Ilya Kaminsky Joins President Cabrera for Poetry-Infused Conversation

Ilya Kaminsky and President Cabrera

Posted April 23, 2021

Ilya Kaminsky, one of our generation’s finest poets and the Margaret T. and Henry C. Bourne Jr. Chair in Poetry, joined President Ángel Cabrera for a discussion on the role of art and artists — including at Georgia Tech — on April 20, 2021.

“To me, it is not at all unusual that a poet would be at Georgia Tech, simply because language is our earliest form of technology. They used to call poets technicians of the sacred,” said Kaminsky, a National Book Award finalist whose book, Deaf Republic, earned multiple accolades in 2020.

Indeed, Kaminsky said the Georgia Tech students he teaches, many of them engineers or computer science students, are often hungry for emotional outlets — especially during this past year. As makers, they also are very receptive to the notion of poetry as craft, he said.

“The beautiful thing about teaching poetry to students who study technology is that they pay incredible attention,” said Kaminsky, who is also director of Poetry@Tech, which engages Georgia Tech students and the public with poetry and presents the South’s premier poetry reading series.

After Cabrera and Kaminsky each read poems, including one from Poetry@Tech founder Thomas Lux, they discussed Kaminsky’s workflow, the role of technology in his work, and his advice for budding writers.

“Rule number one: Start now, start tonight. Don’t wait, don’t wait. Rule number two is to get pen to paper, get your pencil small,” said Kaminsky, who teaches in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication.

“I do find myself typing sometimes, because I make typos,” Kaminsky said. “I do believe in surprise in language. I do think that sometimes intent is useful because it’s your passion. But other times, intent can be restrictive, because you are within the prison of what you already know. And you want to get outside of that box, outside of convention. It’s actually also true in technology. You don’t want to be in a prison of what you already know.”

At one point, Cabrera said he is trying to “find the courage to start writing.”

“We have a lot of classes in poetry at Georgia Tech,” Kaminsky shot back with glee.

“I know, I know, I’m very tempted,” Cabrera answered.

To learn more about Kaminsky, read our feature, “Ilya Kaminsky is One of the World’s Top Poets, and He Teaches at Georgia Tech.”

Contact For More Information

Michael Pearson
michael.pearson@iac.gatech.edu