lya Kaminsky was born in Odessa, former Soviet Union in 1977, and arrived to the United States in 1993, when his family was granted asylum by the American government. When his father died one year later, he started writing poetry, in English. He explained in an interview with the Adirondack Review, “I chose English because no one in my family or friends knew it—no one I spoke to could read what I wrote. I myself did not know the language. It was a parallel reality, an insanely beautiful freedom. It still is.”
He earned a BA in political science at Georgetown University and a JD at the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law. He co-founded Poets for Peace, which sponsors poetry readings across the globe to support relief work. He has also worked as a clerk for the National Immigration Law Center and for Bay Area Legal Aid.
Ilya is the author of Dancing In Odessa (Tupelo Press, 2004) which won the Whiting Writer’s Award, the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Metcalf Award, the Dorset Prize, the Ruth Lilly Fellowship given annually by Poetry magazine. Dancing In Odessa was also named Best Poetry Book of the Year 2004 by ForeWord Magazine. In 2008, Kaminsky was awarded Lannan Foundation’s Literary Fellowship.
Poems from a more recent manuscript, Deaf Republic, were awarded Poetry magazine’s Levinson Prize and the Pushcart Prize. His anthology of 20th century poetry in translation, Ecco Anthology of International Poetry, was published by Harper Collins in March, 2010.
Kaminsky’s poems have been translated into numerous languages and his books have been published in Holland, Russia, France and Spain. Another translation is forthcoming in China, where his poetry was awarded the Yinchuan International Poetry Prize.
He teaches English and Comparative Literature at San Diego State University.