Brodsky, Joseph, 1940-1996

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1940-05-24
Death 1996-01-29
Americans
Polish, English, Russian

Biographical notes:

Iosif Alexandrovich Brodsky (Joseph Brodsky) (1940-1996), a Russian poet, was born May 24, 1940 in Leningrad, USSR (St. Petersburg, Russia) to Jewish parents. He left school at the age of fifteen to study independently, teaching himself English and Polish. In 1964 he was arrested by Soviet authorities on charges of "social parasitism" and sentenced to five years of hard labor on a state farm near the Arctic Circle. He was released after serving less than two years of his sentence, but in 1972 he was forced into exile. Befriended by American poet W.H. Auden, Brodsky settled in the United States, where he taught literature and creative writing at several universities, including the University of Michigan, Queens College, and Mount Holyoke College. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1987 and was appointed a Poet Laureate of the United States in 1991. He died of a heart attack in New York City on January 28, 1996.

From the description of Joseph Brodsky collection, 1988-1989. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 79463013

Poet.

From the description of Joseph Brodsky correspondence, 1965-1972. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 71132812

Soviet poet.

From the description of Joseph Brodsky trial transcript, 1964. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 123379397

Joseph Brodsky, Russian-born poet and Nobel Laureate.

From the description of Lectures on poetry, 1980. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 702693415

Joseph Aleksandrovich Brodsky, the Russian poet was born in Leningrad, U.S.S.R. on May 24, 1940 to Russian Jewish parents. His mother worked as a professional translator, and his father served as a photographer for the Soviet Navy. As a teenager, Brodsky taught himself English and Polish and began writing poetry at age eighteen. Famed Russian poet Anna Akhmatova encouraged his poetry when they met in 1960. In 1962, in Saint Petersburg, Anna Akhmatova introduced Brodsky to the artist Marina Basmanova, with whom he would have a son, Andrey. The U.S.S.R. government charged and arrested Brodsky in 1963 for “social parasitism” or failure to work. The government tried and convicted Brodsky in March of 1964. Successful protests led by Anna Akhmatova, Evgeny Evtushenko, Dmitri Shostakovich and Jean-Paul Sartre during Brodsky’s detention eventually reduced his sentence from five years of physical work in a gulag labor camp to eighteen months in Siberia. Upon release, the KGB ordered him to leave the country and sent him to Vienna. While in Vienna, Brodsky lost his citizenship and soon immigrated to the United States. Brodsky settled in Ann Arbor, with the help of poet W. H. Auden. During the 1972-73 academic year, Brodsky was Poet in Residence and Professor of English and Russian at both the University of Michigan and Queens College in New York. Initially connected to the Pioneer Valley through professional collaboration with Peter Viereck, Brodsky filled the position of Poet in Resident and Distinguished Acting Professor at The Five Colleges from 1974-1975, as well as filling the position of the first of The Five College Distinguished Visiting Professorships. In 1981, Brodsky received the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Award and became a professor in the Five College Consortium, based in Amherst, Massachusetts. In 1982, Brodsky served as the Five College Professor of Literature at Mount Holyoke College. In 1986, he served as an Andrew Mellon Professor of Literature at Mount Holyoke College.

Brodsky was granted United States citizenship in 1977. In 1978, Brodsky was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters at Yale University. In 1979, he was inducted as a member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and two years later received the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's "genius" award. Brodsky was 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 and he was given an honorary Doctorate of Literature from Oxford University. Brodsky received the National Book Award for criticism in 1986. In 1987 he was honored with the Nobel Prize for Literature. Brodsky married a student named Maria Sozzani in 1990 while teaching literature in France and they had one daughter, Anna. In September of 1991, he became the fifth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress or as the award is more commonly know, U.S. Poet Laureate . Brodsky died in New York City at the age of fifty-five on January 28, 1996.

  • 1965: Stikhotvoreniia i poemy(Poems and Narrative Verse)
  • 1967: Elegy for John Donne and Other Poems
  • 1968: Velka elegie
  • 1970: Ostanovka v pustyne(A Stopover in the Wilderness)
  • 1972: Poems
  • 1973: Selected Poems
  • 1977: Konets prekrasnoi epokhi(The End of the Beautiful Epoch)
  • 1977: Chast’ rechi(A Part of Speech)
  • 1977: Poems and Translations
  • 1980: A Part of Speech
  • 1981: Verses on the Winter Campaign 1980
  • 1982: Rimskie elegii (Roman Elegies)
  • 1988: To Urania : Selected Poems, 1965-1985
  • 1990: Primechaniia paporotnika(Commentaries of Fern)
  • 1995: On Grief and Reason: Essays
  • 1995: V okrestnostiakh Atlantidy(In the Environs of Atlantis)
  • 1996: So Forth: Poems
  • 1996: Peizazh s navodneniem(A Flooded Landscape) Essay and interview collections
  • 1986: Less Than One: Selected Essays
  • 1992: Watermark
  • 1996: On Grief and Reason: Essays Plays
  • 1989: Marbles: a Play in Three Acts
  • 1991: Democracy!

From the guide to the Joseph Brodsky Collection MS 0863., 1970-2010, 1993-1994, (Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections)

Joseph Brodsky, Russian-born poet, essayist and Nobel Laureate, was born in Leningrad on May 24,1940. His early writings in Russia were circulated in samizdat (self-published) collections, the most complete of which was compiled by Vladimir Maramzin. Brodsky was arrested several times starting in 1961, tried in 1964 as a "social parasite" (tuneiadets), and ultimately forced to emigrate from the Soviet Union in 1972.

In 1972, Brodsky accepted a position as Poet in Residence at the University of Michigan. He taught at Michigan until 1981, when he accepted a permanent position on the faculty of Mount Holyoke College. He then divided his time between New York City and South Hadley, Massachusetts. He became a United States citizen in 1977. He was Poet Laureate of the United States from 1991 to 1992.

From the description of Joseph Brodsky papers, circa 1890-2004. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 702181668

Biographical Note

Joseph Brodsky was born in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), Soviet Union, on May 24, 1940. He left school in 1955, held a variety of jobs, and began a program of self-education during which he taught himself Polish and English. By the late 1950s, Brodsky had started writing poetry and producing literary translations that were published in samizdat editions and in 1960 met the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, who became Brodsky's mentor and advocate. In 1964, Brodsky was charged and convicted as a "social parasite" in a Soviet court and sentenced to five years in a labor camp in Siberia. Following protests by Akhmatova, Jean Paul-Sartre, and others, Brodsky's sentence was reduced, and in 1972, he was forced into exile from the USSR.

After his exile, Brodsky emigrated to the United States and in 1977 became an American citizen. In addition to teaching positions at Columbia University, New York, N.Y., and Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, Mass., where he taught for fifteen years, Brodsky also served as a visiting professor at several other colleges and universities. In 1986 his collection of essays Less Than One was awarded the National Book Critics Award for Criticism, and in 1987, he received the Nobel Prize for Literature. In 1990, Brodsky married Maria Sozzani and was appointed Poet Laureate of the United States, 1991-1992. Brodsky died on January 28, 1996, New York, N.Y.

Celebrated as one of the great Russian poets of his generation, Brodsky authored nine volumes of poetry, and several collections of essays, including Elegy for John Donne and Other Poems (1967), Selected Poems (1973), A Part of Speech (1980), To Urania (1988), Watermark (1992), and On Grief and Reason (1995), as well as the play Marbles (1989).

From the guide to the Joseph Brodsky Correspondence, 1965-1972, (Manuscript Division Library of Congress)

Biographical/Historical Note

Soviet poet.

From the guide to the Joseph Brodsky trial transcript, 1964, (Hoover Institution Archives)

Joseph Brodsky, Russian-born poet, essayist and Nobel Laureate, was born in Leningrad on May 24, 1940 to Aleksandr Ivanovich Brodskii and Mariia Moiseevna Brodskaia (nee Vol'pert). His birth was just one year before the start of the Leningrad Blockade; thus his early years were ones of extreme hardship. The Brodsky family's Jewish heritage exposed them to the anti-Semitic atmosphere of the post-war Soviet Union, causing Aleksandr Ivanovich to lose his rank in the Army and preventing Joseph from entering into the submarine academy. The communal apartment where Brodsky lived with his parents (and where his parents lived until their deaths) was memorialized in his essay "A room and a half."

Joseph Brodsky ended his formal schooling by walking out of his public school classroom at age fifteen and worked in a variety of places, including a factory, a morgue, and on geological expiditions. He began to write poetry in his teens and soon demonstrated a keen interest in translation. He taught himself Polish and English in order to translate poetry, including that of Czesław Miłosz and John Donne. Brodsky's Russian literary influences included Anna Akhmatova, Osip Mandelshtam, Boris Pasternak and Marina Tsvetaeva. His early writings in Russia were circulated in samizdat (self-published) collections, the most complete one compiled by Vladimir Maramzin.

Brodsky was arrested several times starting in 1961, tried in 1964 as a "social parasite" ( tuneiadets ), and sentenced to five years of labor in Norenskaia (a village in the Arkhangelsk Province of northern Russia). Brodsky lived in Norenskaia from March of 1964 to October of 1965 and wrote prolificly there. Brodsky's trial and sentence brought him increasing international attention when Frida Vigdorova's transcript was publicized in the Western media. It was also around this time that his poetry began to be compiled and published in the United States. Stikhotvoreniia i Poemy (Washington, D.C. & New York: Inter-Language Literary Associates) was published in in 1965, followed by Ostanovka v pustyne (New York: Izdatel'stvo imeni Chekhova) in 1970. Even after his release from Norenskaia, Brodsky continued to be at constant risk of arrest. In 1972 he was forced to emigrate when he was suddenly granted a visa (for which he had not applied) to emigrate to Israel. He had to leave Russia within a matter of weeks.

Brodsky traveled to Austria, where he stayed with W.H. Auden for several weeks, and to England before coming to the United Sates. He accepted a position as Poet in Residence at the University of Michigan (a post that Carl Proffer, founder of Ardis Publishing, was instrumental in securing). Brodsky taught at Michigan until 1981, when he accepted a permanent position on the faculty of Mount Holyoke College. He then divided his time between New York City and South Hadley, Massachusetts. He became a United States citizen in 1977. Brodsky never returned to Russia after emigrating, though later in his life political circumstances would have allowed it and his Russian readers clamored for it.

Among Brodsky's many awards and honors are a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (1977), a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation award (1981), a National Book Critics Circle award (1986), the Nobel Prize in Literature (1987), France's Order of the Legion of Honor (1991), and honorary degrees from Yale University (1978), Dartmouth College (1989), and Oxford University (1991). He was Poet Laureate of the United States from 1991 to 1992.

Brodsky suffered from heart disease throughout his adult life and he had several open-heart surgeries. He died of heart failure on January 28, 1996.

During his lifetime, much of Brodsky's collected poetry and prose was published by Ardis in Ann Arbor, Michigan (Russian-language poetry) and Farrar, Straus and Giroux in New York (English-language poetry, English translations and prose collections). Brodsky's major publications from 1977 to 2000 include:

Chast' rechi: Stikhotvoreniia 1972-76 (Ardis, 1977) Konets prekrasnoi epokhi: Stikhotvoreniia 1964-71 (Ardis, 1977) V Anglii (Ardis, 1977) A Part of Speech (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1980) Rimskie elegii (New York: Russica, 1982) Novye stansy k Avguste: Stikhi k M.B., 1962-1982 (Ardis, 1983) Less Than One: Selected Essays (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1986) Uraniia (Ardis, 1987) To Urania: Selected Poems 1965-1985 (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1988) Watermark (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1992) On Grief and Reason: Essays (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1995) Peizazh s navodneniem (Dana Point, California: Ardis, 1996) So Forth: Poems(Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1996) Collected Poems in English, 1972-1999 (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2000)

From the guide to the Joseph Brodsky papers, circa 1890-2004, 1972-1996, (Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library)

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Subjects:

  • Poetry--20th century
  • Russian poetry--20th century
  • American poetry--20th century
  • Lectures and lecturing--Massachusetts
  • Poetry--Translations into Russian
  • Serbian literature
  • Poets, Russian--20th century
  • College teachers--United States
  • American literature--20th century
  • Political crimes and offenses Soviet Union
  • Russian literature--20th century
  • Dissenters
  • Essays--20th century
  • Poetry--Translations into English
  • Poetry
  • Poets, American
  • Poets laureate--United States
  • Poets, American--20th century
  • Russian literature
  • Political crimes and offenses
  • Authors, American--20th century--Archives
  • Essays--Translations into English
  • Nobel Prize winners
  • Poets laureate
  • Essays--Translations into Russian
  • Authors and publishers--United States
  • Teachers--United States
  • Authors, Russian--20th century--Archives
  • English teachers--United States
  • Polish literature
  • Emigration and immigration
  • Nobel lectures, including presentation speeches and laureates' biographies
  • Dissenters Soviet Union
  • English literature

Occupations:

  • Poets
  • Translator
  • Authors

Places:

  • Russia (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Soviet Union (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Soviet Union (as recorded)
  • Russia (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Soviet Union (as recorded)