5 Poems by Joseph Brodsky

Joseph Brodsky (1940-1996)

“There are no depths. Appearance is the summary of phenomena.” -Joseph Brodsky [1]

Joseph Brodsky was born May 24, 1940 in Leningrad. His father was a photographer and his mother was an interpreter. Brodsky said he grew up surrounded by anti-semitism. [2] He worked a variety of jobs in varied industries including in a milling machine factory, in a morgue at a prison, in hospitals, and on geological expeditions. [3] He first became interested in poetry at 19 when he picked up a book of poems by Evgeny Abromovich Baratynsky. [4]

A newspaper in Leningrad labeled Brodsky’s poetry “pornographic and anti-Soviet” in 1963. He was put in a mental institution and finally arrested for “parasitism” and put on trial. He was found guilty and sentenced to five years hard labor, however his sentence was shortened to eighteen months. [5]

He was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1972 and settled in Ann Arbor Michigan with the help of W. H. Auden. [6] He became a US citizen in 1977 and US poet laureate in 1991. He won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1987. [7]

Brodsky was reported in the New York Times to have been ill for many years before his death at 55 on January 28, 1996 from a heart attack. [8]

Text of poems read
Odysseus to Telemachus

I threw my arms about those shoulders

A Song

Letter to an Archaeologist

I Sit by the Window

Sources and Notes
[1] Nick Watson interview with Joseph Brodsky in The Argonist magazine 1996

[2] Wikipedia: Joseph Brodsky from New York Times, January 29, 1996

[3] [4] Wikipedia: Joseph Brodsky

[5] [6] [7] [8] York Times, January 29, 1996 Joseph Brodsky Exiled Poet Who Won Nobel, Dies at 55


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6 thoughts on “5 Poems by Joseph Brodsky

  • November 8, 2017 at 12:45 am

    Great commentary, Gregory! Only the translations are from the poet himself. You can also say that Brodsky genius has not reached such heights in English as in his native Russian.

  • November 8, 2017 at 12:45 am

    Inaccurate traslations – way too long and explanatory. As any suprime piece of literature Brodsky's poetry is condensed, and the compressed imagery unfolds in the course of a poem. The translator, sadly, reaches the opposit effect: metaphorical density gets diluted with redundant explanations.


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