Ilya Kaminsky Wins 23rd Annual Levis Reading Prize

August 3, 2020

Deaf Republic by Ilya KaminskyIlya Kaminsky is the winner of the 2020 Levis Reading Prize for his poetry collection, Deaf Republic. The prize is awarded annually for the best first or second book of poetry published in the previous calendar year and chosen by the Department of English and its M.F.A. in creative writing program at Virginia Commonwealth University. Kaminsky will receive an award of $5,000 and will give a reading from his work for this year’s award celebration, an event to be held online via Google Meet at 7 p.m. on Sept. 28.

The Levis Reading Prize is presented on behalf of VCU’s M.F.A. in Creative Writing Program. Sponsors include the VCU Department of English, the VCU Libraries, Barnes & Noble @ VCU and the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences, with additional funding provided by the family of Larry Levis. The prize honors the memory of poet Larry Levis who served on the creative writing faculty at VCU at the time of his death in 1996.

Deaf Republic is set in an occupied country during a time of protest, and in resistance to the resulting violence and the killing of a deaf child by soldiers of the invading army, the citizens become deaf themselves, communicating solely with sign language. The collection has garnered widespread critical acclaim for its visionary scope, energetic lyricism, emotive resonance and a political urgency appropriate to our times. Kevin Young, writing for The New Yorker, called the collection “a contemporary epic. Evident throughout is a profound imagination, matched only by the poet’s ability to create a republic of conscience that is ultimately ours.”

For more details about this year's winner, please see the feature in VCU News.