Ilya Kaminsky

Ilya Kaminsky is a well-known deaf poet who was born in Odessa. He was born hearing and eventually lost his hearing at four years old from mumps. His father’s death resulted in him expressing through in poetry. Interestingly, Ilya expressed that the sole reason for his love for poetry was that no one in his family knew English, and he felt it was a sense of freedom (Kaminsky, 2013). Ilya became a resident in New York during the year 1993.

In his book, Deaf Republic, the book reveals a tragedy during a protest which resulted in a soldier killing a young boy who happened to be deaf. It also affected the entire town and caused them all to become deaf. It becomes a drama series and will lead the readers to realize that disability has power. The whole anthology of poems is a story including a married couple who are expecting a baby and teaching signs daily, luring soldiers one by one to their deaths behind the scenes (Kaminsky, 2013). The book is unique because it includes sign language images throughout the pages. Two quotes that felt powerful from Kaminsky were, “Silence is the invention of the hearing, and the deaf do not believe in silence.” He also expressed what silence is like for deaf people throughout the book, which is vital for the readers to understand.

Here is one of the poems that I really think portrays a deaf person’s picture of witnessing a tragedy in its true sense. Reading these poems helps the reader imagine what it is like for those who experienced suffering through war and tragedy, like current events in Haiti, Ukraine, Palestine, and other countries that are not getting enough attention or support.

That Map of Bone and Opened Valves

I watched the Sergeant aim, the deaf boy takes iron and fire in his mouth- his face on the asphalt, that map of bone and opened valves. It is in the air. Something in the air wants us too much. The earth is still. The tower guards eat cucumber sandwiches. This first day soldiers examine the ears of bartenders, accountants, soldiers, the wicked things silence does to soldiers. They tear Gora’s wife from her bed like a door off a bus. Observe this moment – how it convulses – The body of the boy lies on the asphalt like a paperclip. The body of the boy lies on the asphalt like the body of a boy. I touch the walls, feel the pulse of the house, and I stare up wordless and do not know why I am alive. We tiptoe the city, Sonya and I, between theaters and gardens and wrought-iron gates – Be courageous, we say, but no one is courageous, as a sound we do not hear lifts the birds off the water.

-Ilya Kaminsky

Ilya Kaminsky’s Achievements

Bachelor’s Degree in political science

Georgetown University

JD Degree

University of California’s Hastings College of the Law.

Co-founded Poets for Peace

Author of “Dancing in Odessa,” which resulted in winning several awards

Author of “Deaf Republic,” winning National Book Critics Circle Award.

If you are interested in learning more about Ilya Kaminsky’s background and poetry, check out the link below.

If you are interested in purchasing the Deaf Republic poetry book, you can order it through Amazon. Click on the link below or contact DeafandHOH to request borrowing the book.


Kaminsky, Ilya. (2013). Deaf Republic. Minneapolis, MN. Graywolf Press.

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