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Ilya Kaminsky was born in Odessa, former Soviet Union. His family received asylum from the American government and came to the United States in 1993.

From 1999 to 2000 he served as a George Bennett Fellow Writer In Residence at Phillips Exeter Academy. In addition, he has won the National Russian Essay Contest and the Ruth Lilly Fellowship from Poetry magazine. He is the author of Dancing in Odessa, a collection of poems which was the finalist for the National Poetry Series, the Walt Whitman Award and Yale Younger Poets Series. Dancing in Odessa was awarded 2002 Dorset Prize and will be published by Tupelo Press in April 2004.

Kaminsky is also the author of Musica Humana, a chapbook published by Chapiteau Press to rave reviews from The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Boston Review, Gulf Coast, San Francisco Reader and other national publications. His other awards include Florence Kahn Memorial Award, the Milton Center's Award fro Excellence in Poetry, and the Southeast Review's first annual Chapbook Award. His poems have appeared in the New Republic, American Literary Review, Salmagundi, Southwest Review, Tikkun, Southeast Review and numerous others.

Ilya Kaminsky also writes poetry in Russian. His work in that language was chosen for "Bunker Poetico" at the 2001 Venice Biennial. In late 1990s, he co-founded Poets For Peace, an organization which sponsored hundreds of poetry readings across the United States and abroad with a sole goal of supporting such relief organizations as Doctors Without Borders and Survivors International Against Certainty, an anthology of Poets For Peace readings in Bay Area was published with his foreward in 2003.

Currently, Ilya Kaminsky resides in San Francisco where he has worked as a law clerk for the National Immigration Law Center and Bay Area Legal Aid, assisting immigrants, impoverished, and the homeless in solving their legal difficulties.


If I speak for the dead, I must
leave this animal of my body, 

I must write the same poem over and over
for the empty page is a white flag of their surrender. 

If I speak of them, I must walk
on the edge of myself, I must live as a blind man 

who runs through the 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. 



after Nikolai Zabolotsky

Yes, the man is a tower of birds, I write my friends
into earth, into earth, into earth. 

There, with lantern in hand,
a beetle-man greets his acquaintances. 

You stand in white hats, long jackets, 
with notebooks of poems, 

you have for sisters wild carnations,
nipples of lilacs, splinters and chickens. 

Go now, I will write a biography of rain,
the pages turn -- 

your first steps across the room. 

© 2004 Ilya Kaminsky

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