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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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Upcoming Events

Ilya Kaminsky reading at George Mason University

George Mason University in Fairfax, VAview map
Location: Fenwick Library, Reading Room.

Tarfia Faizullah, Tess Gallagher, and Ilya Kaminsky reading at AWP 2019

Oregon Convention Center in Portland, ORview map
Moderated by Jeff Shotts. Location: Oregon Ballroom 201-202, Oregon Convention Center, Level 2.

Seattle Arts & Lectures presents Ilya Kaminsky reading at Seattle Central College Broadway Performance Hall

Seattle Central College Broadway Performance Hall in Seattle, WAview map
Tickets start at $10.

Ilya Kaminsky reading at New York University's Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House

Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House in New York, NYview map
Reading with Erika Meitner.

Ilya Kaminsky appearing as part of Los Angeles Times Festival of Books

LA Times Festival of Books in El Segundo, CAview map
"Identity and Memory: The Performance of the Self in Contemporary Poetry," a panel with Jos Charles, Terrance Hayes, and Diana Khoi Nguyen. Moderated by Cyrus Cassells. Location: Mudd Hall 203. This event requires a free ticket (available April 7).

Ilya Kaminsky reading as part of the LA Times Festival of Books

LA Times Festival of Books in El Segundo, CAview map
Location: Poetry Stage.

Graywolf at 45: Poetry reading co-sponsored by the Poetry Society of America

National Arts Club in New York, NYview map

A poetry reading featuring Catherine Barnett (Human Hours), Ilya Kaminsky (Deaf Republic), Layli Long Soldier (WHEREAS), Vijay Seshadri (3 Sections), and Monica Youn (Blackacre). Co-sponsored by the Poetry Society of America and hosted by PSA Executive Director Alice Quinn.

Free and open to the public, with reception to follow.


  • “Re-envisioning disability as power and silence as singing, Kaminsky has created a searing allegory precisely tuned to our times, a stark appeal to our collective conscience.”—
  • “Kaminsky demands that we reevaluate our own language — about deaf culture, about silence itself — in a time when language in the larger, cultural public square has never been more vitriolic. . . . Deaf Republic is a masterfully wrought collection.” Los Angeles Review of Books
  • “Cutting-edge.”The Washington Post
  • “[Deaf Republic] is curved with beautiful oddities of phrase. . . . A play in verse, a novel in verse, collective pain in verse—classifications are unnecessary here, as Kaminsky’s book is at its soul a story. . . . Deaf Republic arrives, textured and alive.”The Millions
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