Guest Poets 2014
Our guest poets for the 2014 Kalamazoo Poetry Festival are Aracelis Girmay and Ilya Kaminsky.
Aracelis Girmay’s Eritrean, Puerto Rican and African American heritage reflects the diversity we hope to attract and embody with the Festival. The Toni Morrison novel “The Bluest Eye,” opened up the world of writing for Aracelis as her understanding developed that she could write in the style her people talked. She began to share her work in college. She earned her B.A. from Connecticut College and an M.F.A. in poetry from New York University.
In 2011,Girmay was presented with the Isabella Gardner Award for Kingdom Animalia. The prize is awarded biennially to a poet in midcareer with a new book of exceptional merit. Girmay is also the author of the collage-based picture book changing, changing, and the poetry collection Teeth, for which she was awarded a GCLA New Writers Award. Girmay has taught youth writing workshops in schools and community centers, is on the faculty of Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, and has been an assistant professor of poetry at Hampshire College, in Amherst, Mass. She is a Cave Canem Fellow and an Acentos board member. Her interests in poetry include poetry of the Americas, contemporary African American poetry, and poetry of the “political imagination.” She is also deeply interested in the work of the metaphor as trope, invention, socio-cultural record–and as a transformational practice of “seeing” that informs one’s understanding of the earth, among other possibilities.
Poet Ilya Kaminsky was born in the former Soviet Union city of Odessa, lost most of his hearing at age 4, moved at age 18 to the United States with his family when it was granted political asylum in 1993, and began writing poetry in English the following year after his father’s death. He told the Adirondack Review, “I chose English because no one in my family or friends knew it—no one I spoke to could read what I wrote. I myself did not know the language. It was a parallel reality, an insanely beautiful freedom. It still is.”
He earned a bachelor of arts degree in political science at Georgetown University and a law degree at California’s Hastings College of the Law. He is a co-founder of Poets for Peace, which sponsors readings across the globe to support relief work. Kaminsky is the author of Dancing in Odessa (2004), which won the Tupelo Press Dorset Prize, the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Metcalf Award, and ForeWord Magazine’s Best Poetry Book of the Year award, and has been translated into French and Romanian. Traveling Musicians (2007) is a selection of his poems originally written in Russian. His honors include a Whiting Writers’ Award, the Milton Center’s Award for Excellence in Writing, the Florence Kahn Memorial Award, Poetry magazine’s Levinson Prize as well as their Ruth Lilly Fellowship. The Poetry Foundation says, “With language at once ecstatic, plain, and infused with fairy tale, Kaminsky’s poems span ages and voices to summon the stuff of life: love, grief, joy, and laughter.” And E.M. Kaufman in the Library Journal says, “His poems move through the lives of others, known and unknown, connecting the sweet and bitter stories of lost worlds.”