Challenges of being deaf did not stop Russian poet Ilya Kaminsky in pursuing his passions.
Nearly 100 people came to Kaminsky’s poetry reading last Tuesday. The reading was sponsored by Voices in the Valley and the Office for Diversity.
Student posters that featured Kaminsky’s poetry, as well as graphics depicting the imagery within the poems, were distributed at the event.
Born in Odessa in the former Soviet Union in 1977, Kaminsky grew up with the challenge of being deaf.
He lost most of his hearing at the age of 4.
He began writing poetry in Russian, and published the book, “The Blessed City.”
Kaminsky came to America at age 16 when his family sought political asylum.
Kaminsky has written collection of works published in works such as “Dancing in Odessa.”
He teaches at San Diego State University.
Kaminsky read excerpts of his collection from “Dancing in Odessa.”
He opened with his poem, “Author’s Prayer.”
As he read, the poems were displayed on an overhead projector so guests could follow along.
He fluctuated in his intonations and energy in his reading, going from fast-paced, high-pitched dramatic verses to softer, whispered verses.
“I never heard anyone read poetry like that,” said Sarah Drummond, a fine arts and creative writing junior. “It wasn’t what I was expecting.”
The couplet poem discusses the narrator’s repercussions for speaking for the dead.
His work was often in first person. Topics of poems are usually dramatic events and their effects on society.
His piece, “Maestro,” tells a story of a school bombing near an apple orchard in Moldova.
He continued with his poem, “Aunt Rose.”
Written in triads, it shows memories of Rose as reference to war, education and love.
His work is often deliberately sexual such as the case in his poem, “In Praise of Laughter.”
Referencing “Aunt Rose,” he tells about a public prosecutor who hurt several people including the narrator’s family.
It discusses his grandfather’s murder, and how the prosecutor “signed people off.”
“I like how he enjambed sentences,” said Alyssa Harasim, a communications senior. “It’s not typical.”
He read other poems such as “My Mother’s Tango” and “Dancing in Odessa.”
Kaminsky followed with excerpts from his 2002 publication, “Musica Humana” and read his series “Natalia.”
“He definitely has music in his writing,” said creative writing professor Arra Ross.
Poems in this reading were substantially longer than his “Dancing in Odessa” series.
In his poems, he often make allusions to ancient philosophers and religious texts.
Making reference to Jerusalem and Moses in his poem, “American Tourist,” he was able to create and reinforce meanings and themes.
In it, he also touched on social structure and poverty.
His books were available for purchase and could be signed following the reading.
Kaminsky co-edited a book of interviews from several American poets.
The book, entitled, “A God In The House,” will be released in March.