Ilya Kaminsky, Reading

By Susan Harris

Last night the Poetry Foundation held its annual Pegasus Award ceremony at the Arts Club of Chicago, and our Ilya Kaminsky blew the roof right off. Speaking in his capacity as a former recipient of a Ruth Lilly fellowship, Ilya told the audience that when he got the news, he was living with his wife in a studio apartment "about the size of this podium," and was attending law school; the prize paid his tuition ("I could pay my law school bills by writing poetry; it was inspiring"), but more importantly, it bought him time. He then read his famous "Author's Prayer." Ilya was left deaf by childhood illness and learned English only after emigrating here as a teenager, and he reads like no one else, proclaiming in an ecstatic delivery akin to speaking in tongues. Listen here.


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