Book Reviews by Ace Boggess
Musica Humana   by Ilya Kaminsky
Chapiteau Press, 2002 (ISBN 19314983269)

      If one negative thing can be said about Ilya Kaminsky's remarkable new chapbook, Musica Humana, it has to be that the collection is so short.  Otherwise, everything from the look of the hardback-style dust jacket to the texture and feel of the pages to the sensitive yet overwhelming tone of the words fits together with the harmony of unopened Rubik's Cube.  And like that toy from the 1980s, Musica Humana only gets more challenging with use.  Kaminsky writes with a subtleness and depth that few modern poets every fully realize.  At the same time, he never loses touch with his readers, keeping them mesmerized with his lyrical weavings.
      Kaminsky begins casting his spell with the most traditional piece in the collection, titled "Author's Prayer."  With this he tricks the reader into expecting a standard collection when what he offers is so much more of a puzzle:

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

       I must write the same poem over and over
       for the empty page is a 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

      The author, a child of the former Soviet Union now Americanized, proceeds to tell a story in verse, depicting the vision of a deaf boy who, as the jacket copy notes, lived a life "mysteriously linked to the history of my country."  He does this with a blend of poetry and prose, short narrative passages subdividing segments of lyric mastery as with these lines from "Praise":

       A woman asks at night for a story with a happy ending.
       I have none. A refugee,

       I go home and become a ghost
       searching the houses I lived in....

      Recommendation: Yes.  What more can I say than that?  That I would give any chapbook its fourth star speaks as highly of this collection as any recommendation I might make.  The look of the book and the enchanting experience in verse that it contains combine for a perfect addition to any library.
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Reviewed Dec. 7, 2002
MUSICA HUMANA by Ilya Kaminsky
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