Wednesday, October 12, 2005

DANCING IN ODESSA, by Ilya Kaminksy

In the opening poem (be sure to check out this link—it’s a wonderful montage of web technology, music, image and poetry) of his amazing first book, Dancing in Odessa, Ilya Kaminsky, writes:

If I speak for the dead, I must leave
this animal of my body,

I must write the same poem over and over,
For an empty page is the white flag of their surrender.

From that page on Kaminsky never surrenders and speaks not just for the dead but the living.

It’s hard to imagine that someone who was born in 1977, someone who can revel in imaginative joy and write:

in a city that belongs to no nation
but all the nations of wind,

she spoke the speech of poplar trees—
her ears trembling as she spoke, my Aunt Rose
composed odes to barbershops, drug stores.

Can then delve deep into human darkness and breath wisely:

…my grandfather composed lectures on the supply

and demand of clouds in our country:
the State declared him an enemy of the people.
He ran after a train with tomatoes in his coat

and danced naked on the table in front of our house—
he was shot, and my grandmother raped
by the public prosecutor, who stuck his pen in her vagina,

the pen which signed people off for twenty years.
But in the secret history of anger—one man’s silence
lives in the bodies of the others—as we dance to keep from falling,

between the doctor and the prosecutor:
my family, the people of Odessa,
women with huge breasts, old men naïve and childlike,

all our words, heaps of burning feathers
that rise and rise with each retelling.

All of this by the third poem.

Kaminsky is a poet who tries to draw all of humanity into his poems, who, to paraphrase Auden, doesn’t confuse authenticity with originality, yet in doing so creates something original and authentic, something “clothed in the heart” (Wittgenstein), something that combines fragments of memory, loss, pain, joy, even the erotic to create something beautiful, “a realm that is uncanny yet turned toward what’s human” (Celan). If it were music, it would be Lamentate by Arvo Part – “a voice smelling of oranges” (Kaminsky):

A voice, I say, like Icarus,
whispering to himself as he falls.

Yes, my life as a broken branch in the wind

hits Northern ground.
I am writing now a history of snow,
the lamplight bathing the ships
that sail across the page.
Musica Humana, Ilya Kaminsky

Get a hold of these pages, breath in their light, and relearn what has already been given.


At 8:22 PM, Blogger Brian Campbell said...

This poet sounds amazing. Thanks for introducing me to him. I'll have to order a copy.

At 8:28 PM, Blogger Brian Campbell said...

... I should also add, you're in good blogollage form...
... or should we call this a webstiche? (From pastiche...)
Yes, I think that might even be better ...


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