Russian Bookshelf: revising Joseph Brodsky's poems

Do you want to get more familiar with the Russian literature? We are happy to offer you audio books from our Russian Bookshelf. Enjoy the listening!

The following poems were used in the recording: "A Song", "Tornfallet", "Belfast Tune". Music: Giovanni Battista Martini - Sonata III - Preludio

Today we are revising some Joseph Brodsky's poems.

Joseph Brodsky was born in Leningrad on May 24, 1940. He left school at the age of fifteen, taking jobs in a morgue, a mill, a ship's boiler room, and a geological expedition. During this time Brodsky taught himself English and Polish and began writing poetry.

Brodsky was exiled from the Soviet Union in 1972 after serving 18 months of a five-year sentence in a labor camp in northern Russia. According to Brodsky, literature turned his life around. "I was a normal Soviet boy," he said. "I could have become a man of the system. But something turned me upside down: [Fyodor Dostoevsky's] Notes from the Underground. I realized what I am. That I am bad."

Before leaving the Soviet Union, Brodsky studied with the beloved Russian poet Anna Akhmatova. After his exile, he moved to America, where he made homes in both Brooklyn and Massachusetts. There, according to fellow poet Seamus Heaney, he lived "frugally, industriously, and in a certain amount of solitude."


Interesting fact: Joseph Brodsky opened the famous restaurant "Russian Samovar" in New York in partnership with a great entrepreneur Roman Kaplan and famous Russian ballet dancer Michael Baryshnikov, whose birthday we've celebrated on Sunday...

The restaurant then already had an interesting history: Frank Sinatra owned the place in the past. He had many personal concerts there and often spent time with his friends at this restaurant.

Keeping its charming tradition to be a favorite place for bohemian Russians, Samovar became a home for famous Russian poets and writers. For the last 15 years Russian Samovar has been a place for poetry reading.

(from left to right: Brodsky, Baryshnikov, Rostropovich)


Celebrated as the greatest Russian poet of his generation, Brodsky authored nine volumes of poetry, as well as several collections of essays, and received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1987. His first book of poetry in English translation appeared in 1973.

In addition to teaching positions at Columbia University and Mount Holyoke College, where he taught for fifteen years, Brodsky served as Poet Laureate of the United States from 1991 to 1992. In 1993, he joined with Andrew Carroll to found the American Poetry & Literacy Project, a not-for-profit organization devoted to making poetry a more central part of American culture, "as ubiquitous," in Brodsky's words, "as the nature that surrounds us, and from which poetry derives many of its similes; or as ubiquitous as gas stations, if not as cars themselves." Joseph Brodsky died on January 28, 1996, of a heart attack in his Brooklyn apartment.

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