once. If you sit and read his poems out loud, you'll quickly move into cities of seaweed and wide waters that lead to wider waters."
--Aviya Kushner, The Jerusalem Post
"I am so happy to have a manuscript that I believe in so powerfully, poetry with such a deep music. I love it."
--Eleanor Wilner's citation, awarding "Dancing In Odessa" the 2004 Dorset Prize
"He is the most gifted young poet of them all. He is a true poet whose work will be read in the years to come."
--Rochester Democrat & Chronicle
"Dancing in Odessa is a rich, reverberative dance with memories of a haunted city -- and memory itself: "letters with a child's signature, a raspberry, a page of sky."
--Carol Muske-Dukes, Los Angeles Times
"Dancing in Odessa is born under two signs-- memory and ecstasy. Ilya Kaminsky proceeds like a perfect gardener--he grafts the gifts of the Russian newer literary tradition on the American tree of poetry and forgetting. This book is as fresh as a young leaf in the spring."
"Rare and exilarating pleasure"
--Garth Greenwell, Boston Review
"...poetry that has less to do with saying than with seeing--or rather the saying and the seeing are somehow one. The seeing is tactile, synnesthetic, and image presented in such a way that it isn't merely beheld, but embraced and felt: "it was August. / August! The light in the trees, full of fury. August / filling hands with language that tastes like smoke." Kaminsky achieves in this elegy a quet grandeur ...Ilya Kaminsky bears watching. He has a fine ear and a sharp eye. Above all, he has a purity of outlook that is akin to innoncence -- and every bit as appealing.
-- Frank Wilson, The Philadelphia Inquirer
"Ilya Kaminsky is writing poetry -- stunning, moving, award-winning poetry -- not only in a second language, but in a language he has never heard clearly... Kaminsky is an uncommonly outward-looking poet, and dislocation and loss seem to have deepened his sense of the preciousness of things... In "Natalia," a poem dedicated to his wife, Kaminsky writes: "She slept in my bed/ I slept on a chair, she slept on a chair/ I slept in the kitchen, she left her slippers in my shower, in my Torah, her slippers in each sentence I spoke. I said: those I love/ die, grow old, are born. But I love the stubbornness of her bedclothes!" Not many young American poets would dare use an exclamation point with so little irony. [but] ...there's nothing simplistic about Kaminsky's moralism, or his praise. They're too deeply informed by experiences he refuses to romanticize -- by a sense that all precious things are threatened. An image that recurs throughout "Dancing in Odessa" is of poems or songs being smuggled -- in a suitcase, a pillowcase, even a saucepan. "What is happiness?" he writes. "(A) few stories / that have fooled censors."
-- Eric McHenry, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
"Kaminsky writes with a subtleness and depth that few modern poets ever fully realize. Enchanting."
--Ace Boggess, The Adirondack Review
"In the most profound sense, Kaminsky answers to Mandelshtam's demand that poetry should infuse human world -- made progressively icier by technology and ideology -- with 'teleological warmth', and thus humanize it. All fascination with the purity of an inhuman or superhuman is alien to him. The adjective of the chapbook's Latin title is present here as a wish and its fulfillment. Montale would have found much to praise in this complexity of tone, and indeed much to recognize in this young poet's evocation of a landscape of childhood suffused with both beauty and threat. In the first poem [Kaminsky] writes: 'poetry is the self--I resist / the self'. The delighted difficulty of this poetic 'I' is a great gift to American poetry.
--Alissa Leigh, Gulf Coast
"How does Ilya Kaminsky, who is only 27 and a deaf Russian immigrant, write so gorgeously in a second language he's never clearly heard? Maybe it's that he has the right ambition: "All I want is a human window / in a house whose roof is my life."
--Jonathan Kiefer, San Francisco Magazine
"Two pages into the book, I was captivated--by the end I was enraptured. I give his work my higest recommendation."
--Timbra Martin, Small Spiral Notebook
"I had the pleasure of hearing Kaminsky read during the Virginia Festival of the Book in Charlottesville this year. He reads with a chanting, theatrical (but not histrionic), ecstatic style that corresponds perfectly with his lilting, comma-connected, paratactic free verse. In the course of a single line he often rose to a shout, descended to a quiet matter-of-factness, and then rose to a shout again. The idiosyncratic hallmarks of Kaminsky’s style—a combination of surrealism, fable and humor—are successful precisely because he uses them toward a specific end. Unlike so much of the style-over-substance “poetry of gesture” that overruns many contemporary journals, Kaminsky’s quirkiness seldom feels contrived. Most importantly, Kaminsky uses this style not as an end to itself, but as a vehicle (and a remarkably lucid one) for telling us something important about our lives."
--Peter Kline, Meridian
"Ilya Kaminsky is a poetry prodigyhe's not yet 30, his debut collection, Dancing Odessa, written in English, provides a view into his Ukrainian upbringing through the lens of his American experience. There is a sense of willful play even amidst atrocity, as…he holds on tightly to his delight in living and in language: "Love, a one legged bird/ is coming back, my soul in reckless feathers./O the language of birds." Kaminsky also has a law degree, and while he might be writing legal briefs by day, he is clearly destined for verse."
--Caledonia Kearns, New Haven Advocate
"Ilya Kaminsky, a poet who had them crying in the aisles with his reading from his book, 'Dancing in Odessa', (the best poetry reading I have ever attended) ... imagine Czeslaw Milosz at 28, and you begin to get the idea."
--Grant Cogswell, Seattle Belltown Messenger
"Ilya Kaminsky’s multi-layer story told in the poem Deaf Republic left me with one of those ethereally haunting feelings (still lingering). Its exploration of deafness is literal and figurative, metaphorical and concrete, and told all through relationships between those who speak and hear, and those who do not (cannot or choose not). It is indeed a “fairytale” of poetically epic proportions." --Denise Hill, New Pages
"This is the most exciting book of poetry I have indulged reading in years. One word to describe Kaminsky's writing comes to my mind, "Wow!" I was stunned by its beauty, so much that I was left speechless."
--Editor's Bookshelf, Tryst
"Dancing in Odessa is a joyous achievement. Passionate. Compassionate. Daring in its use of imaginative language. Though the work, written in English, has a deep feeling for a life written in another country, the words transcend to one universal. The poems are simply delicious in their use of language and imagery.
--Gwendolyn Mintz, Small Spiral Notebook
ON THIS LAMENTABLE CITY: POEMS OF POLINA BARSKOVA, Co-Translated and Edited by Ilya Kaminsky:
“Words flicker — strange, elegant — a Russian evanescence. Heat lightning pulses between her lines.”
-Dana Jennings, The New York Times
"Barskova is a poet whose voice is at once so intimate and taunting, it can be almost impossible to resist her. Kaminsky’s translation allows Barskova’s brusque, plainspoken Russian to shine through...Barskova’s is a voice of stunning originality and eroticism."-- Publisher's Weekly
On The Dark Elderberry Branch: Poems of Marina Tsvetaeva, A Reading by Ilya Kaminsky and Jean Valentine:
Of the legendary four great Russian poets of her generation (others are Akhmatova, Mandelstam, and Pasternak) at the beginning of the twentieth century, Marina Tsvetaeva has always seemed to me the most mysterious. Of course they were all mysterious--what great poet, indeed what individual person is not? -- but I have turned from reading translations (I read no Russian) of her poems and writings, and from writings about her and her tormented story -- and from reading them gratefully with a feeling that, vivid and searing though they may have been, she had been in them like a ghost in a cloud, and was gone again.
This new selection from her poems and prose, a "homage" to her by Ilya Kaminsky and Jean Valentine brought me a closer and more intimate sense of her and of her voice and presence than I had before. Besides, if we had not had Ilya Kaminsky's own radiant first book, Dancing in Odessa, and the singular, unfolding, over several decades of Jean Valentine's haunting poetry, this brief representation of Tsvetaeva's life, fate, and the poetry that is inseparable from them, would have made their talents and their stature unmistakable. This Dark Elderberry Branch is magic.
-- W.S. Merwin
“The poems Ilya Kaminsky and Jean Valentine have chosen to translate, by Marina Tsvetaeva , are magnetic blessings of experience, blessings even of suffering, though also of simpler causes of joy, someone’s body, a ray of light, a book. Kaminsly says he and Jean Valentine have very different temperaments from hers, but they show here what they show, differently, in their own poems, that they are themselves so very good at blessing experience, finding its indomitable life. This is radiant work. They chose the right poet to fall in love with, and her poems responded.” -- David Ferry
"Simply one of the few boundless poets on the world scene, and already a centrifugal presence within American poetry, Ilya Kaminsky carries with him the power of the great Russian tradition and the obvious potential to be recognized, in an age where poetry is a reticent presence in the public’s eye, as one of the finest writers of the oncoming century.” 3 A.M. Magazine, United Kingdom
"This is an intricate, muscular, startlingly powerful collections, one that amazes by image and statement, by its shaped whole, and by the sheer scope of its poetic observation. Kaminsky is truly a descendant of Odysseus, after whom his birth city was named, and his poems reflect both Odyssean wanderings and the liberation of mind that opens the way to craft. Inventiveness of language, the investigative passion, praises, lamentation, and a proper sense of the ridiculous are omnipresent. Kaminsky poems are wholly local yet unprovincial, intimate yet free of ego. This book is a breathtaking debut ."
--Jane Hirshfield, Ploughshares
"Most high-minded poetry by twenty-somethings ends up sounding contrived or pretentious. But Kaminsky…a lyrical, serious poet… pulls it off, in part due to exquisitely careful language; it's sometimes impossible to believe he is not a native English speaker. His 10-page "Elegy for Osip Mandelstam," one of the great Jewish martyr-poets of the Soviet Union, is carried along by its perfect pitch, from its opening lines — "While there is still some light on the page,/ he escapes in a stranger's coat with his wife" — to its last: “In my country, evenings bring the rain water, turning / poplars bronze in a light that sparkles on these pages / where I, my fathers, / unable to describe your dreams, drink / my silence from a cup.” These are not the considerations of an occasional poet; Kaminsky's work is ambitious, yet succeeds, as if miraculously, in being more than credible."
--Jay Michaelson, Forward
“Ilya Kaminsky’s poetry is to me the most exciting and enduring in recent memory”
-- Jake Levine, Sonora Review
"Born in Odessa, Kaminsky came to this country in 1993 at the age of 16 when his family was granted asylum by the U.S. government. At the start of his impressive debut (which he wrote in English), he reveals an astounding truth: "My secret: at the age of four I became deaf. When I lost my hearing, I began to see voices." With a buoyant, tragicomic vision, the poet depicts a frenetic, anti-Semitic Russia where people dance on the surfaces of grief, as in a Chagall painting: "naked in her galoshes she waltzed/ and even her cat waltzed./ She said: All that is musical in us is memory' but I did not know English, I danced/ sitting down." Rooted in Russian symbolism, Kaminsky's language is at once rich and simple: "We lived north of the future, days opened/ letters with a child's signature, a raspberry, a page of sky." His poems move through the lives of others, known and unknown, connecting the sweet and bitter stories of lost worlds. For all collections of contemporary poetry."
--E.M. Kaufman, The Library Journal
"The fact that he has achieved a style that is simultaneously so sonically dense, imagistically rich, emotionally stirring, socially and historically inventive, and, while following in the footsteps of acknowledged literary legends, still emerging as uniquely his own, and all by the age of twenty seven, is nothing short of astonishing. Dancing in Odessa is a triumphant debut, announcing the arrival of a poet whose talents, and potential, are limitless."
--Adam L. Dressler, Perihelion
"When thinking about the poetry book that most influenced me in 2004 I would have to pick “Dancing In Odessa” by Ilya Kamisky."
--TE Ballard, Tryst
“His writing has the gist and urgency of reporting, full of doctors and vegetables and predatory public prosecutors and regular old people to whom awful things have happened: “women with huge breasts, old men naïve and childlike, / all our words, heaps of burning feathers / that rise and rise with each retelling.” He was so good I started to cry.”
--Christopher Fizzelle, The Stranger
"This moral power is prominently put on display in many of the poems including “American Tourist,” which involves an affair with a tourist “whose forgetting is a plot against forgetting.” …Even the Bible is exiled into ordinary language. This is the case in a section of “Musica Humana”: “O God of Abraham, of Isaak and of Jacob/ on your scale of Good and Evil,/ put a plate of warm food.” Of course, this is the type of exile demanded by postmodern poetics, but in Kaminsky’s hands the technique is used for humanitarian purposes."
--Francis Raven, Jacket
"Ilya Kaminsky’s infectiously ecstatic poems waltz through the boundaries of the everyday world into the world of myth, as if there were no division between the two. Kaminsky demonstrates a “reckless” willingness to break all rules of North American poetic propriety and — somehow — to make it work, and sing. "
--Eric Gudas, Slope
"Ilya Kaminsky’s work belongs to a long strand of poetic expression regarding war and the role of the individual. Since his arrival in the US in 1993 Kaminsky has won many awards for his icy and brilliant work, which occupies that liminal space between the desire for peace and the actuality and defragmentation of war, as in as in the poem 9am Bombardment: Running down Vasenka street my clothes in a pillowcase / I was looking for a man who looks exactly like me / so I could give him my Sonya, my name, my clothes. / Running down Vasenka Street with my lips moving, / one of those who run from the trolley that bursts like an intestine in the sun.”
--Mary O’Donnell, The Irish Times
"Dancing in Odessa is an amazing collection…I would say that Kaminsky expands the idea of what American poetry can do. Writing in his non-native tongue, he possesses a magical ability to make words we have grown tired of fresh again. There are two things that make this young writer stand out from his contemporaries: He allows himself a range of emotion (including, shockingly, an unashamed sincerity) that most North American poets simply do not allow themselves to access, cutting off the extreme edges of their work. Kaminsky has lines that are howlingly funny next to lines of unspeakable horror; his invocations of romantic love are brave and sometimes goofy, just like the real thing. Second, his scope is not limited to himself, it is sweeping--it includes not only his family, but also an imagining of the lives of other writers and people... This scope resists the smallness of mind that seems to infect so many current books of poetry, the inwardness, dullness, and misery. This collection cannot help but make a statement about humanity, not a simplistic one, but a realistic, morally, and politically informed one, about how human beings overcome evil and hardship. Beneath the narratives of the poems themselves is an underlying spirituality…Dancing in Odessa is a collection full with ambition, intelligence, and passion; well-constructed with humor, whimsicality, and an unrelenting desire for truth. I am constantly reminded in reading this book of Voltaire’s quote: “Life is a comedy for those who think, and a tragedy for those who feel." This is poetry that walks a tightrope between edification and entertainment, between suffering and enlightened laughter. I am looking forward to reading more of Kaminsky’s work in the future."
--Jeannine Hall Gailey, The Pedestal Magazine
"There is much to commend in this book; there is risk-taking and introspection and above all a courageous determination of the author to give himself to over to the forces that both bereave and define him, as he writes in "Musica Humana," his elegy to Osip Mandelstom: "Now, memory, pour some beer,/salt the rim of the glass; you/ who are writing me, have what you want:/ a golden coin, my tongue to put it under."
--Hailey Leithauser, The National Poetry Review
"This is the real stuff. He writes like a child 100 years old, not for bravura display but for the sake of those souls whose being he feels, and they are many. This is poetry I am grateful to read. The beauty of this book radiates in all places."
--Walker Brentz, The San Francisco Reader
" The coming together in this poem of Osip Mandelstam & Ilya Kaminsky is or should be a matter of some interest to us. Born in Odessa, former Soviet Union, in 1977, Kaminsky arrived in the United States in 1993, at which point his transition to English began. (He also still writes some poetry in Russian.) In this he follows other transplanted poets (Joris, Hollo, Codrescu, Waldrop, Simic, et al.) while retaining a strong, often an uncanny sense of an earlier time & place. In his major first gathering of poems, Dancing in Odessa (Tupelo Press, 2004), the city of the title poem is itself a persistent presence, & in the poem therein there is a virtual channeling of the voices of Mandestam & his wife Nadezhda. Osip Mandelstam, while born in Warsaw, was one of the formidable Russian poets of the early twentieth century, whose poem mocking Josef Stalin, born in Georgia, resulted in his subsequent arrest & disappearance in the 1930s. The movement across borders & languages is one of the distinguishing characterstics of poetry in our own time & place, a nomadic phenomenon (P. Joris), not easily dismissed. --Jerome Rothenberg, Poems and Poetics
"In a radically original, playful style full of surprising jumps, varying rhythms and astonishing images…in the poem "Praise" he writes: "This is how we live on earth, a flock of sparrows. / The darkness, a magician, finds quarters/ behind our ears. We don’t know what life is,/ who makes it, the reality is thick/ with longing. We put it up to our lips/ and drink." We as readers and writers are indeed blessed by his presence in our lives through his amazing poetry."
--Harvey Shepard, The Portsmouth Herald
"This book of poems is far more balanced than most poetry collections, first or otherwise…Kaminsky explores a much broader emotional and stylistic range than most; and the result is a wonderful first book that sounds unlike any other….the poems never rely on any easy surrealism; instead, nearly every other line delivers a surprising turn of phrase that propels the poems into new and unexpected territory… Dancing in Odessa is in fact that joyous ending. And what is more, it’s genuine."
--L.W. Johns, Cairn
"Ilya Kaminsky, is dizzying in the way it extols poetry’s promise and heft."
"We seldom know where to draw a dividing line between the imagined and the not imagined in this ambitious, mysterious collection; instead, if we step into its world, we finds ourselves inside a meditation on—an instance of?—the music that “wakes us, music in which we move.” Kaminsky is not afraid to make certain claims for himself, and for his poems, and unlike the more predominant contemporary literary mode of rejecting the capacity or responsibility to speak for others, Kaminsky is willing, and even Whitmaninan in his willingness. “Dancing in Odessa” –“I was born,” he writes, “in a city named after Odysseus”—is a book in which he travels among the bronze poplars, pushing as hard a s he can toward the surprising, the historical, the rain-enhanced light under which the page may indeed be able to sparkle. "
--Sally Ball, Pleiades
“Destined to become international giant of a poet. Kaminsky has created something more expansive than a voyage. With simple tools and with great compassions, he has made a prayer for the living."
--Ashley Gamell, Middlebury News
"Kaminsky reads aloud in the grand Russian tradition with incredible passion. When I saw him read in Seattle, many of the folks in the full-to-capacity auditorium at Seattle Art Museum were weeping ."
--Rebecca Brown, Port Townsend Leader
"This is, so far as I know, the first book of poems ever written by a partly-deaf poet in a second-language he has never heard spoken clearly. Something of the weirdness, the invigorating offness, of these poems is suggested by Kaminsky's life story. He writes poems full of surprising extrapolations of meaning based on partial or fragmentary perception. In another poet's hands, Kaminsky's story would have been an occasion for memoir. I can easily imagine (heck, with a little research, I could probably write) the book Kaminsky mercifully did not write. Kaminsky's "real life" is subordinated everywhere to a voice (riddling, comic, and impertinent, like a child-character in Shakespeare) and a sensibility (Bruno Schulz-like, the rudderless logic always on the brink of capsizing): “I see her windows open in the rain, laundry in the windows / she rides a wild pony for my birthday, / a white pony on the seventh floor. // "And where will we keep it?" "On the balcony!" / the pony neighing on the balcony for nine weeks.” -From My Mother's Tango. This combination of empirically-verifiable detail (seven floors, nine weeks) and spectacle so weird that it defies testimony might be called "Surrealism." But the Surrealist contract is broken almost immediately in the poem, when Kaminsky asks, "What was happiness? A pony on the balcony!" It doesn't take being deaf to imagine a mother driven to insane lengths to amuse her son, and it's the raw emotion of the question, following the surrealistic coolness, that resounds. "What was happiness?" is an old man's question: what's it doing in a book by a twenty-seven-year-old? What are Ovid, Mandelstam, Montale, Babel, Brodsky, Tsvetaeva, Celan, all doing here? You may find Kaminsky's Great Poets Chess Set annoying; at first I found it so, then I found it evidence of high and touching ambition. Kaminsky is interested in the evidence of genius present in gesture, and when he nails it, as in these prose lines on Tsvetaeva, the results are suprising: “During the first year of my deafness, I saw her with a man. She wore a purple scarf knotted around her head. Half-dancing, she took his head between her hands and laid it on her breast. And she began to sing. I observed her with devouring attention. I imagined her voice smelling of oranges; I fell in love with her voice.” …this is a distinguished first book ."
--Dan Chiasson, Poetry
ON ECCO ANTHOLOGY OF INTERNATIONAL POETRY Co-Edited by Ilya Kaminsky:
"From canonical modernists like Valery, Vallejo and Pasternak to younger poets of today, the Ecco Anthology collects an amazing spectrum of poetic voices from around the world in gifted translations, often by other well-known poets. It becomes immediately indispensable." - John Ashbery
"This astonishing anthology deeply substantiates Ruben Dario's claim that "a poet moves in the world." It is a modern book of wonders, of airy correspondences and earthly dialogues, of faraway voices and unlikely global encounters, of borders magically crossed and deaths transfigured, of candles lighting each other, like souls. It is inexhaustible."- Edward Hirsch
"An impossible task well done is a great thing. And for those of us more or less islanded in English, this sample of the planet's poetic riches translated from many tongues is a precious gift, a privileged opening to a larger world. The editors' allegiance to what connects and enlarges us led to the bold decision to arrange these 20th Century poets-not by language or nation-but chronologically, making time their shared dwelling place, and poetry a human space in a barbarous century." - Eleanor Wilner
"Starting from the shared and shareable human heart, the poems in this stunning, indispensable anthology guide us readers by a thousand paths across that landscape of terror and beauty that was the twentieth century. By journey's end, we've traversed the whole globe and stand on the threshold of the new millennium in a world made small, and whole, and home by these poets, these poems." - Gregory Orr
"Ecco Anthology of International Poetry ...is a moving and impressive book...there are so many poets from so many parts of the world...There are famous poems here—one of Rilke's Duino Elegies, Akhmatova's “Requiem,” Celan's “Deathfugue”—but I think every reader will make a lot of discoveries"
-Adam Kirsch, Poetry
"There are basically two types of poetry anthologies: the sober, conscientious, representative sort that's on the syllabus of every introductory survey course, and the eclectic, freewheeling sort that is as much a reflection of an editor's mind as of his or her time. Ilya Kaminsky—a young, deaf, Ukrainian-born and endlessly talented poet now writing in English—has produced the latter type of anthology: a great big grab bag of poems from all over the world, united by nothing but his love for them."
--Christian Wiman, Theolog
"Brilliant new anthology of 20th-century poetry, “The Ecco Anthology of International Poetry,” edited by Ilya Kaminsky...In his smart and entertaining introductory essay, Kaminsky points out that even if in translation “the music of the original is almost always lost ... the magic of image, litany, rhythm and incantation does survive linguistic boundaries.” And a good many of the translations in this anthology prove his point; most read gracefully in English...If you want to have a significant taste of the work of the major world poets of the 20th century — poems by Akhmatova, Amichai, Blok, Brecht, Cavafy, Darwish, Hikmet, Lorca, Machado, Mayakovsky, Milosz, Neruda, Paz, Pasternak, Rilke, Ritsos, Senghor, Tsvetaeva, Ungaretti and more than 200 other towering figures of 20th-century poetry — then this is the anthology you’ve been waiting for."
--Steve Kowit, San Diego Union-Tribune
"The Ecco Anthology of International Poetry is essential reading. This compendium offers selections by canonical poets such as Anna Akhmatova, Pablo Neruda and Yehuda Amichai, as well as those who are obscure to most American readers. Some have been translated into English for the first time, which means there's no shortage of marvelous new voices to discover. Spanning generations, cultures, and countries, this is truly a landmark publication."
--Carmela Ciuraru, Newsday
“The wit and virtuosity evident on every page raise the Ecco Anthology of International Poetry to the level of modern anthological classic…Ilya Kaminsky and Susan Harris are to be commended as much for their skill in selection as for their consistency and commitment.”
–PN Review, UK
"...I wrote verses in Russian for quite some time before we came to America. When we came to this country, I was sixteen years old. We settled in Rochester, New York. The question of English being my "preffered language for literature" would have been quite ironic back then, since none of us spoke English -- I myself hardly knew the alphabet. But arriving in Rochester was rather a lucky event -- that place was a magical gift, it was like arriving to a writig colony, a Yaddo of sorts. There was nothing to do except for writing poetry! Why English then -- why not Russian? My father died in 1994, a year after our arrival to America. I understood right away tht it would be impossible for me to write about his death in the Russian language, as one author says in of his deceased father somewhere, "Ah, don't become mere lines of beautiful poetry!" I chose English because no one in my family knew it -- no one I spoke to could read what I wrote. I myself did not know the language. It was a parallel reality, an insanely beautiful freedom. It still is."
-- from Interview with Colleen Marie Ryor, Adirondack Review
'"...the advice which I extracted from him after a great deal of coaxing: 'Wake up! Life is a miracle! We are here for the last time. We must allow the possibilities for magic in our life. The ordinary is beautiful, and frankly, it's all we've got.' It is a hot day when I interview Ilya. Katie, who was delayed in joining us, comes home a bit wilted from her journey and offers us some ice cream. I assure her Ilya has been an excellent host. 'Yes, he practices aggressive hospitality,' she agrees happily, which describes well his persistent and exuberant foisting of Pepperidge Farm cookies at me. Beautiful, young, lithe, Katie goes to fetch the ice cream, and I hear a crash and an exclamation. "There are boks in the freezer!" she shouts in disbelief, and then lets go with a hearty belly laugh. "Kaminsky, it's gone too far!" I find this hilarious. He goes to her, eagerly, to see what can be done with the mess. It is easy, amid talk of magic and daily miracles, to imagine them being forever newlyweds."
-- from Profile by Brenna Silberstein in Hastings Independent
"...my third impulse is to say that while poetry does not offer material success, it does offer a form of spiritual satisfaction. But to say that is to lie again--poetry is no easy way to understand why we are here on this planet; there is a lot of internal struggle, necessary and unnecessary conflict, a lot of choking with words. A poet achieves the essential on the page, for a moment, and then that moment is gone. So, let's not idealize this way of walking through the world!"
-- from Conversation with Tatyana Mishel in Cranky Literary Journal
"...exile is good for you if you are a poet," Kaminsky says. "It teaches you that loss is also a gain. Of course, it teaches you that by beating you with a hammer on your head. You see your life from a distance; your days become your own commandments. You learn how to start your life anew. Exile (to misquote Auden) 'hurts' you into poetry. So for a poet it is a great gift. But if you write no poetry, it simply hurts."
-- from Profile by Eric McHenry in The Seattle Post-Intelligencer
"When we first walked in, Kaminsky went right to the shelves, trying to find something new. People nuts about poetry get to know the poetry shelves of the bookstores they frequent so well they can immediately tell if something’s changed — if there are new books, if books are gone, etc. Kaminsky’s got that eyeball. Within minutes of entering the store, Kaminsky had several books beneath his arm and was reading another with his free hand. At one point, I saw him write a note on his hand."
-- Tie This Guy Up, Make Sure He Stays at SDSU by Thomas Lux in San Diego Reader
Audio & Podcast: the editors of the magazine discuss Ilya Kaminsky's Deaf Republic, Inger Christensen's musical poetry, and Hanoch Levin's Lives of the Dead.
-- Rhapsodies and Rude Epics, Poetry Foundation Website
"Imagination is a great gift to any poet, I think. Somehow poets forget it these days in their relentless search for irony in things. That, I think, is a mistake."
-- from Interview with Brian Leary & Diana Park in Box Car Poetry Review
"I don't really view my audience as anyone in particular--my readers, if I am lucky to have any, will be human beings, and that is one characteristic which makes them very similar to myself. All other characteristics pale in comparison, yes? Although, frankly, my two cats tend to gather around me very worried as soon as I start reading a poem out loud--which I do quite often, at least when I am writing that poem. And, my sleepy wife (I mostly write at night) yells from the other room, "Kaminsky, shut up!"
-- from Observing the Hours: A Conversation with J. Marcus Weekly in Iron Horse
To read the full text of the interviews, plese click on Adirondack Review, Hastings Independent, Cranky Literary Journal, San Diego Reader, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Iron Horse.
Department of English and Comparative Literature
San Diego State University
San Diego, CA 92182