Deaf Republic
Ilya Kaminsky's astonishing parable in poems asks us, What is silence?Deaf Republic opens in an occupied country in a time of political unrest. When soldiers breaking up a protest kill a deaf boy, Petya, the gunshot becomes the last thing the citizens hear--they all have gone deaf, and their dissent becomes coordinated by sign language. The story follows the private lives of townspeople encircled by public violence: a newly married couple, Alfonso and Sonya, expecting a child; the brash Momma Galya, instigating the insurgency from her puppet theater; and Galya's girls, heroically teaching signing by day and by night luring soldiers one by one to their deaths behind the curtain. At once a love story, an elegy, and an urgent plea, Ilya Kaminsky's long-awaited Deaf Republic confronts our time's vicious atrocities and our collective silence in the face of them.Finalist for the T. S. Eliot PrizeFinalist for the Forward Prize for Best Collection

Deaf Republic Details

TitleDeaf Republic
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseMar 5th, 2019
PublisherGraywolf Press
ISBN-139781555978310
Rating
GenrePoetry, Politics, War, Fiction, Disability

Deaf Republic Review

  • Roxane
    January 1, 1970
    Ambitious, intelligent parable about the ways we are complacent in the face of things we should be up in arms about. Very interesting, both in terms of content and craft.
  • s.penkevich
    January 1, 1970
    At the trial of God, we will ask: why did you allow all this?And the answer will be an echo: why did you allow all this?What is the language of resistance? Deaf Republic, the much anticipated and long-awaited--fifteen years since his last collection Dancing in Odessa--new collection of poetry by Ilya Kaminsky addresses this question and many others across its haunting narrative. This book is incredible: an epic poem told in a series of contemporary, short-form poems (many of which are powerful At the trial of God, we will ask: why did you allow all this?And the answer will be an echo: why did you allow all this?What is the language of resistance? Deaf Republic, the much anticipated and long-awaited--fifteen years since his last collection Dancing in Odessa--new collection of poetry by Ilya Kaminsky addresses this question and many others across its haunting narrative. This book is incredible: an epic poem told in a series of contemporary, short-form poems (many of which are powerful on their own), Deaf Republic is a potent tale of oppression, military violence and the resistance against it. The city of Vasenka--a city without much context but manages to register as universal--is under occupation of a violent military. In the opening poem, the soldiers shoot an innocent deaf child for spitting at them. ‘Our country woke up the next morning and refused to hear soldiers,’ Kaminsky writes, and so a silent rebellion commences. The first half tells the story of a young family of puppeteers that fight back and face the reality that violence begets violence. The second half follows the theater owner as she has her workers teach sign language by day and seduce soldiers by night in order to kill them. Silence and deafness become the act of resistance--‘Deafness isn’t an illness! It’s a sexual position!--and the narrative is illustrated with the sign language for words such as town, tank, hide or army convoy. However, it is cautioned that silence can also be a form of passivity when the absence of resisting makes room for oppression. A tale of humanity bravely spitting in the face of destruction, Kaminsky explores the strength of unity against oppression and the damnation of weaponized, collective fear as both a prophetic warning and an act of resistance to the politics of the Now. I teach his children’s hands to make of anguisha language--see how deafness nails us into our bodies.I’ve been frequently floored lately by the new voices in poetry and the directions they have taken us. Deaf Republic joins a lofty rank of essential reads that challenges the boundaries of poetic storytelling. This is a collection that demands repeat readings the way your favorite films get better upon each rewatch. The language is precise and playful. For example, Kaminsky takes us from metaphorical language to blunt realism to remind us of the severity of our actions through a jarring juxtaposition: The body of the boy lies on the asphalt like a paperclip.The body of the boy lies on the asphaltLike the body of a boy. We can dress up violence however we like, but what matters is that violence is the end of a life, a bleeding corpse that will never reawaken. Also impressive is the way the narrative seems unstuck from time, feeling all at once like a tale from decades past, an accounting of the present, or visions of the future. What is truly striking about the language in Deaf Republic is the urgency that screams out from the prose as if the work is understanding itself through its own creation and chronicling of it’s narrative self: Tonight they shot fifty women on Lerna Street.I sit down to write and tell you what I know:a child learns the world by putting it in her mouth,a girl becomes a woman and a woman, earth.body, they blame you for all things and theyseek in the body what does not live in the body.There is that beautiful debt to language we must all acknowledge: that it is through words we define reality like groping in the dark. However, in Deaf Republic, language is not of the mouth but of the hands--of the body--and Kaminsky reminds us that true resistance comes from the actions of the body. Speaking out is one thing, acting is another. The sacrifices that are made, too, come from the body. When the people of Vasenka are arrested or gunned down, a puppet is hung from their door as a reminder of the body and soul now lost. The image is striking, and reminds us how we are often at the whims and mercy of political and economic string-pullers. There is a tale of actions of the body, how actions can shape us--’it / only take a few minutes etcetera to make a man’--or how our mere being can be an affront or rebellion:On earthA man cannot flip a finger at the skyBecause each man is alreadyA finger flipped at the sky.Kaminsky brilliantly follows his narrative through a perfectly pitched series of rising and falling of action. Opening with a killing that exposes ‘the nakedness / of a whole nation’, we see people begin to rally around leaders such as the theater owner in part two, people rebelling followed with mass execution, killing one solider followed by a public execution, and so on. Initially the citizen leaders are seen as strength and hope away from oppression, an opportunity to 'ride away from are own / funerals'. Leaders are important to teach the way forward: ‘In a time of war//she teaches us how to open the door/and walk/through/which is the true curriculum of schools.’ Kaminsky doesn’t just examine bravery but also the fault lines that can be exploited by the powerful to bring the people to their knees: fear and self-interest. We see people turn in their revolutionaries out of fear, people turn a blind eye to suffering because it isn’t happening to them. This is where the book really grips the reader when suddenly a narrative about a distant town feels very eerily familiar. ‘Ours is a country in which a boy shot by police lies on the pavement / for hours’ Kaminsky writes, quickly followed by an assertion that ‘it is a peaceful country’. The final poem is a bridge between the narrative and our modern reality where a country ‘clips our citizens bodies / effortlessly, the way the President’s wife trims her toenails.’ The temptation to just return to one’s own life, to ‘not hear gunshots’ but marvel over a suburban sunset, is a strong pacifier but it also means being complicit in the oppression of the suffering. There are two types of silence going on in this book: one of resistance and one of passivity. ‘Forgive us,’ Kaminsky writes in the opening poem, ‘we lived happily during the war.’It has begun: I see the blue canary of my countrypick breadcrumbs from each citizen’s eyes--pick breadcrumbs from my neighbor’s hair--the snow leaves the earth and falls straight up as it should--to have a country, so important--to run into walls, into streetlights, into loved ones, as one should--The blue canary of my countryruns into walls, into streetlights, into loved ones--The blue canary of my countrywatches their legs as they run and fall.A narrative in poetry, an inventive format, and a brave discourse on violence and oppression, Deaf Republic is a must read. An urgent warning and a reminder to speak out while we still can.5/5We Lived Happily During the WarAnd when they bombed other people’s houses, weprotestedbut not enough, we opposed them but not enough. I wasin my bed, around my bed America was falling: invisible house by invisible house by invisible house. I took a chair outside and watched the sun. In the sixth monthof a disastrous reign in the house of money in the street of money in the city of money in the country of money,our great country of money, we (forgive us) lived happily during the war.
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  • David Schaafsma
    January 1, 1970
    Our country woke up the next morning and refused to hear soldiers. In the name of Petya, we refuse. At six a.m., when soldiers compliment girls in the alley, the girls slide by, pointing to their ears. At eight, the bakery door is shut in soldier Ivanoff’s face, though he’s their best customer. At ten, Momma Galya chalks No One Hears You on the gates of the soldiers’ barracks. By eleven a.m., arrests begin. Our hearing doesn’t weaken, but something silent in us strengthens. In the ears of the Our country woke up the next morning and refused to hear soldiers. In the name of Petya, we refuse. At six a.m., when soldiers compliment girls in the alley, the girls slide by, pointing to their ears. At eight, the bakery door is shut in soldier Ivanoff’s face, though he’s their best customer. At ten, Momma Galya chalks No One Hears You on the gates of the soldiers’ barracks. By eleven a.m., arrests begin. Our hearing doesn’t weaken, but something silent in us strengthens. In the ears of the town, snow falls. —from “Deafness, an Insurgency, Begins” Deaf Republic is an amazing collection of poetry, a both lyrical and narrative poetry sequence that takes place in an occupied country. At a protest, soldiers kill a deaf boy, Petya, and that is the last thing the other citizens hear, as they invent a kind of sign language to communicate, images of which we see in the text. More violence follows, as we meet a newly married couple, Alfonso and Sonya, expecting a child, and Galya, with her puppet theater luring fascist soldiers their deaths. If you are going to read one book of poetry this year, let it be this one. It reads like Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage.“And when they bombed other people’s houses, weprotested, but not enough.”This is really a remarkable work of art for our troubled, endless-war time. There are love poems (“Before the War, We Made a Child”, there is an elegy, there is humor, but the basic poetic act here is an angry stand Kaminsky takes against these violent, cruel times. The poet, who is himself hard of hearing, configures deafness as a kind of political act, as a refusal to “take it anymore.” You say poetry and politics aren’t compatible? I say read this book and stand with him in protest for peace. “They take Alfonso and no one stands up. Our silence stands up for us.”Here’s a multi-media performance of his work, with excerpts from the book:https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/20...
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  • D.A.
    January 1, 1970
    Brilliant. I wish there were an infinite number of stars to give, because this is that kind of book. A must read if ever there was one.
  • Julie Ehlers
    January 1, 1970
    Words fail.
  • andy
    January 1, 1970
    I finished the book in one sitting, memories of my first life in a different country chasing Kaminsky’s brilliant pen like ghosts in the dark. If not the whole book, I beg everybody to read the last poem In a Time of Peace, at the very least. I could quote the whole book. If you have a twitter account here’s a thread I posted while reading the book. https://twitter.com/exlibrisetc/statu...
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  • Ken
    January 1, 1970
    If you're one of those poetry-phobic readers (their numbers are legion), this would be a good gateway book. It opens with a Dramatic Personae and reads a bit like a play in two acts. Mostly free verse poems, but sometimes the plot is advanced with a bit of what's called "prose poetry."The Republic in question is under fascist siege. Soldiers. Executions. The people rebel by pretending to no longer hear, which counts for something when your town is occupied and the soldiers have quartered in the If you're one of those poetry-phobic readers (their numbers are legion), this would be a good gateway book. It opens with a Dramatic Personae and reads a bit like a play in two acts. Mostly free verse poems, but sometimes the plot is advanced with a bit of what's called "prose poetry."The Republic in question is under fascist siege. Soldiers. Executions. The people rebel by pretending to no longer hear, which counts for something when your town is occupied and the soldiers have quartered in the town to freely use its services. Suddenly, quiet (and not so quiet) resistance takes root. Enraged soldiers kill townspeople. Entrenched townspeople kill soldiers.Let's see: a Republic with two sides deeply divided who don't hear each other. Well, yeah, there's metaphors for the taking if you're in an acquisitive mood! But I can't for the life of me think of who would like to have soldiers at his bidding to obliterate enemies with impunity. No. Doesn't match any present-day profiles I know.But anyway, a sample poem, as in the opener, which specifically mentions America, though the main story does not. I think you'll like it:We Lived Happily During the Warby Ilya KaminskyAnd when they bombed other people’s houses, weprotestedbut not enough, we opposed them but notenough. I wasin my bed, around my bed Americawas falling: invisible house by invisible house by invisible house.I took a chair outside and watched the sun.In the sixth monthof a disastrous reign in the house of moneyin the street of money in the city of money in the country of money,our great country of money, we (forgive us)lived happily during the war.
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  • Petra
    January 1, 1970
    A boy is killed, the people react. A country is occupied, the people react. These poems are filled with images of the townspeople as they act against the atrocities in their country, their town, their homes. There's a feeling of courage and hope throughout. There's also a feeling of pain and sorrow. Always there's a feeling of humanity.These are lovely poems. I cannot begin to analyze them as I know nothing about poetry. However, the emotions & feelings brought by these poems are ones of A boy is killed, the people react. A country is occupied, the people react. These poems are filled with images of the townspeople as they act against the atrocities in their country, their town, their homes. There's a feeling of courage and hope throughout. There's also a feeling of pain and sorrow. Always there's a feeling of humanity.These are lovely poems. I cannot begin to analyze them as I know nothing about poetry. However, the emotions & feelings brought by these poems are ones of people living through the worst, yet remaining human, alive and strong.
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  • Jerrie (redwritinghood)
    January 1, 1970
    Simply brilliant! This dark fable of a town under siege is a statement on our times. The people of the town become deaf after a soldier shoots a deaf child at a public gathering. The deafness here is purposeful, though, and a statement on how we can remain silent in the face of government atrocities and institutionalized biases. Tragic, yet filled with beauty, this is a powerful book of poetry.
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  • Julia Gaughan
    January 1, 1970
    If there is a perfect book, it might be this one.
  • Hannah Fenster
    January 1, 1970
    The linked poems in DEAF REPUBLIC glint like icicles against a stark background. The light source: a gentle, insistent humanity in the face of tragedy. In the space between sound and silence, action and inaction, the collection builds and re-builds kindness in unexpected, crucial ways. Like a sacred text, DEAF REPUBLIC offers new meanings each time I turn to it, and turn to it again. I’m convinced it holds a prayer inside it, or is a prayer itself.Thanks to the wonderful folks at Graywolf for The linked poems in DEAF REPUBLIC glint like icicles against a stark background. The light source: a gentle, insistent humanity in the face of tragedy. In the space between sound and silence, action and inaction, the collection builds and re-builds kindness in unexpected, crucial ways. Like a sacred text, DEAF REPUBLIC offers new meanings each time I turn to it, and turn to it again. I’m convinced it holds a prayer inside it, or is a prayer itself.Thanks to the wonderful folks at Graywolf for the ARC.
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  • Heather
    January 1, 1970
    Absolutely astonishing.
  • Tom Mooney
    January 1, 1970
    Absolutely incredible from start to finish.
  • Daniel Chaikin
    January 1, 1970
    A young boy is shot by soldiers and the sound causes the whole town to go deaf. There is a play on the tension of the sudden suspension of sound, making images linger and leaving a lot of filled empty space in a commentary on political terror. This was my first poetry in a while, a gift from an LT friend. It's tough for me, feeling ever inadequate with poetry, trying to sense and get in tune with the language and open space around it. But it's a moving collection and I'm glad I read it and am A young boy is shot by soldiers and the sound causes the whole town to go deaf. There is a play on the tension of the sudden suspension of sound, making images linger and leaving a lot of filled empty space in a commentary on political terror. This was my first poetry in a while, a gift from an LT friend. It's tough for me, feeling ever inadequate with poetry, trying to sense and get in tune with the language and open space around it. But it's a moving collection and I'm glad I read it and am now thinking about it.-----------------------------------------------26. Deaf Republic by Ilya Kaminskypublished: 2019format: 80 page ARC paperbackacquired: from an LT friend in Marchread: May 25 – Jun 1time reading: 1 hr 8 min, 0.9 min/pagerating: ??
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  • Tyler Barton
    January 1, 1970
    Whatever this is, it’s my new favorite genre of writing. I can’t believe how much joy this book contains while making legible half a dozen absolute tragedies.
  • Eric Anderson
    January 1, 1970
    Since I’m so accustomed to reading novels I sometimes find it a challenge to get in the right mindset to read a book of poetry because my instinct is to look for a narrative. In a way, I didn’t have to adjust this instinct to read Ilya Kaminsky “Deaf Republic” because there’s a definite overarching story and the book even begins with a list of “dramatis personae”. It takes place in an unspecified village during an unspecified time period. The village has been occupied by military forces who Since I’m so accustomed to reading novels I sometimes find it a challenge to get in the right mindset to read a book of poetry because my instinct is to look for a narrative. In a way, I didn’t have to adjust this instinct to read Ilya Kaminsky “Deaf Republic” because there’s a definite overarching story and the book even begins with a list of “dramatis personae”. It takes place in an unspecified village during an unspecified time period. The village has been occupied by military forces who publicly execute citizens. The focus is not so much on the ethos or machinations of this oppressive regime but the fate of a family of puppeteers, the lives of the local population and their frequent passivity to resist the war on their doorstep. When a boy is shot and killed the sound of the gun causes the villagers to go deaf. Like Jose Saramago’s novel “Blindness” the collective absence of this sensory experience powerfully symbolizes the limitations of people’s empathy and a dangerously wilful ignorance. These poems consider issues to do with individual political responsibility through resonate imagery and flashes of dramatic action/inaction. Though the narrative has the feel of a fable, the first and final poems are unmistakeably contemporary in their American setting with references to greed in “our great country of money” and our silent witnessing of gun violence. Read my full review of Deaf Republic by Ilya Kaminsky on LonesomeReader
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  • Emma
    January 1, 1970
    Best book. Best. Expletive-worthy, breathless, wordless book.
  • Carla Sofia Sofia
    January 1, 1970
    WOW. This blew me away. More to say, but currently stunned.
  • Jonathan
    January 1, 1970
    I honestly don’t have words for how amazing this poetry collection was. It was something special that I didn’t even know I needed at the moment but it hit me with such a force, the words spoke volumes ( ironically since it’s all about being deaf and silence) I can easily see this being on a very short list for poetry collection of the year come the fall. Please read this .
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  • Lauren
    January 1, 1970
    "At the trial of God, we will ask: why did you allow this?And the answer will be an echo: why did you allow this?"From Deaf Republic: Poems by Ilya Kaminsky / 2019 by @graywolfpress Kaminsky's second poetry collection investigates communication and language during traumatic times. Sixty poems of various lengths, tell the story of a town/republic where a deaf child is murdered by an occupying force, and how the citizens go silent, communicating with sign language as resistance.Many of them poems "At the trial of God, we will ask: why did you allow this?And the answer will be an echo: why did you allow this?"From Deaf Republic: Poems by Ilya Kaminsky / 2019 by @graywolfpress Kaminsky's second poetry collection investigates communication and language during traumatic times. Sixty poems of various lengths, tell the story of a town/republic where a deaf child is murdered by an occupying force, and how the citizens go silent, communicating with sign language as resistance.Many of them poems are standalones, some humorous, others erotic, and some political. Interspersed in the pages are drawings of hands, communicating in sign language.A powerful read, and even more so once I reread portions a few days later. Additional reading on Kaminsky himself provided much more context: being hard of hearing, his Jewish family facing persecution in post-Soviet Ukraine before seeking asylum in the US, etc.I first came across Kaminsky through the brilliant introductory essay, and assisted in translation on one of my favorite poetry collections this year, STOLEN AIR: Selected Poetry of Osip Mandelstam by Christian Wiman. Soon after reading that, I saw his own book as a finalist for the National Book Award for Poetry. Will definitely seek out more of his translations ( he translated Tsvetaeva in 2012!) and his first collection, Dancing in Odessa.
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  • Hannah V Warren
    January 1, 1970
    Kaminsky's new Deaf Republic will shred you to pieces, all the while showing you how to build yourself back together. Read this book. Devour it. Watch how resistance works. See how dangerous it is. This book is beautifully haunting. "Anushka speaks to homeless dogs as if they are men, speaks to men as if they are men and not just souls on crutches of bone."
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  • Shejanul Islam
    January 1, 1970
    Usually don’t like reviewing poetry books. But this shit spits fire
  • Laura
    January 1, 1970
    This is exactly as good as people say it is.
  • Rachel
    January 1, 1970
    “In a Time of Peace Inhabitant of earth for fortysomething years I once found myself in a peaceful country. I watch neighbors open their phones to watch a cop demanding a man’s driver’s license. When the man reaches for his wallet, the cop shoots. Into the car window. Shoots. It is a peaceful country. We picket our phones and go. To the dentist, to pick up the kids from school, to buy shampooand basil.Ours is a country in which a boy shot by police lies on the pavement for hours. We see in his “In a Time of Peace Inhabitant of earth for fortysomething years I once found myself in a peaceful country. I watch neighbors open their phones to watch a cop demanding a man’s driver’s license. When the man reaches for his wallet, the cop shoots. Into the car window. Shoots. It is a peaceful country. We picket our phones and go. To the dentist, to pick up the kids from school, to buy shampooand basil.Ours is a country in which a boy shot by police lies on the pavement for hours. We see in his open mouth the nakednessof the whole nation. We watch. Watch others watch. The body of a boy lies on the pavement exactly like the body of a boy— It is a peaceful country. And it clips our citizens’ bodieseffortlessly, the way the President’s wife turns her toenails. All of usstill have to do the hard work of dentist appointments,of remembering to makea summer salad: basil, tomatoes, it is a joy, tomatoes, add a little salt. This is a time of peace. I do not hear gunshots,but watch birds splash over the backyards of the suburbs. How bright is the skyas the avenue spins on its axis. How bright is the sky (forgive me) how bright.” Kaminsky breathtakingly, painstakingly, humanly, holds the window for to us to the fictional town of Vasenka, then teaches us that the window is a mirror. That there is humanity in the quiet moments and the revolution. That we’ve been here before and will go here again. Required reading. The most stunning writing of my year so far.
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  • Josette
    January 1, 1970
    Wow. Absolutely everyone in the world needs to read this book. I can’t even compare it to anything. It’s that good.
  • Carolyn
    January 1, 1970
    Stunning, powerful. Will be rereading this for some time to come.
  • Iúdín
    January 1, 1970
    "Astonishing" is the right word for this collection. Phenominal work.
  • Nicola
    January 1, 1970
    I read this in silence; it is devastating.
  • Alexis
    January 1, 1970
    I cried while reading this book. It is so beautiful. I absolutely loved its unique structure. I will read this again.
  • Jonathan
    January 1, 1970
    Stunning!
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