Joseph Brodsky
Overview
 
Iosif Aleksandrovich Brodsky , was a Russian poet
Russian literature
Russian literature refers to the literature of Russia or its émigrés, and to the Russian-language literature of several independent nations once a part of what was historically Russia or the Soviet Union...

 and essayist.

In 1964, 23-year-old Brodsky was arrested and charged with the crime of "social parasitism
Parasitism (social offense)
Social parasitism is a charge that is leveled against a group or class in society which is considered to be detrimental to the whole by analogy with biologic parasitism .-General concept:...

" He was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1972 and settled in America with the help of W. H. Auden
W. H. Auden
Wystan Hugh Auden , who published as W. H. Auden, was an Anglo-American poet,The first definition of "Anglo-American" in the OED is: "Of, belonging to, or involving both England and America." See also the definition "English in origin or birth, American by settlement or citizenship" in See also...

 and other supporters. He taught thereafter at universities including those at Yale
Yale University
Yale University is a private, Ivy League university located in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Founded in 1701 in the Colony of Connecticut, the university is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States...

, Cambridge
University of Cambridge
The University of Cambridge is a public research university located in Cambridge, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest university in both the United Kingdom and the English-speaking world , and the seventh-oldest globally...

 and Michigan
University of Michigan
The University of Michigan is a public research university located in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the United States. It is the state's oldest university and the flagship campus of the University of Michigan...

.

Brodsky was awarded the 1987 Nobel Prize in Literature
Nobel Prize in Literature
Since 1901, the Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded annually to an author from any country who has, in the words from the will of Alfred Nobel, produced "in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction"...

 "for an all-embracing authorship, imbued with clarity of thought and poetic intensity".
Quotations

This is just one example of the trimming of the self that — along with the language itself, where verbs and nouns changed places as freely as one dare to have them do so — bred in us such an overpowering sense of ambivalence that in ten years we ended up with a willpower in no way superior to a seaweed’s.

There isn’t an executioner who isn’t scared of turning victim one day, nor is there the sorriest victim who would not acknowledge (if only to himself) a mental ability to become an executioner.

Encyclopedia
Iosif Aleksandrovich Brodsky , was a Russian poet
Russian literature
Russian literature refers to the literature of Russia or its émigrés, and to the Russian-language literature of several independent nations once a part of what was historically Russia or the Soviet Union...

 and essayist.

In 1964, 23-year-old Brodsky was arrested and charged with the crime of "social parasitism
Parasitism (social offense)
Social parasitism is a charge that is leveled against a group or class in society which is considered to be detrimental to the whole by analogy with biologic parasitism .-General concept:...

" He was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1972 and settled in America with the help of W. H. Auden
W. H. Auden
Wystan Hugh Auden , who published as W. H. Auden, was an Anglo-American poet,The first definition of "Anglo-American" in the OED is: "Of, belonging to, or involving both England and America." See also the definition "English in origin or birth, American by settlement or citizenship" in See also...

 and other supporters. He taught thereafter at universities including those at Yale
Yale University
Yale University is a private, Ivy League university located in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Founded in 1701 in the Colony of Connecticut, the university is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States...

, Cambridge
University of Cambridge
The University of Cambridge is a public research university located in Cambridge, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest university in both the United Kingdom and the English-speaking world , and the seventh-oldest globally...

 and Michigan
University of Michigan
The University of Michigan is a public research university located in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the United States. It is the state's oldest university and the flagship campus of the University of Michigan...

.

Brodsky was awarded the 1987 Nobel Prize in Literature
Nobel Prize in Literature
Since 1901, the Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded annually to an author from any country who has, in the words from the will of Alfred Nobel, produced "in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction"...

 "for an all-embracing authorship, imbued with clarity of thought and poetic intensity". He was appointed American Poet Laureate
Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress
The Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress—commonly referred to as the United States Poet Laureate—serves as the nation's official poet. During his or her term, the Poet Laureate seeks to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of...

 in 1991.

Early years

Brodsky was born into a Jewish family in Leningrad
Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg is a city and a federal subject of Russia located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea...

. His father, Aleksandr Brodsky, was a professional photographer in the Soviet Navy and his mother Maria Volpert Brodsky was a professional interpreter, whose work often helped to support the family. They lived in communal apartments, in poverty, marginalized by their Jewish status.Cole, Henri "Brodsky, Joseph". The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Poetry in English. Ian Hamilton. Oxford University Press, 1996. In early childhood Brodsky survived the Siege of Leningrad
Siege of Leningrad
The Siege of Leningrad, also known as the Leningrad Blockade was a prolonged military operation resulting from the failure of the German Army Group North to capture Leningrad, now known as Saint Petersburg, in the Eastern Front theatre of World War II. It started on 8 September 1941, when the last...

 where he and his parents nearly died of starvation, and later he suffered from various health problems caused by the siege. Brodsky commented that many of his teachers were anti-Semitic and that he felt like a dissident from an early age. He noted "I began to despise Lenin, even when I was in the first grade, not so much because of his political philosophy or practice [...] but because of his omnipresent images."Obituary pp 4-6 New York Times "Joseph Brodsky, Exiled Poet Who Won Nobel, Dies at 55" 29 January 1996.

At fifteen, Brodsky left school and tried to enter the School of Submariners without success. He went on to work as a milling machine operator. Later, having decided to become a physician, he worked at the morgue at the Kresty
Kresty
Kresty may refer to:*Kresty, Krasnogorodsky District, Pskov Oblast, a village in Krasnogorodsky District of Pskov Oblast, Russia*Kresty, Botalovskaya Volost, Kunyinsky District, Pskov Oblast, a village in Botalovskaya Volost of Kunyinsky District of Pskov Oblast, Russia*Kresty, Dolgovitskaya...

 prison, cutting and sewing bodies. He subsequently held a variety of jobs in hospitals, in a ship's boiler room, and on geological expeditions. At the same time, Brodsky engaged in a program of self-education. He learned Polish so he could translate the works of Polish poets like Czesław Miłosz, and English so he could translate John Donne
John Donne
John Donne 31 March 1631), English poet, satirist, lawyer, and priest, is now considered the preeminent representative of the metaphysical poets. His works are notable for their strong and sensual style and include sonnets, love poetry, religious poems, Latin translations, epigrams, elegies, songs,...

, acquiring a deep interest in classical philosophy, religion, mythology, and English and American poetry.

Career and family

In 1955, Brodsky began writing his own poetry and producing literary translations, circulating them in secret, some published by the underground journal Sintaksis
Sintaksis
Sintaksis: publitsistika, kritika, polemika , was a journal published in Paris in 1978-2001 with Maria Rozanova as chief editor. A total of 37 issues of the journal were published before the journal was discontinued. According to Rozanova, there are no plans to resume publication.-Publications:*...

.His writings were apolitical. The young Brodsky met the great poet of the Silver age Anna Akhmatova
Anna Akhmatova
Anna Andreyevna Gorenko , better known by the pen name Anna Akhmatova , was a Russian and Soviet modernist poet, one of the most acclaimed writers in the Russian canon.Harrington p11...

 in 1960. She encouraged his work, and would go on to become his mentor. By 1958 he was already well known in literary circles for his poems "The Jewish cemetery near Leningrad" and "Pilgrims". Asked when he first felt called to poetry, he recollected, "In 1959, in Yakutsk
Yakutsk
With a subarctic climate , Yakutsk is the coldest city, though not the coldest inhabited place, on Earth. Average monthly temperatures range from in July to in January. The coldest temperatures ever recorded on the planet outside Antarctica occurred in the basin of the Yana River to the northeast...

, when walking in that terrible city, I went into a bookstore. I snagged a copy of poems by Baratynsky. I had nothing to read. So I read that book and finally understood what I had to do in life. Or got very excited, at least. So in a way, Evgeny Abramovich Baratynsky is sort of responsible". His friend Ludmila Shtern recalled working with Brodsky on an irrigation project in his "Geological Period" (working as a geologist's assistant): "We bounced around the Leningrad Province examining kilometers of canals, checking their embankments, which looked terrible. They were falling down, coming apart, had all sorts of strange things growing in them. [...] It was during these trips, however, that I was privileged to hear the poems "The Hills" and "You Will Gallop in the Dark." Brodsky read them aloud to me between two train cars as we were going towards Tikhvin
Tikhvin
Tikhvin is a town and the administrative center of Tikhvinsky District of Leningrad Oblast, Russia, located on both banks of the Tikhvinka River in the east of the oblast, east of St. Petersburg. Tikhvin is also an industrial and cultural center of the district, as well as its transportation...

.Shtern, Ludmila (2004) Brodsky: a personal memoir Baskerville Publishers p. 63 ISBN 978-1880909706

In 1962, in Saint Petersburg, Anna Akhmatova introduced Brodsky to the artist Marina Basmanova. From then until his exile in 1972 they were occasional partners and together they had a son, Andrey, registered under her surname. A severe disruption in their relations occurred on New Year's Eve at the end of 1963, when Basmanova, whom Brodsky (who had fled to Moscow to avoid arrest) had left in the care of his friend and fellow poet Dmitri Bobyshev, slept with Bobyshev; as soon as Brodsky heard of this, he hurried back to Leningrad and confronted them, breaking off relations with Bobyshev. Basmanova later joined Brodsky in his sentence in Archangelsk, disappearing from time to time to rejoin Bobyshev, but she refused to marry Brodsky or join him when he was exiled from the country.

Denunciation

In 1963, Brodsky's poetry was denounced by a Leningrad newspaper as "pornographic and anti-Soviet." His papers were confiscated, he was interrogated, twice put in a mental institution and then arrested. He was charged with social parasitism
Parasitism (social offense)
Social parasitism is a charge that is leveled against a group or class in society which is considered to be detrimental to the whole by analogy with biologic parasitism .-General concept:...

 by the Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 authorities in a trial in 1964, finding that his series of odd jobs and role as a poet were not a sufficient contribution to society. They called him "a pseudo-poet in velveteen trousers" who failed to fulfill his "constitutional duty to work honestly for the good of the motherland." The trial judged asked "Who has recognized you as a poet? Who has enrolled you in the ranks of poets?" — "No one," Brodsky replied, "Who enrolled me in the ranks of the human race?" For his "parasitism" Brodsky was sentenced to five years hard labor and served 18 months on a farm in the arctic Archangelsk region where he chopped wood, hauled manure and crushed rocks, and at night read his anthology of English and American poetry, including Auden and Robert Frost
Robert Frost
Robert Lee Frost was an American poet. He is highly regarded for his realistic depictions of rural life and his command of American colloquial speech. His work frequently employed settings from rural life in New England in the early twentieth century, using them to examine complex social and...

. Brodsky’s mentor, Anna Akhmatova, laughed at the K.G.B.’s shortsightedness. “What a biography they’re fashioning for our red-haired friend!” she said. “It’s as if he’d hired them to do it on purpose.”

His sentence was commuted in 1965 after protests by prominent Soviet and foreign cultural figures, including Evgeny Evtushenko, Dmitri Shostakovich
Dmitri Shostakovich
Dmitri Dmitriyevich Shostakovich was a Soviet Russian composer and one of the most celebrated composers of the 20th century....

, and Jean-Paul Sartre
Jean-Paul Sartre
Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre was a French existentialist philosopher, playwright, novelist, screenwriter, political activist, biographer, and literary critic. He was one of the leading figures in 20th century French philosophy, particularly Marxism, and was one of the key figures in literary...

 as well as Akhmatova Brodsky became a cause celebre in the West also when a secret transcription of trial minutes was smuggled out of the country, making him a symbol of artistic resistance in a totalitarian society, much like his mentor Akhmatova.



Brodsky returned to Leningrad and continued to write over the next seven years, many of his works being translated into German, French and English and published abroad. Verses and Poems was published by Inter-Language Literary Associates in Washington in 1965, Elegy to John Donne
John Donne
John Donne 31 March 1631), English poet, satirist, lawyer, and priest, is now considered the preeminent representative of the metaphysical poets. His works are notable for their strong and sensual style and include sonnets, love poetry, religious poems, Latin translations, epigrams, elegies, songs,...

 and Other Poems
was published in London in 1967 by Longmans Green, and A Stop in the Desert was issued in 1970 by Chekhov Publishing in New York. Only four of his poems were published in Leningrad anthologies in 1966 and 1967, most of his work appearing outside the Soviet Union or circulated in secret (samizdat
Samizdat
Samizdat was a key form of dissident activity across the Soviet bloc in which individuals reproduced censored publications by hand and passed the documents from reader to reader...

) until 1987. Persecuted for his poetry and his Jewish heritage, he was denied permission to travel. In 1972, while Brodsky was being considered for exile, the authorities consulted mental health expert Andrei Snezhnevsky
Andrei Snezhnevsky
Andrei Vladimirovich Snezhnevsky was a Soviet psychiatrist notorious for expanding the diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia, a step that allowed for arbitrary labeling of political dissidents as having sluggishly progressing schizophrenia...

, a key proponent of the notorious pseudo-medical diagnosis of "paranoid reformist delusion". This political tool allowed the state to lock up dissenters in psychiatric institutions indefinitely. Without examining him personally, Snezhnevsky diagnosed Brodsky as having schizophrenia
Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by a disintegration of thought processes and of emotional responsiveness. It most commonly manifests itself as auditory hallucinations, paranoid or bizarre delusions, or disorganized speech and thinking, and it is accompanied by significant social...

, concluding that he was "not valuable person at all and may be let go." In 1971, Brodsky was twice invited to emigrate to Israel. When called to the Ministry of the Interior in 1972 and asked why he had not accepted, he stated that he wished to stay in the country. Within 10 days officials broke into his apartment, took his papers, and on 4 June 1972 put him on a plane for Vienna.

In Austria, he met Carl Proffer and Auden, who would both help in Brodsky's transit to America and prove influential to Brodsky's career. Proffer of the University of Michigan, one of the co-founders of Ardis Publishers, became Brodsky's Russian publisher from this point on. Recalling his landing in Vienna, Brodsky commented "I knew I was leaving my country for good, but for where, I had no idea whatsoever. One thing which was quite clear was that I didn't want to go to Israel... I never even believed that they'd allow me to go. I never believed they would put me on a plane, and when they did I didn't know whether the plane would go east or west... I didn't want to be hounded by what was left of the Soviet Security Service in England. So I came to the States." Haven (2006) p84 Although the poet was invited back after the fall of the Soviet Union, Brodsky never returned to his country.

America

After a short stay in Vienna, Brodsky settled in Ann Arbor
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Ann Arbor is a city in the U.S. state of Michigan and the county seat of Washtenaw County. The 2010 census places the population at 113,934, making it the sixth largest city in Michigan. The Ann Arbor Metropolitan Statistical Area had a population of 344,791 as of 2010...

, with the help of poet Auden and Proffer and became poet in residence at the University of Michigan
University of Michigan
The University of Michigan is a public research university located in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the United States. It is the state's oldest university and the flagship campus of the University of Michigan...

 for a year. Brodsky went on to become a Visiting Professor at Queens College (1973–74), Smith College
Smith College
Smith College is a private, independent women's liberal arts college located in Northampton, Massachusetts. It is the largest member of the Seven Sisters...

, Columbia University
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

, and Cambridge University
University of Cambridge
The University of Cambridge is a public research university located in Cambridge, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest university in both the United Kingdom and the English-speaking world , and the seventh-oldest globally...

, later returning to the University of Michigan (1974–80). He was the Andrew Mellon Professor of Literature
Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation of New York City and Princeton, New Jersey in the United States, is a private foundation with five core areas of interest, endowed with wealth accumulated by the late Andrew W. Mellon of the Mellon family of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It is the product of the 1969...

 and Five College Professor of Literature at Mount Holyoke College
Mount Holyoke College
Mount Holyoke College is a liberal arts college for women in South Hadley, Massachusetts. It was the first member of the Seven Sisters colleges, and served as a model for some of the others...

, brought there by poet and historian Peter Viereck
Peter Viereck
Peter Robert Edwin Viereck , was an American poet and political thinker, as well as a professor of history at Mount Holyoke College for five decades.-Background:...

. In 1978, Brodsky was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters
Doctor of Letters
Doctor of Letters is a university academic degree, often a higher doctorate which is frequently awarded as an honorary degree in recognition of outstanding scholarship or other merits.-Commonwealth:...

 at Yale University
Yale University
Yale University is a private, Ivy League university located in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Founded in 1701 in the Colony of Connecticut, the university is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States...

, and on 23 May 1979, he was inducted as a member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. He moved to New York's Greenwich Village in 1980 and In 1981, Brodsky received the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's "genius" award. He was also a recipient of The International Center in New York's Award of Excellence. In 1986, his collection of essays Less Than One won the National Book Critics Award for Criticism and he was given an honorary doctorate of literature from Oxford University.

In 1987, he won the Nobel Prize
Nobel Prize
The Nobel Prizes are annual international awards bestowed by Scandinavian committees in recognition of cultural and scientific advances. The will of the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, established the prizes in 1895...

 for Literature, the fifth Russian-born writer to do so. In an interview he was asked: "You are an American citizen who is receiving the Prize for Russian-language poetry. Who are you, an American or a Russian?" He responded: "I am Jewish – a Russian poet and an English essayist". The Academy stated that they had awarded the prize for his "all-embracing authorship, imbued with clarity of thought and poetic intensity." It also called his writing "rich and intensely vital," characterized by "great breadth in time and space." It was "a big step for me, a small step for mankind," he joked. The prize coincided with the first legal publication in Russia of Brodsky's poetry as an exile.
In 1991, Brodsky became Poet Laureate of the United States. The Librarian of Congress said that Brodsky had "the open-ended interest of American life that immigrants have. This is a reminder that so much of American creativity is from people not born in America". His inauguration address was printed in Poetry Review. Brodsky held an honorary degree from the University of Silesia
University of Silesia
The University of Silesia in Katowice is an autonomous state university in Silesia Province, Poland.The University of Silesia should not be confused with a similarly named university in Opava, Czech Republic ....

 in Poland and was an honorary member of the International Academy of Science. In 1995, Gleb Uspensky, a senior editor at the Russian publishing house Vagrius, asked Brodsky to return to Russia for a tour but he could not agree. For the last ten years of his life, Brodsky was under considerable pressure from those that regarded him as a "fortune maker". He was a greatly honored professor, was on first name terms with the heads of many large publishing houses, and connected to the significant figures of American literary life. His friend Ludmila Shtern wrote that many Russian intellectuals in both Russia and America assumed his influence was unlimited, that a nod from him could secure them a book contract, a teaching post or a grant, that it was in his gift to assure a glittering career. A helping hand or a rejection of a petition for help could create a storm in Russian literary circles, which Shtern suggests became very personal at times. His position as a lauded émigré and Nobel Prize winner won him enemies and stoked resentment, the politics of which, she writes, made him feel "deathly tired" of it all towards the end.

In the 1990s, Brodsky invited his son Andrey to visit him in New York for three months, and they maintained a father-son relationship until Brodsky's death. Andrey married in the 1990s and had three children, all of whom were recognized and supported by Brodsky as his grandchildren; Marina Basmanova, Andrey and Brodsky's grand-children live in Saint Petersburg. In 1990, while teaching literature in France, Brodsky married a young student, Maria Sozzani, who has a Russian-Italian background; they had one daughter, Anna.

Brodsky died of a heart attack aged 55, in his New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 apartment on January 28, 1996. He had had open-heart surgery in 1979 and later two bypass operations, remaining in frail health since that time. He was buried in the Episcopalian section at Isola di San Michele
Isola di San Michele
San Michele is an island in the Venetian Lagoon, northern Italy.Originally a prison island, Napoleon's occupying forces decreed that Venetians could not bury their deceased on any of the main Venetians islands, but only on San Michele...

 cemetery in Venice
Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

, Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

.Obituary New York Times "Joseph Brodsky, Exiled Poet Who Won Nobel, Dies at 55" 29 January 1996. In 1997, a plaque was placed on his house in St Petersburg (Leningrad) with his portrait in relief, and the words "In this house from 1940 to 1972 lived the great Russian poet Iosif Aleksandrovich Brodsky". Brodsky's close friend, the Nobel laureate Derek Walcott
Derek Walcott
Derek Alton Walcott, OBE OCC is a Saint Lucian poet, playwright, writer and visual artist who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992 and the T. S. Eliot Prize in 2011 for White Egrets. His works include the Homeric epic Omeros...

, memorialized him in his collection The Prodigal (2004).

Work



Brodsky is perhaps most known for his poetry collections A Part of Speech (1977) and To Urania (1988) and the essay collection Less Than One (1986), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award. Other notable works include the play Marbles (1989) and Watermark, a prose collection (1992). Throughout his career he wrote in Russian and English, self-translating and working with eminent poet-translators.

Themes and forms

In his introduction to Brodsky's Selected Poems (New York and Harmondsworth, 1973), W. H. Auden described Brodsky as a traditionalist lyric poet fascinated by "encounters with nature, [...] reflections upon the human condition, death, and the meaning of existence". He drew on wide-ranging themes, from Mexican and Caribbean literature to Roman poetry, mixing "the physical and the metaphysical, place and ideas about place, now and the past and the future". Critic Dinah Birch suggests that Brodsky's " first volume of poetry in English, Joseph Brodsky: Selected Poems (1973), shows that although his strength was a distinctive kind of dry, meditative soliloquy, he was immensely versatile and technically accomplished in a number of forms."

To Urania: Selected Poems 1965–1985 collected translations of older work with new work written during his American exile and reflect on themes of memory, home and loss. His two essay collections consist of critical studies of such poets as Osip Mandelshtam, W. H. Auden, Thomas Hardy
Thomas Hardy
Thomas Hardy, OM was an English novelist and poet. While his works typically belong to the Naturalism movement, several poems display elements of the previous Romantic and Enlightenment periods of literature, such as his fascination with the supernatural.While he regarded himself primarily as a...

, Rainer Maria Rilke
Rainer Maria Rilke
René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke , better known as Rainer Maria Rilke, was a Bohemian–Austrian poet. He is considered one of the most significant poets in the German language...

 and Robert Frost
Robert Frost
Robert Lee Frost was an American poet. He is highly regarded for his realistic depictions of rural life and his command of American colloquial speech. His work frequently employed settings from rural life in New England in the early twentieth century, using them to examine complex social and...

, sketches of his own life, and those of contemporaries such as Akhmatova, Nadezhda Mandelshtam, and Stephen Spender
Stephen Spender
Sir Stephen Harold Spender CBE was an English poet, novelist and essayist who concentrated on themes of social injustice and the class struggle in his work...

.

A recurring theme in Brodsky's writing is the relationship between the poet and society. In particular, Brodsky emphasized the power of literature to positively impact its audience and to develop the language and culture in which it is situated. He suggested that the Western literary tradition was in part responsible for the world having overcome the catastrophes of the twentieth century, such as Nazism
Nazism
Nazism, the common short form name of National Socialism was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany...

, Communism
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

 and the World Wars. During his term as the Poet Laureate, Brodsky promoted the idea of bringing the Anglo-American poetic heritage to a wider American audience by distributing free poetry anthologies to the public through a government-sponsored program. Billington wrote "Joseph had difficulty understanding why poetry did not draw the large audiences in the United States that it did in Russia. He was proud of becoming an American citizen in 1977 (the Soviets having made him stateless upon his expulsion in 1972) and valued the freedoms that life in the United States provided. But he regarded poetry as "language's highest degree of maturity," and wanted everyone to be susceptible to it. While poet laureate, he suggested that inexpensive anthologies of the best American poets be made available in hotels and airports, hospitals and supermarkets. He thought that people who are restless or fearful or lonely or weary might pick up poetry and discover unexpectedly that others had experienced these emotions before and had used them to celebrate life rather than escape from it. Joseph's idea was picked up, and thousands of such books have in fact been placed where people may come across them out of need or curiosity."

This passion for promoting the seriousness and importance of poetry comes through in Brodsky's opening remarks as poet laureate in October, 1991. He says "By failing to read or listen to poets, society dooms itself to inferior modes of articulation, those of the politician, the salesman or the charlatan. [...] In other words, it forfeits its own evolutionary potential. For what distinguishes us from the rest of the animal kingdom is precisely the gift of speech. [...] Poetry is not a form of entertainment and in a certain sense not even a form of art, but it is our anthropological, genetic goal, our evolutionary, linguistic beacon." This sentiment is echoed throughout his work. In interview with Sven Birkerts
Sven Birkerts
Sven Birkerts is an American essayist and literary critic of Latvian ancestry. He is best known for his book The Gutenberg Elegies, which posits a decline in reading due to the overwhelming advances of the Internet and other technologies of the "electronic culture."Birkerts was born in Pontiac,...

 in 1979 Brodsky reflected" In the works of the better poets you get the sensation that they're not talking to people any more, or to some seraphical creature. What they're doing is simply talking back to the language itself, as beauty, sensuality, wisdom, irony, those aspects of language of which the poet is a clear mirror. Poetry is not an art or a branch of art, it's something more. If what distinguishes us from other species is speech, then poetry, which is the supreme linguistic operation, is our anthropological, indeed genetic, goal. Anyone who regards poetry as an entertainment, as "a read", commits an anthropological crime, in the first place, against himself. "

Influences

Librarian of Congress Dr James Billington
James H. Billington
Lord LeBron James Hadley Billington is an American academic. He is the thirteenth Librarian of the United States Congress.-Early years:...

, wrote "He was the favored protégé of the great lady of Petersburg, Anna Akhmatova, and to hear him read her poems in Russian in the Library of Congress
Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is the research library of the United States Congress, de facto national library of the United States, and the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. Located in three buildings in Washington, D.C., it is the largest library in the world by shelf space and...

 was an experience to make one's hair stand on end even if one did not understand the Russian language. Joseph Brodsky was the embodiment of the hopes not only of Anna Akhmatova, the last of the great Petersburg poets from the beginning of the century, but also Nadezhda Mandelstam
Nadezhda Mandelstam
Nadezhda Yakovlevna Mandelstam was a Russian writer and educator, and the wife of the poet Osip Mandelstam, who died in 1938 in a transit camp to the gulag of Siberia...

, the widow of another great martyred poet [ Osip Mandelstam
Osip Mandelstam
Osip Emilyevich Mandelstam was a Russian poet and essayist who lived in Russia during and after its revolution and the rise of the Soviet Union. He was one of the foremost members of the Acmeist school of poets...

 ]. Both of them saw Joseph as part of the guiding light that might some day lead Russia back to her own deep roots."19 February 1996 "Death of a Poet Laureate: Joseph Brodsky Turned Exile into Inspiration" Library of Congress
Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is the research library of the United States Congress, de facto national library of the United States, and the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. Located in three buildings in Washington, D.C., it is the largest library in the world by shelf space and...

, obituary
Brodsky was also deeply influenced by the English metaphysical poets from John Donne
John Donne
John Donne 31 March 1631), English poet, satirist, lawyer, and priest, is now considered the preeminent representative of the metaphysical poets. His works are notable for their strong and sensual style and include sonnets, love poetry, religious poems, Latin translations, epigrams, elegies, songs,...

 to Auden. Many works were dedicated to other writers such as Tomas Venclova
Tomas Venclova
Tomas Venclova is a Lithuanian scholar, poet, author and translator of literature.Tomas Venclova is son of poet and Soviet politician Antanas Venclova. He was educated at Vilnius University. As an active participant in the dissident movement he was deprived of Soviet citizenship in 1977 and had...

, Octavio Paz
Octavio Paz
Octavio Paz Lozano was a Mexican writer, poet, and diplomat, and the winner of the 1990 Nobel Prize for Literature.-Early life and writings:...

, Robert Lowell
Robert Lowell
Robert Traill Spence Lowell IV was an American poet, considered the founder of the confessional poetry movement. He was appointed the sixth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress where he served from 1947 until 1948...

, Derek Walcott
Derek Walcott
Derek Alton Walcott, OBE OCC is a Saint Lucian poet, playwright, writer and visual artist who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992 and the T. S. Eliot Prize in 2011 for White Egrets. His works include the Homeric epic Omeros...

, and Benedetta Craveri.

Brodsky's work is seen to have been vitally enhanced by the work of renowned translators. A Part of Speech (New York and Oxford, 1980), his second major collection in English, includes translations by Anthony Hecht
Anthony Hecht
Anthony Evan Hecht was an American poet. His work combined a deep interest in form with a passionate desire to confront the horrors of 20th century history, with the Second World War, in which he fought, and the Holocaust being recurrent themes in his work.-Early years:Hecht was born in New York...

, Howard Moss
Howard Moss
Howard Moss was an American poet, dramatist and critic, who was poetry editor of The New Yorker magazine from 1948 until his death. He won the National Book Award in 1972 for Selected Poems.-Biography:...

, Derek Walcott
Derek Walcott
Derek Alton Walcott, OBE OCC is a Saint Lucian poet, playwright, writer and visual artist who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992 and the T. S. Eliot Prize in 2011 for White Egrets. His works include the Homeric epic Omeros...

 and Richard Wilbur
Richard Wilbur
Richard Purdy Wilbur is an American poet and literary translator. He was appointed the second Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1987, and twice received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, in 1957 and again in 1989....

. Critic and poet Henri Cole
Henri Cole
Henri Cole is an award-winning American poet.-Biography:Henri Cole was born in Fukuoka, Japan, to an American father and French mother, and raised in Virginia, United States. His father, a North Carolinian, enlisted in the service after graduating from high school and, while stationed in...

 notes that Brodsky's "own translations have been criticized for turgidness, lacking a native sense of musicality."

Awards and honors

  • 1978 honorary degree of Doctor of Letters
    Doctor of Letters
    Doctor of Letters is a university academic degree, often a higher doctorate which is frequently awarded as an honorary degree in recognition of outstanding scholarship or other merits.-Commonwealth:...

    , Yale University
    Yale University
    Yale University is a private, Ivy League university located in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Founded in 1701 in the Colony of Connecticut, the university is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States...

  • 1979 Fellowship of American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters
  • 1981 John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation award.
  • 1986 Honorary doctorate of literature from Oxford University
  • The International Center in New York's Award of Excellence
  • 1986 National Book Critics Award for Criticism, for Less Than One (essay collection)
  • 1987 Nobel Prize
    Nobel Prize
    The Nobel Prizes are annual international awards bestowed by Scandinavian committees in recognition of cultural and scientific advances. The will of the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, established the prizes in 1895...

  • 1991 United States Poet Laureate
  • 1991 Struga Poetry Evenings Golden Wreath Award
  • 1993 Honorary degree from the University of Silesia
    University of Silesia
    The University of Silesia in Katowice is an autonomous state university in Silesia Province, Poland.The University of Silesia should not be confused with a similarly named university in Opava, Czech Republic ....

     in Poland
  • Honorary member of the International Academy of Science.

Poetry collections

  • 1967: Elegy for John Donne and Other Poems, selected, translated, and introduced by Nicholas William Bethell, London: Longman
  • 1968: Velka elegie, Paris: Edice Svedectvi
  • 1972: Poems, Ann Arbor, Michigan: Ardis
  • 1973: Selected Poems, translated from the Russian by George L. Kline. New York: Harper & Row
  • 1977: A Part of Speech
  • 1977: Poems and Translations, Keele: University of Keele
  • 1980: A Part of Speech, New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux
  • 1981: Verses on the Winter Campaign 1980, translation by Alan Myers
    Alan Myers (translator)
    Alan Myers was a noted translator, most notably of works by Russian authors.-Biography:Myers was born in South Shields, County Durham, in 1933. He attended the University of London between 1957 and 1960 and Moscow University from 1960-61...

    .–London: Anvil Press
  • 1988: To Urania : Selected Poems, 1965-1985, New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux
  • 1995: On Grief and Reason: Essays, New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux
  • 1996: So Forth : Poems, New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux
  • 1999: Discovery, New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux
  • 2000: Collected Poems in English, 1972-1999, edited by Ann Kjellberg, New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux
  • 2001: Nativity Poems, translated by Melissa Green–New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Essay and interview collections

  • 1986: Less Than One: Selected Essays, New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. (Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award
    National Book Critics Circle Award
    The National Book Critics Circle Award is an annual award given by the National Book Critics Circle to promote the finest books and reviews published in English....

    )
  • 1992: Watermark, Noonday Press; New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux
  • 1996: On Grief and Reason: Essays. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
  • 2003: Joseph Brodsky: Conversations, edited by Cynthia L. Haven. Jackson, Miss.: University Press of Mississippi Literary Conversations Series.

Plays

  • 1989: Marbles : a Play in Three Acts, translated by Alan Myers
    Alan Myers (translator)
    Alan Myers was a noted translator, most notably of works by Russian authors.-Biography:Myers was born in South Shields, County Durham, in 1933. He attended the University of London between 1957 and 1960 and Moscow University from 1960-61...

     with Joseph Brodsky.–New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux
  • 1991: Democracy! in Granta
    Granta
    Granta is a literary magazine and publisher in the United Kingdom whose mission centers on its "belief in the power and urgency of the story, both in fiction and non-fiction, and the story’s supreme ability to describe, illuminate and make real." In 2007, The Observer stated, "In its blend of...

     30 New Europe, translated by Alan Myers
    Alan Myers (translator)
    Alan Myers was a noted translator, most notably of works by Russian authors.-Biography:Myers was born in South Shields, County Durham, in 1933. He attended the University of London between 1957 and 1960 and Moscow University from 1960-61...

     and Joseph Brodsky.

In film

A film based on his life has been made, A Room And A Half, directed by Andrei Khrzhanovsky
Andrei Khrzhanovsky
Andrei Khrzhanovsky is a Russian animator, documaker, writer and producer. He is the father of director Ilya Khrzhanovsky.He rose to prominence in the west with his 2009 picture "Room and a half" about Joseph Brodsky.-Filmography :*Glass Harmonica *A Pushkin Trilogy *The Lion With the White...

.

Collections in Russian

  • 1965: Stikhotvoreniia i poemy, Washington, D.C. : Inter-Language Literary Associates
  • 1970: Ostanovka v pustyne, New York: Izdatel'stvo imeni Chekhova (Rev. ed. Ann Arbor, Mich.: Ardis, 1989)
  • 1977: Chast' rechi: Stikhotvoreniia 1972-76, Ann Arbor, Mich.: Ardis
  • 1977: Konets prekrasnoi epokhi : stikhotvoreniia 1964-71, Ann Arbor, Mich.: Ardis
  • 1977: V Anglii, Ann Arbor, Mich.: Ardis
  • 1982: Rimskie elegii, New York: Russica
  • 1983: Novye stansy k Avguste : stikhi k M.B., 1962-1982, Ann Arbor, Mich.: Ardis
  • 1984: Mramor, Ann Arbor, Mich.: Ardis
  • 1984: Uraniia : novaia kniga stikhov, Ann Arbor, Mich.: Ardis
  • 1989: Ostanovka v pustyne, revised edition, Ann Arbor, Mich.: Ardis, 1989 (original edition: New York: Izdatel'stvo imeni Chekhova, 1970)
  • 1990: Nazidanie : stikhi 1962-1989, Leningrad : Smart
  • 1990: Chast' rechi : Izbrannye stikhi 1962-1989, Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura
  • 1990: Osennii krik iastreba : Stikhotvoreniia 1962-1989, Leningrad: KTP LO IMA Press
  • 1990: Primechaniia paporotnika, Bromma, Sweden : Hylaea
  • 1991: Ballada o malen'kom buksire, Leningrad: Detskaia literatura
  • 1991: Kholmy : Bol'shie stikhotvoreniia i poemy, Saint Petersburg: LP VTPO "Kinotsentr"
  • 1991: Stikhotvoreniia, Tallinn: Eesti Raamat
  • 1992: Naberezhnaia neistselimykh: Trinadtsat' essei, Moscow: Slovo
  • 1992: Rozhdestvenskie stikhi, Moscow: Nezavisimaia gazeta (revised edition in 1996)
  • 1992-1995: Sochineniia, Saint Petersburg: Pushkinskii fond, 1992–1995, four volumes
  • 1992: Vspominaia Akhmatovu / Joseph Brodsky, Solomon Volkov, Moscow: Nezavisimaia gazeta
  • 1992: Forma vremeni : stikhotvoreniia, esse, p'esy, Minsk: Eridan, two volumes
  • 1993: Kappadokiia.–Saint Petersburg
  • 1994: Persian Arrow/Persidskaia strela, with etchings by Edik Steinberg.–Verona: * Edizione d'Arte Gibralfaro & ECM
  • 1995: Peresechennaia mestnost ': Puteshestviia s kommentariiami, Moscow: Nezavisimaia gazeta
  • 1995: V okrestnostiakh Atlantidy : Novye stikhotvoreniia, Saint Petersburg: Pushkinskii fond
  • 1996: Peizazh s navodneniem, compiled by Aleksandr Sumerkin.–Dana Point, Cal.: Ardis
  • 1996: Rozhdestvenskie stikhi, Moscow: Nezavisimaia gazeta, revised edition of a work originally published in 1992
  • 1997: Brodskii o Tsvetaevoi, Moscow: Nezavisimaia gazeta
  • 1998: Pis'mo Goratsiiu, Moscow: Nash dom
  • 1996 and after: Sochineniia, Saint Petersburg: Pushkinskii fond, eight volumes
  • 1999: Gorbunov i Gorchakov, Saint Petersburg: Pushkinskii fond
  • 1999: Predstavlenie : novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, Moscow
  • 2000: Ostanovka v pustyne, Saint Petersburg: Pushkinskii fond
  • 2000: Chast' rechi, Saint Petersburg: Pushkinskii fond
  • 2000: Konets prekrasnoi epokhi, Saint Petersburg: Pushkinskii fond
  • 2000: Novye stansy k Avguste, Saint Petersburg: Pushkinskii fond
  • 2000: Uraniia, Saint Petersburg: Pushkinskii fond
  • 2000: Peizazh s navodneniem, Saint Petersburg: Pushkinskii fond
  • 2000: Bol'shaia kniga interv'iu, Moscow: Zakharov
  • 2001: Novaia Odisseia : Pamiati Iosifa Brodskogo, Moscow: Staroe literaturnoe obozrenie
  • 2001: Peremena imperii : Stikhotvoreniia 1960-1996, Moscow: Nezavisimaia gazeta
  • 2001: Vtoroi vek posle nashei ery : dramaturgija Iosifa Brodskogo, Saint Petersburg: Zvezda

Sources

  • Bethea, David (1994) Joseph Brodsky and the Creation of Exile, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ)
  • Miłosz, Czesław and Haven, Cynthia L. (Ed.) (2006) Czesław Miłosz: Conversations. Includes "Interview between Joseph Brodsky and Czeslaw Milosz". University Press of Mississippi ISBN 978-1578068296
  • Loseff, Lev (2010) Joseph Brodsky: a Literary Life, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT)
  • Speh, Alice J (1996) The Poet as Traveler: Joseph Brodsky in Mexico and Rome, Peter Lang (New York, NY)
  • Shtern, Ludmila (2004) Brodsky: A Personal Memoir, Baskerville Publishers ISBN 978-1880909706

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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