Two of the brightest lights in contemporary world literature will read at the Joseph F. Wheeler Theater on Saturday, October 11, at 7:30 pm. Presented by Centrum, the reading serves as the public capstone to the Autumn Writers’ Intensive, taught by Seattle-based writer Rebecca Brown and Ukrainian poet Ilya Kaminsky, who was forced to flee the Crimea in 1993, after the fall of the Soviet Union and the rise of persecution against Jewish families. The doors open at 7 pm for this free reading.
Rebecca Brown is the author of eleven books of fiction and nonfiction, including “The Last Time I Saw You”, “The Gifts of the Body”, and “Excerpts from a Family Medical Dictionary.” Rebecca is also well-known for her teaching, activism, and outreach efforts in the Puget Sound literary community. She was the first writer-in-residence at the Richard Hugo House in Seattle and the co-founder of the Jack Straw Writers’ Program, which introduces regional writers to the medium of recorded audio, encourages the creation of new literary work, and provides new venues for the writer and their work.
Brown, the Artistic Director for Literature at Centrum from 2005 to 2008, has taught in numerous settings, including Brown, U.C. Davis, the University of Washington, Pacific Lutheran University, prisons, senior citizens’ homes, libraries, and bars. Brown also collaborates frequently with artists in different disciplines, including the opera and theater. She has lived in London and Italy and now makes her home in Seattle with her spouse, their cats, and an impressive collection of CD’s.
One of Brown’s most beloved novels may be “The Gifts of the Body,” a haunting novel about an AIDS caregive. The novel, published in 1994, won a Lambda Literary Award. Her 1986 debut novel, “The Haunted House,” recently has been reissued in a new paperback edition. Brown often stretches literary boundaries, having collaborated with painter Nancy Kiefer on a book (“Woman in Ill-Fitting Wig”), as well as writing the libretto for a dance opera (“The Onion Twins”) that premiered at Centrum in 2005. Her work often appears in anthologies and has been translated into many languages.
Ilya Kaminsky’s book-length collection of poems, “Dancing In Odessa,” was a finalist for the National Poetry Series. Ilya resided in San Francisco for many years, where he worked as a law clerk for the National Immigration Law Center and Bay Area Legal Aid, assisting immigrants, the homeless, and the impoverished in solving their legal difficulties. He currently teaches at San Diego State University.
Rarely in the United States today does a poet capture both widespread critical and popular acclaim. The handful of poets who have—Robert Pinsky, Mary Oliver, Elizabeth Bishop—are being joined by Ilya Victorovich Kaminsky, who is rapidly becoming one of the United States’s most vital writers.
For Ilya, poetry in English arrived unexpectedly. A year after his family’s arrival in Rochester, New York, his father died suddenly, of a heart attack. Kaminsky found he could not write about the loss in Russian, because it was the language his father had given him.
“How could I make this man I loved into words?” he wondered. “That would be a betrayal.”
At the same time he felt that something had to be said. English became his refuge. “Somehow,” he says, “for whatever reason, John Donne crossed my path. ‘Death, thou shalt die,’ I think was the line. And suddenly I felt like something miraculous could happen. In this new language, we could live again.”