Born on April 18, 1977, Ilya Kaminsky was raised in Odessa, Ukraine, the former Soviet Union. At age four, he lost most of his hearing after a misdiagnosis. His family received asylum from the US government in 1993. He earned his BA from Georgetown University, and went on to receive his JD from the University of California, Hastings College of Law.
Kaminsky is the author of Deaf Republic (Graywolf Press, 2019), winner of the Anisfield-Wolf and LA Times Book Awards and finalist for the National Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Award, and TS Eliot Prize; Dancing in Odessa (Tupelo Press, 2004), which received multiple awards including the Dorset Prize and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Metcalf Award; and Musica Humana (Chapiteau Press, 2002).
The American Academy of Arts and Letters described his poems as “a literary counterpart to Chagall in which laws of gravity have been suspended and colors reassigned, but only to make everyday reality that much more indelible.”
Kaminsky’s awards and honors include the Lannan Literary Fellowship, the Whiting Writers’ Award, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship, the ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award in Poetry, and a 2019 Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2019, he received the Academy of American Poets Fellowship, which recognizes distinguished poetic achievement.
In addition to his writing, Kaminsky is also an editor and translator of many other books, including Dark Elderberry Branch: Poems of Marina Tsvetaeva (Alice James Books, 2012) and The Ecco Anthology of International Poetry (Harper Collins, 2010).
In the late 1990s, he co-founded Poets For Peace, an organization that sponsors poetry readings in the United States and abroad. He has also taught at San Diego State University and worked as a Law Clerk at the National Immigration Law Center and at Bay Area Legal Aid, helping the poor and homeless to overcome their legal difficulties. He holds the Margaret T. and Henry C. Bourne Jr Chair in Poetry and directs the [email protected] Program at Georgia Tech, and will be the guest editor for Poem-a-Day in December 2021.