You are now entering the Jewish Currents archive.

January 28: Joseph Brodsky

January 28, 2013

Nobel Prize-winning poet Joseph Brodsky, a long-suffering Soviet dissident who was expelled from the USSR in 1972, died at 55 on this date in 1996. Brodsky, who served as U.S. Poet Laureate in 1991, was a survivor of the Siege of Leningrad and worked in hospitals, in a ship's boiler room, and on geological expeditions while becoming a self-educated essayist, poet, and translator (of Polish and English). Although his writing was largely apolitical, he was denounced in 1963 as a social parasite and was twice imprisoned in mental asylums before being sentenced to five years at hard labor in Siberia. Protests by prominent Soviet and foreign writers and artists, including Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Dmitri Shostakovich, got his sentence shortened and made Brodsky a symbol of artistic resistance against totalitarianism. Forced into exile, he became a beloved teacher of writing and literature at several universities in the U.S. His best-known poetry collections are A Part of Speech (1977) and To Urania (1988), and his essay collection, Less Than One (1986), won the National Book Critics Circle Award.

"By failing to read or listen to poets, society dooms itself to inferior modes of articulation, those of the politician, the salesman or the charlatan." —Joseph Brodsky