Ilya Kaminsky’s Deaf Republic

March 10, 2019


That Republic? It’s ours. And his. And so many others. Kaminsky’s stunning follow-up to Dancing in Odessa, consists of a two-act play in poems set in another country, framed by a first and last poem set in this one. I believe great art changes us–not by comforting us, but by challenging us, and sometimes by devastating us. When I sat down with Deaf Republic last weekend I read it cover to cover, though I hadn’t intended to. I couldn’t stop, despite how painful it was. And once I’d finished I didn’t know what to do with myself. I couldn’t sit still, couldn’t sleep. I thought of Beckett: “…you must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on. You’re on earth. There’s no cure for that.” I felt utterly changed, and yet I knew at the same time that nothing would change, that we humans don’t much, that I don’t. Even so, I think everyone should read this book. I’m not going to quote any of it here. Don’t read reviews first, or read about it. Just get it and sit down alone in a quiet room and open it to the first page, then let me know your thoughts and feelings when you come out.

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  • Reply Peter Pereira March 10, 2019 at 7:59 pm

    Sharon: I read it cover to cover as well. It reminded me in a way of Brecht’s “Mother Courage and Her Children.” Funny and haunting and exhilarating.

  • Reply sharonbryanpoet March 10, 2019 at 8:08 pm

    I’ll be curious to hear more about that. I was too stricken to find anything funny–well, I guess in the way Beckett is funny. I heard it as such an indictment–of me, of all of us. And I read it just after I’d listened to a news story about the–4,000? 6000? complaints of children being held in our own camps, no one seeming to do anything about it, it barely makes the news. All those Icaruses falling while I shop and take a bath and eat blueberries. But it’s a beautiful book, great art that punches us in the gut in a way that all the polemics and diatribes never will.

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