Translations of an Invented Sign Language: Excerpts from Ilya Kaminsky’s *Deaf Republic*

Much of what transpires in Ilya Kaminsky’s Deaf Republic goes unspoken. A brutal violence wrought upon people by people is committed, and observed, in silence, and passed along in gesture. These gestures are their own language, a way to convey the literally unspeakable. A note at the end of the book of poems explains that these gestures were a sign language of the villagers’ own invention, “derived from various traditions (Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, American Sign Language, etc.)” with other signs “made up by citizens, as they tried to create a language not known to authorities.” Kaminsky, who is a refugee (he left the USSR in 1993), and hard of hearing, described in a recent interview with The Rumpus Poetry Book Club, that he is grasping for a language—or rather multiple languages—to better express the experience of the displaced, and the effect of physical disability:

Continue reading “Translations of an Invented Sign Language: Excerpts from Ilya Kaminsky’s *Deaf Republic*”