Joseph Brodsky


Joseph Brodsky
(1940)


Russian-born American poet who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1987 for his important lyric and elegiac poems.
Brodsky left school at age 15 and thereafter began to write poetry while working at a wide variety of jobs. He began to earn a reputation in the Leningrad literary scene, but his independent spirit and his irregular work record led to his being charged with "social parasitism" by the Soviet authorities, who sentenced him in 1964 to five years of hard labour. The sentence was commuted in 1965 after prominent Soviet literary figures protested it. Exiled from the Soviet Union in 1972, Brodsky lived thereafter in the United States, becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1977. He was a poet-in-residence intermittently at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, from 1972 to 1980 and was a visiting professor at other schools. He served as poet laureate of the United States in 1991-92.

Brodsky's poetry addresses personal themes and treats in a powerful, meditative fashion the universal concerns of life, death, and the meaning of existence. His earlier works, written in Russian, include Stikhotvoreniya i poemy (1965; "Verses and Poems") and Ostanovka v pustyne (1970; "A Halt in the Wasteland"); these and other works were translated by George L. Kline in Selected Poems (1973), which includes the notable "Elegy for John Donne." His major works, in Russian and English, include the poetry collections A Part of Speech (1980), History of the Twentieth Century (1986), and To Urania (1988) and the essays in Less Than One (1986).


BIBLIOGRAPHY.
Critical studies on Brodsky include Valentina Polukhina, Joseph Brodsky: A Poet for Our Time (1989); Lev Loseff (Lev Losev) and Valentina Polukhina (eds.), Brodsky's Poetics and Aesthetics (1990), which includes a translation of his Nobel Prize speech; and David M. Bethea, Joseph Brodsky and the Creation of Exile (1994).

 


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