Deaf Republic: Poems

by Ilya Kaminsky

Paperback, 2019





Graywolf Press (2019), 80 pages


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. At once a love story, an elegy, and an urgent plea, these poems confronts our time's vicious atrocities and our collective silence in the face of them.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Dreesie
Finalist for the 2019 National Book Award for Poetry.


This book is an interconnected book of poetry--the poems tell a story of sorts. An unnamed occupied town, where, after a deaf boy is shot by a soldier, the residents pretend to be deaf. Where they use real and made-up signs to
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communicate with each other, and the puppet troupe uses puppets to communicate with the crowds and to show from which houses people have been taken. The soldiers shoot and kill, remove and vanish individuals. The puppet theatre manager uses her puppets to communicate to the crowds, while her girls kill soldiers, one by one.

This book is clearly a parable meant to represent goings on today, a the last poem, "In A Time of Peace" makes clear. If people watch phone videos of the police shooting a man following their directions, how peaceful is it, really? While the residents in the unnamed town pretend to be deaf, residents of the US don't pretend, they are deaf to the horrors in the world and within our own borders.

I am not strong on poetry, and while this book is excellent I really wish I had a group to discuss this with.
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LibraryThing member b.masonjudy
Deaf Republic is a moving and deft portrait of a town in revolt, a family in peril, and the polyvalence of silence. There are parallels to current contexts in the US (the village is not only out there but in here) that are warranted and not too heavy handed. I was most moved by the way that
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Kaminsky draws out the relationship between the puppeteers--the tiny, jeweled fragments of their love and domestic life.
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LibraryThing member modioperandi
A beautifully put together collection of poems. Ilya Kaminsky's Deaf Republic reads more like a stage play than just a collection of poems. It is a story. It is a parable. As the title suggests Deaf Republic explores silence in all its forms and specifically its more focused on politics and war and
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the effects of war and politics on a population. The story follows a town where after soldiers in the course of duties of crowd control of a protest kill a deaf boy the killing shot turns the entire town deaf. Thus Deaf Republic.

The collection poetry story is often beautiful and confronts the times we live in. At times tiresome but mostly beautiful.
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LibraryThing member berthirsch
Ilya Kaminsky, a Russian emigre, a native of Odessa, now a US citizen, has written a haunting yet charming collection of poetry entitled Deaf Republic.

A town is taken over by a foreign army. A deaf boy becomes an early victim and the town's people resist by developing a sign language to express
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their opposition to the brutality thrust upon them. A puppet show serves as a front for the resistance. The women of Vesenka, heroines, entice enemy soldiers, ensnaring them to their own demise.

Kaminsky juxtaposes the range of experience: from the safety of the American suburbs where citizens take out their phones to record police brutality, to the war-torn streets of Ukraine where activism takes on a more elusive and creative force.

The world has gone nuts and Kaminsky gives voice to hope. He listens, like a witness, to the horrors that need to be exposed.
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LibraryThing member Iudita
Packs a punch!


National Book Award (Finalist — Poetry — 2019)
LA Times Book Prize (Finalist — Poetry — 2019)
National Book Critics Circle Award (Finalist — Poetry — 2019)
National Jewish Book Award (Winner — Poetry — 2019)
Anisfield-Wolf Book Award (Poetry — 2020)


Original language

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