Joseph Brodsky biography

Joseph Brodsky

Poet, Author

1940 – 1996


Who was Joseph Brodsky?

Iosif Aleksandrovich Brodsky was a Russian poet and essayist.

Born in Leningrad in 1940, Brodsky ran afoul of Soviet authorities and was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1972, settling in America with the help of W. H. Auden and other supporters. He taught thereafter at universities including those at Yale, Cambridge and Michigan.

Brodsky was awarded the 1987 Nobel Prize in Literature "for an all-embracing authorship, imbued with clarity of thought and poetic intensity". He was appointed United States Poet Laureate in 1991.

Famous Quotes:

  • The poetic notion of infinity is far greater than that which is sponsored by any creed.
  • What should I say about life? That it's long and abhors transparence.
  • In the works of the better poets you get the sensation that they're not talking to people any more, or to some seraphical creature. What they're doing is simply talking back to the language itself --as beauty, sensuality, wisdom, irony --those aspects of language of which the poet is a clear mirror. Poetry is not an art or a branch of art, it's something more. If what distinguishes us from other species is speech, then poetry, which is the supreme linguistic operation, is our anthropological, indeed genetic, goal. Anyone who regards poetry as an entertainment, as a read, commits an anthropological crime, in the first place, against himself.
  • If a poet has any obligation toward society, it is to write well. Being in the minority, he has no other choice. Failing this duty, he sinks into oblivion. Society, on the other hand, has no obligation toward the poet. A majority by definition, society thinks of itself as having other options than reading verses, no matter how well written. Its failure to do so results in its sinking to that level of locution at which society falls easy prey to a demagogue or a tyrant. This is society's own equivalent of oblivion.
  • It would be enough for me to have the system of a jury of twelve versus the system of one judge as a basis for preferring the U.S. to the Soviet Union. I would prefer the country you can leave to the country you cannot.
  • Racism? But isn't it only a form of misanthropy?
  • The surest defense against Evil is extreme individualism, originality of thinking, whimsicality, even -- if you will -- eccentricity. That is, something that can't be feigned, faked, imitated; something even a seasoned imposter couldn't be happy with.
  • What I like about cities is that everything is king size, the beauty and the ugliness.
  • How delightful to find a friend in everyone.
  • Every writing career starts as a personal quest for sainthood, for self-betterment. Sooner or later, and as a rule quite soon, a man discovers that his pen accomplishes a lot more than his soul.

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May 24, 1940
Saint Petersburg
Also known as
  • I. Brodski
  • I. Brodsky
  • Иосиф Александрович Бродский
  • Iosif Aleksandrovich Brodsky
  • Brodsky, Iosif Aleksandrovich
  • Russian American
  • United States of America
  • Russia
  • Mount Holyoke College
Lived in
  • Saint Petersburg
Jan 28, 1996
New York City
Resting place
Isola di San Michele

on July 23, 2013


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