An Evening with Katie Farris and Ilya Kaminsky

On a magical night among the Buddhas at the San Diego Museum of Art, Katie Farris and Ilya Kaminsky read their own works of art for the 2011 Summer Salon Series curated by K. Lorraine Graham. Here are some special moments from the reading. (The text to two of Kaminsky’s poems appears below the audio links.)



Katie Farris & Ilya Kaminsky, sketch by B. Lussier

Katie Farris


from BoysGirls:


Her Mother’s Mother Was a Machete




The Devil’s Face




Ilya Kaminsky


We Lived Happily During the War


from Deaf Republic:

(Kaminsky’s manuscript-in-progress)


“How the Deafness Arrives” and “Ours is the Country Whose Citizens One Morning Refused to Hear”


“They Tore Pasha’s Wife from the Bed like a Door off the Bus” and “Meanwhile, in a Barbershop”


Meanwhile, in a Barbershop


“You must speak not only of great devastation

but of women kissing in the yellow grass!”


I heard that not from a great philosopher

but from my husband, Alfonso


Who could clip four skulls in thirteen minutes,

his eyes closed, reciting our National Anthem in the mirror.


“You must drink cucumber vodka and sing all night

Unite women and boys of Earth!”


He honked the accordian out of tune in a country

where the only musical instrument is the door.


“You must speak not only of great devastation.”

said my barber who could not write or read


but spent his days covered in other people’s hair.


“Deafness of Girls who Kiss Soldiers” and “Meanwhile, Sonya and Alfonso Drink in the Shower”


“Be Courageous, we said” and “Meanwhile, Alfonso Fights with Soldier Ivanoff”


Be Courageous, we said


On the balconies, sunlight, on poplars, sunlight. On my lips.

Today no one is shooting, there is just sunlight and sunlight.

A girls cuts her hair with imaginary scissors–

The scissors in sunlight, her hair in sunlight.

A boy steals a pair of cordovan boots from an arrogant man in sunlight.

I speak and I say sunlight falling inside us, sunlight.

When they shot fifty women on Tedna St.,

I sat down to write and tell you what I know:

A child learns the world by putting it in his mouth,

A boy becomes a man and a man earth.

Body, they blame you for all things and they

seek in the body what does not live in the body.




Katie Farris’ most recent book is BoysGirls. Published by Marick Press in 2011, it includes illustrations by Lavinia Hanachiuc. Farris holds degrees from UC Berkeley and Brown University’s MFA program in Literary Arts, and currently teaches Comparative Literature and Creative Writing at San Diego State University.


A native of the former Soviet Union, Ilya Kaminsky is the author of Dancing in Odessa. He co-edited, with Susan Harris, the Ecco Anthology of International Poetry (2010), and edited and co-translated Polina Barskova’s This Lamentable City (2010). He lives in San Diego.


–Gina Barnard and L.A. Grove

More Katie Farris and Ilya Kaminsky:

Agitprop Literary Arts co-curated by K. Lorraine Graham

Our interview with Katie Farris

Katie Farris’ website

Buy BoysGirls

Ilya Kaminsky’s website

Buy Dancing in Odessa


These sound recordings and poems are being made available for noncommercial and educational use only. All rights to this recorded material belong to the authors. © 2012 Katie Farris. © 2012 Ilya Kaminsky. Used with the permission of Katie Farris and Ilya Kaminsky. Distributed by The California Journal of Poetics.

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