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Deaf Republic

Ilya Kaminsky
Our country woke up the next morning and refused to hear soldiers.
     In the name of Petya, we refuse.
     At six a.m., when soldiers compliment girls in the alley, the girls slide by, pointing to their ears. At eight, the bakery door is shut in soldier Ivanoff’s face, though he’s their best customer. At ten, Momma Galya chalks No One Hears You on the gates of the soldiers’ barracks.
     By eleven a.m., arrests begin.
     Our hearing doesn’t weaken, but something silent in us strengthens.
     In the ears of the town, snow falls.
—from “Deafness, an Insurgency, Begins”
Deaf Republic opens in an occupied country in a time of political unrest. When soldiers breaking up a protest kill a deaf boy, Petya, the gunshot becomes the last thing the citizens hear—all have gone deaf, and their dissent becomes coordinated by sign language. The story follows the private lives of townspeople encircled by public violence: a newly married couple, Alfonso and Sonya, expecting a child; the brash Momma Galya, instigating the insurgency from her puppet theater; and Galya’s girls, heroically teaching signs by day and by night luring soldiers one by one to their deaths behind the curtain. At once a love story, an elegy, and an urgent plea—Ilya Kaminsky’s long-awaited Deaf Republic confronts our time’s vicious atrocities and our collective silence in the face of them.

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Ilya Kaminsky’s astonishing parable in poems asks us, What is silence?

About the Author

Ilya  Kaminsky
Credit: Cybele Knowles, courtesy of The University of Arizona Poetry Center
Ilya Kaminsky was born in the former Soviet Union and is now an American citizen. He is the author of a previous poetry collection, Dancing in Odessa, and coeditor of The Ecco Anthology of International Poetry. He has received a Whiting Award, a Lannan Literary Fellowship, and a Guggenheim Fellowship, and was named a finalist for the Neustadt International Prize for Literature. His work has been translated into more than twenty languages.
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Ilya Kaminsky reading as part of Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures' Poets Aloud

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh, PAview map
Tickets are free for this event.

Ilya Kaminsky reading at Poetry Foundation as part of the John Barr Reading Series

Poetry Foundation in Chicago, ILview map


  • “In ‘Deaf Republic’ Kaminsky truly emerges and it’s a glorious thing to behold. Poem by poem he turns lack of hearing into both metaphor and meaning.”—Lit Hub
  • “In Kaminsky’s lines, sound takes visible shape. The ordinary things of the world transmogrify, and a small detail, stripped down, takes on the weight of a country.”The Critical Flame
  • Deaf Republic is a perfectly extraordinary book. . . . I will keep reading it, again and again."—Max Porter
  • Deaf Republic is conscience, terror, silence, and rage made to coexist alongside moments of tenderness, piercing beauty, and emphatic lyricism."—Tracy K. Smith
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