Ilyse Kusnetz (1966-2016), poet, essayist, journalist, and author of Angel Bones (Alice James Books, 2019), Small Hours (winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize from Truman State University Press, and now available with Alice James Books), as well as a chapbook, The Gravity of Falling (La Vita Poetica Press, 2006). Her Selected Poems will be published by Copper Coin (India, forthcoming). Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Orion Magazine, Rattle, Guernica Daily, Islands Magazine, Kyoto Journal, Crab Orchard Review, Crazyhorse, Stone Canoe, The Normal School, and War, Literature & the Arts, among others. Her work is anthologized in Magic and Enchantment (Everyman’s Library Pocket Poetry Series, 2023); Staying Human: New Poems for Staying Alive (Bloodaxe Books, 2020); Buzz Words: Poems About Insects (Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets, 2021); Monster Verse: Poems Human and Inhuman (Everyman’s Library Pocket Poetry Series, 2015); The Book of Scented Things: 100 Contemporary Poems About Perfume (Literary House Press, 2014); Devouring the Green: Fear of a Transhuman Planet (Jaded Ibis Press, 2013); and The Best of Kore Press, 2012: Poetry.
She earned an MA in creative writing from Syracuse University and her PhD in contemporary feminist and postcolonial British literature from the University of Edinburgh. She guest-edited Scottish poetry features for Poetry International and the Atlanta Review. As a journalist, she wrote feature arts & entertainment pieces for The Scotsman, appeared on BBC Scotland, and was a staff writer for the Orlando Sentinel for several years. Kusnetz served as a book reviews editor at the Florida Review and taught the art of the review in the MFA program at Sierra Nevada College.
A posthumous album of music features her voice and words on the Interplanetary Acoustic Team’s album, 11 11 (Me, Smiling). (To learn more about this project, check out the page under MORE STUFF on this website.)
A beloved professor at Valencia College, the annual writing festival that Dr. Kusnetz founded is held each October and now bears her name—The Ilyse Kusnetz Writing Festival.
Ilyse lived with her husband, Brian Turner, in Orlando, Florida.
"In these electric meditations on living while dying, Ilyse Kusnetz reminds us of what it means to dearly love an impermanent world." —Camille Dungy, ORION
"She delineated sorrow that is piercing and deep without wallowing, and without slighting pleasure, wonder, and the specifics of longing, sight, sound and touch" —The Rumpus
“Heart-stopping, beautifully crafted poems which add to the world even as the poet is leaving it. Ilyse Kusnetz poems are songs of light as the darkness encroaches; beacons of courage and love for the journey we must all take. These poems, that stare death frankly in the eye, are unexpectedly uplifting and very good-humoured. Angel Bones is one of those books you quickly grow to love.” —Jackie Kay, Scots Makar
"In the face of her cancer diagnosis—'candle-bright spots in the marrow'—Ilyse Kusnetz’s sense of the fragility and impermanence of the world became an inescapable fact. In this second and final collection, the poet tries on every stance she can find toward her own mortality. Sometimes illness is a quotidian fact: 'My hair fell out, I learned to walk again./Before we knew, it was summer...' Sometimes the world she is leaving is radiant: 'wonder at the perfect Hebrew letters/imprinted on a green crab’s back...' What carries Kusnetz through, binding together what could have been the chaos of her last days, is love, the way she is held in her beloved’s care, the way she holds him firmly in her unwavering gaze. Angel Bones is a book of love poems, a testament to the way two lovers held strong until the end, and it leaves its readers more than saddened. We’re strengthened." —Mark Doty
"A beautifully rendered meditation on living while dying. . ." —Library Journal
“The reader of Angel Bones is given the ability to overhear this private conversation about our planet and our place here between the poet who is no longer here and her beloved, who is. The reader, who (like me and you, and any of us) faces the same questions of death, of absence, of what time does to one’s body, to one's cry, is able to find herein an intimate, clear voice that speaks beautifully, straightforwardly, without patronizing, with kindness and tenderness: this is how we live, this is how we die.” —Ilya Kaminsky
“Drawing deftly from history, science, public and personal lives, these poems knock the wind out of me with their indelible imagery and music, their sense of shared humanity in our compassion and cruelty, ignorance and brilliance, rage and tenderness. They find the spiritual and cosmic in the quotidian, and somehow pack all the world’s love, yearning, pain, and beauty into one poem—poem after poem, not unlike the lovers who end the collection—‘our fingers cupped the universe like water.’” —April Ossmann
“Ilyse Kusnetz’s Small Hours is a ‘ministry of dreams’ preserving what is ‘not visible, but felt,’ the ‘ghostly firmament’ of the flesh, and in our very bones, the immanent flight concealed within us. Meanwhile the poet keeps watch over ‘disassembled countries,’ preserving ‘lost narratives, postcards from the dead,’ and the memory of those about whom ‘we know almost nothing.’ She calls forth monarchs, match girls, and astronomers, offers prescriptions for curing the plague, visits ‘Hitler’s childhood room preserved’ and the cockpit of the Enola Gay, and shows us kamikaze pilots smiling from their last photographs. In this radiant mosaic shot through with chips of historical time, Kusnetz takes flight as do her ‘white herons rising into the dark,’ and if the world she surveys is wounded, her poems ‘sing into the wound’ as a healer would sing. This is poetry of deep and compassionate intelligence.” —Carolyn Forché
“Ilyse Kusnetz’s Small Hours has great range and lyrical precision. She moves from the historical to the surreal to the intensely personal with marvelous control, often blending the three. Even the darkest of her poems are illuminated by the vivacity of an imagination and the surprise of language that always seems to be in the act of discovering itself.” —Stephen Dunn