Joseph Brodsky

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Related to Joseph Brodsky: Anna Akhmatova, Wole Soyinka

Brodsky, Joseph

Brodsky, Joseph (Iosif Aleksandrovich Brodsky) (brätˈskē, brädˈ–, Rus. yôsˈyĭf əlyĭksänˈdrəvyĭch brôtˈskē), 1940–96, Russian-American poet, b. Leningrad (St. Petersburg). A disciple of Anna Akhmatova, he began writing poetry in 1955. He was first denounced by the Soviet government (for “decadence and modernism,” among other charges) in 1963 and was exiled from the Soviet Union in 1972. Brodsky emigrated to the United States, where he became a citizen, taught at several colleges, and continued to build a reputation as a distinguished literary figure. He became a master of the English language and wrote in it as well as Russian.

His poetry, which often treats themes of loss and exile, is highly regarded for its formal technique, depth, intensity, irony, and wit. Among his best known works are A Part of Speech (tr. 1980), a volume of poetry; Less than One (tr. 1986) and the posthumously published On Grief and Reason (1996), essays; and the English-language poems of To Urania (1988) and So Forth (1996). Later works include a play, Marbles (1989), and a book of prose, Watermark (1992). His Collected Poems in English was published in 2000.

The recipient of a MacArthur Award (1981), a National Book Award (1986), and many other honors, he won the 1987 Nobel Prize in Literature and was poet laureate of the United States (1991–92). A believer in the redemptive power of literature, he worked to make poetry accessible to a wider public.


See S. Volkov, Conversations with Joseph Brodsky: A Poet's Journey through the Twentieth Century (1998) and C. L. Haven, ed., Joseph Brodsky: Conversations (2003); L. Shtern, Brodsky: A Personal Memoir (2004); L. Loseff, Joseph Brodsky: A Literary Life (2006, tr. 2011); studies by V. Polukhina (1989, 1992), L. Loseff and V. Polukhina, ed. (1990), D. M. Bethea (1994), D. W. MacFadyen (1998, 2000), and Maija Könöen (2003).

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Brodsky, (Iosif Alexandrovich) Joseph

(1940–  ) poet, writer; born in St. Petersburg (then Leningrad), Russia. He studied in Russian secondary schools until 1956, wrote poetry, and was sentenced to a Soviet labor camp for his general refusal to conform. He was expelled from Russia (1972), and emigrated to America. He taught at many institutions, notably as poet-in-residence at the University of Michigan (1972). He was named Poet Laureate by the Library of Congress (1991), and is known for his translations, critical works, and his realistic and lyrical poetry, as in To Urania (1988).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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(1) Solomon Volkov, Conversations with Joseph Brodsky: A Poet's Journey Through The Twentieth Century (New York: Free Press, 1998), 240.
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