|Birthname:||Iosif Aleksandrovich Brodsky|
|Born:||1940 5, df=y|
|Birthplace:||Leningrad, Russia, USSR|
|Deathplace:||New York City, New York, USA|
|Spouse:||Maria Sozzani (1990-1996)|
Struga Poetry Evenings Golden Wreath Award (1991)
Iosif Aleksandrovich Brodsky (Russian: Ио́сиф Алекса́ндрович Бро́дский) (24 May 1940 – 28 January 1996) was a Russian poet, essayist, and Nobel Laureate in Literature. He was appointed Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1991.
Brodsky was born into a Jewish family in Leningrad, the son of a professional photographer in the Soviet Navy. In early childhood he survived the Siege of Leningrad. When he was 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 a morgue at the Kresty prison. He subsequently held a variety of jobs at a hospital, in a ship's boiler room, and on geological expeditions.
At the same time, Brodsky engaged in a program of self-education. He learned English and Polish (mainly to translate poems by Czesław Miłosz, who was Brodsky's favorite poet and a friend), and acquired a deep interest in classical philosophy, religion, mythology, and English and American poetry. Later in life, he admitted that he picked up books from anywhere he could find them, including garbage dumps.
Brodsky began writing his own poetry and producing literary translations around 1957. His writings were apolitical. The young Brodsky was encouraged and influenced by the poet Anna Akhmatova who called some of his verses "enchanting."
Judge: And what is your profession, in general?
Brodsky: I am a poet and a literary translator.
Judge: Who recognizes you as a poet? Who enrolled you in the ranks of poets?
Brodsky: No one. Who enrolled me in the ranks of humankind?
Judge: Did you study this?
Judge: How to become a poet. You did not even try to finish high school where they prepare, where they teach?
Brodsky: I didn’t think you could get this from school.
Judge: How then?
For his "parasitism" Brodsky was sentenced to five years of internal exile with obligatory engagement in physical work and served 18 months in the Archangelsk region. His sentence was commuted in 1965 after protests by prominent Soviet and foreign literary figures, including Evgeny Evtushenko, Dmitri Shostakovich, and Jean-Paul Sartre.
In 1964, Leonid Brezhnev came to power. As the Khrushchev Thaw period ended, only four of Brodsky's poems were published in the Soviet Union. He refused to publish his writings under censorship and most of his work has appeared only in the West or in samizdat form.
Brodsky was expelled from the USSR on 4 June 1972 and moved to the United States where he was naturalized in 1977. His first teaching position in the US was at the University of Michigan. He was Poet-in-Residence and Visiting Professor at Queens College, Smith College, Columbia University, and the Cambridge University in England. He was a Five-College Professor of Literature at Mount Holyoke College, brought there by poet and historian Peter Viereck.
In 1978, Brodsky was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters at Yale University, and on 23 May 1979, he was inducted as a member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. In 1981, Brodsky received the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's "genius" award. He is 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. In 1987, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature, the fifth Russian-born writer to do so. At an interview in Stockholm airport, to the question: "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".
In 1991, Brodsky became Poet Laureate of the United States. His inauguration address was printed in Poetry Review.
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, Communism 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. This proposal was met with limited enthusiasm in Washington. Much of Brodsky's writing–particularly his essays such as Less Than One–dabbled in existentialist philosophy.
Between 1962 and 1964 Brodsky had a relationship with the artist Marina Basmanova which produced a son Andrey. Basmanova refused to marry Brodsky and registered the child under her own surname . Brodsky married Maria Sozzani in 1990. They had one daughter, Anna. Brodsky died of a heart attack in his New York City apartment on January 28, 1996, and was buried in the Episcopalian section at Isola di San Michele cemetery in Venice, Italy (the setting of his book Watermark).
A close friend to fellow Nobel laureate Derek Walcott, Brodsky was memorialized in Walcott's poetry collection The Prodigal (pp. 26-27).