‘One of the most important poets of the past 20 years’. That is what De Volkskrant wrote about the Ukrainian-American poet Ilya Kaminsky. In April 2023, his book Deaf Republic was released in the Netherlands and the editors of Doof.nl were allowed to read it! We also have two books to give away, so read on quickly.
Deaf Republic is about the made-up city of Vasenka, in a country that resembles Ukraine. It’s war and a deaf boy is shot because he didn’t listen to the soldiers of the occupier. Then the whole city revolts. No one wants to listen to the soldiers anymore, they are ‘deaf’ to their orders. The inhabitants invent their own sign language that the soldiers do not understand. But where does this disobedience lead? What happens if the inhabitants no longer understand each other?
Ilya Kaminsky was born in 1977 in Odessa, which was then in the Soviet Union and now in Ukraine. At the age of four he became deaf from mumps. He wrote poems at a young age. In 1993 his family moved to the United States. In 2019, Kaminsky wrote Deaf Republic in English. According to the BBC, he was therefore one of the twelve ‘artists who changed the world’ in 2019. Last year, Kaminsky read at the Poetry International Festival in Rotterdam.
Visual, direct and painful
Now there is the Dutch translation, Deaf Republic. The book contains the English and Dutch texts side by side. The language of the poems is very visual. This poetry is not vague or floaty, but very direct. Every detail is written down so that you immediately see it in front of you. Although it is sometimes very painful: I saw the sergeant take aim, the deaf boy catching iron and fire in his mouth – his face on the asphalt. There are also a few drawings of gestures in the book.
At the end of the book, Kaminsky writes critically about the current situation: I see neighbours grab their phones to watch a cop want to see a man’s driver’s license. When the man reaches for his wallet, the officer shoots. Through the car window. Shoot. It’s a peaceful country.
Win the Deaf Republic book
The impressive book Deaf Republic was published by Podium Publishers. Doof.nl is giving away two copies! Send appearance Friday May 26 an email with you name and address to [email protected] to stand a chance. There will be no further communication about this action. We will only email you back if you have won.
And if you are curious about more poetry by deaf poets, you can go to the Poetry International Festival on June 11, 2023.
Author: Ilya Kaminsky, translation by Alfred Schaffer
Number of pages: 160
Retail price: €22.99