Dorset Prize Tip #2: Less is More by Ilya Kaminsky

We asked former Dorset Prize Winners to share their tips on “Making Your Dorset Manuscript.” Here, Ilya Kaminsky, 2002 Dorset Prize Winner and author of “Dancing on Odessa” (Tupelo Press, 2004), shares his laconic advice on curating your poetry manuscript:

My advice is simple: make a very short book wherein every single poem works.

Think of it this way: how many poems by your very, very favorite poets do you actually like? 20? 30? Well, make a book of poems wherein each poem is someone’s favorite.

It doesn’t need to be a hefty volume. Few hefty books actually have that many great poems in them.

Instead, look at your current manuscript and pick only the poems from it that you absolutely love. Then, ask yourself: can I make a book only out of these? And, when you do, it will be the kind of book that wins prizes. But most importantly: it will be the kind of book that wins readers.


Ilya Kaminsky was born in Odessa, former Soviet Union in 1977, and arrived to the United States in 1993, when his family was granted asylum by the American government. Dancing In Odessa (Tupelo Press, 2004) won the Dorset Prize, the Whiting Writer’s Award, the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Metcalf Award, the Ruth Lilly Fellowship given annually by POETRY Magazine. Dancing In Odessa was also named Best Poetry Book of the Year by ForeWord Magazine. Poems from his new manuscript, Deaf Republic (Graywolf, March 2019), were awarded POETRY magazine’s Levinson Prize and the Pushcart Prize. Kaminsky currently works as the Court Appointed Special Advocate for Orphaned Children in Southern California and he teaches English and Comparative Literature at San Diego State University.

Learn more about or submit to the Dorset Prize here!