Brodsky, Joseph (Iosif Aleksandrovich Brodsky) [key], 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).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2023, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Russian and Eastern European Literature: Biographies