Poetry Centre

Weekly Poem for 27 July 2015

  • Author’s Prayer

    If I speak for the dead, I must leave
    this animal of my body,

    I must write the same poem over and over,
    for an empty page is the white flag of their surrender.

    If I speak for them, I must walk on the edge
    of myself, I must live as a blind man

    who runs through rooms without
    touching the furniture.

    Yes, I love. I can cross the streets asking ‘What year is it?’
    I can dance in my sleep and laugh

    in front of the mirror.
    Even sleep is a prayer, Lord,

    I will praise your madness, and
    in a language not mine, speak

    of music that wakes us, music
    in which we move. For whatever I say

    is a kind of petition, and the darkest
    days must I praise.

    by Ilya Kaminsky


    A reminder that the deadline for the Poetry Centre’s International Poetry Prize is 31 August. There are two categories: Open and English as a Second Language, and First Prize in each category is £1000. The competition will be judged by Bernard O’Donoghue and Hannah Lowe, and you can enter by visiting this page.

    This Wednesday at The Albion Beatnik in Oxford, our Brookes colleague Jane Spiro launches her poetry collection Playing for Time, published by Oversteps Books. She'll be reading with another colleague, George Roberts, and Zelda Chappel at 7pm.

    ‘Author’s Prayer’ is copyright © Ilya Kaminsky, 2004. It is reprinted from Dancing in Odessa (Arc Publications, 2014) by permission of Arc Publications.

    Notes from Arc Publications:

    Ilya Kaminsky was born in Odessa, former Soviet Union in 1977, and arrived in the United States in 1993, when his family was granted asylum by the American government. Kaminsky has worked as a law clerk for San Francisco Legal Aid and the National Immigration Law Center. Currently, he teaches English and Comparative Literature at San Diego State University.

    Dancing in Odessa was published in the US by Tupelo Press in 2004 and won the Whiting Writer's Award, the American Academy of Arts and Letters' Metcalf Award, the Dorset Prize, and the Ruth Lilly Fellowship given annually by Poetry magazine. You can read more about the book on the Arc website, and follow his work via his own website.

    Since it was founded in 1969, Arc Publications has adhered to its fundamental principles – to introduce the best of new talent to a UK readership, including voices from overseas that would otherwise remain unheard in this country, and to remain at the cutting edge of contemporary poetry. Arc also has a music imprint, Arc Music, for the publication of books about music and musicians. As well as its page on Facebook, you can find Arc on Twitter. Visit Arc’s website to join the publisher’s mailing list, and to find full details of all publications and writers. Arc offers a 10% discount on all books purchased from the website (except Collectors’ Corner titles). Postage and packing is free within the UK.

    Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.