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 U.S. 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 Los Angeles Times Book Awards and finalist for the National Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Award, and T. S. Eliot Prize; Dancing in Odessa (Tupelo Press, 2004), which received multiple awards, including the Dorset Prize and the American Academy of Arts & Letters’ Metcalf Award; and Musica Humana (Chapiteau Press, 2002). 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).
The American Academy of Arts & Letters, into which Kaminsky was inducted in 2023, described his poems as “a literary counterpart to [Marc] Chagall in which laws of gravity have been suspended and colors reassigned, but only to make everyday reality that much more indelible.”
Kaminsky’s other awards and honors include the 2023 United States Artists Fellowship, 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 the late 1990s, Kaminsky 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 overcome their legal difficulties. He held the Margaret T. and Henry C. Bourne Jr. Chair in Poetry and directed the Poetry@Tech Program at Georgia Tech. He currently teaches in Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts’ program in creative writing. Kaminsky was the Guest Editor for Poem-a-Day in December 2021. In January 2023, Kaminsky was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.