The Russian dissident poet Brodsky, high-school dropout, Bohemian and unofficial bard, first came to the attention of the...

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JOSEPH BRODSKY: Selected Poems

The Russian dissident poet Brodsky, high-school dropout, Bohemian and unofficial bard, first came to the attention of the West when exiled to Siberia as a social parasite. Although a protege of the late doyenne Anna Akhmatova, he remained persona non grata to Soviet officialdom, which forced him into exile in 1972. In this first substantial collection of his verse in English, one tends to look for protestations in the style of Yevtuschenko, but Brodsky belongs to the tradition set by the equally persecuted Pasternak and Mandelstam, writers deemed not political enough. Often using world literature as his treasury -- he paraphrases and replies to masters as disparate as Homer, Pushkin, Yeats and Eliot -- Brodsky writes about finite objects (""The empty window is still hopeful/ despite the house's fixity""), colors, the atmosphere of places, love ("". . . carnal love is but a poet's duty --/ spiritual love the essence of a priest"") and partings; his later poems show a preoccupation with mortality (""Life is but talk hurled in the face of silence""), the poet's burden and religious faith. Unfortunately we are given only excerpts from a major work, ""Gorbunov and Gorchakov,"" set in a mental hospital, and there is no opposite Russian text by which we might follow Brodsky's play with words in the original. W. H. Auden, in a preface, calls Brodsky ""a poet of the first order, a man of whom his country should be proud."" His is certainly a voice worth hearing.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1973

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1973