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Joseph Brodsky

(24 May 1940 – 28 January 1996 / Leningrad)

Quotations

  • ''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.''
    Joseph Brodsky (b. 1940), Russian-born-U.S. poet, critic. Address, 1984, delivered at Williams College. "A Commencement Address," Less Than One: Selected Essays (1986).
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  • ''A poet is a combination of an instrument and a human being in one person, with the former gradually taking over the latter. The sensation of this takeover is responsible for timbre; the realization of it, for destiny.''
    Joseph Brodsky (b. 1940), Russian-born U.S. poet, critic. (First published 1979). "A Poet and Prose," sect. 2, Less Than One: Selected Essays (1986).
  • ''Snobbery? But it's only a form of despair.''
    Joseph Brodsky (b. 1940), Russian-born U.S. poet, critic. "Flight from Byzantium," sct. 9, Less Than One: Selected Essays (1986).
  • ''The delirium and horror of the East. The dusty catastrophe of Asia. Green only on the banner of the Prophet. Nothing grows here except mustaches.''
    Joseph Brodsky (b. 1940), Russian-born U.S. poet, critic. "Flight from Byzantium," sect. 9, Less Than One: Selected Essays (1986).
  • ''Racism? But isn't it only a form of misanthropy?''
    Joseph Brodsky (b. 1940), Russian-born U.S. poet, critic. "Flight from Byzantium," sct. 9, Less Than One: Selected Essays (1986).
  • ''The poetic notion of infinity is far greater than that which is sponsored by any creed.''
    Joseph Brodsky (b. 1940), Russian-born U.S. poet, critic. Interview in Writers at Work, Eighth Series, ed. George Plimpton (1988). On the "worrying" fact that W.H. Auden was a formal churchgoer in later life.
  • ''After all, it is hard to master both life and work equally well. So if you are bound to fake one of them, it had better be life.''
    Joseph Brodsky (b. 1940), Russian-born U.S. poet, critic. Interview in Writers at Work, Eighth Series, ed. George Plimpton (1988).
  • ''For the poet the credo or doctrine is not the point of arrival but is, on the contrary, the point of departure for the metaphysical journey.''
    Joseph Brodsky (b. 1940), Russian-born U.S. poet, critic. Interview in Writers at Work, Eighth Series, ed. George Plimpton (1988).
  • ''The real history of consciousness starts with one's first lie.''
    Joseph Brodsky (b. 1940), Russian-born U.S. poet, critic. (First published 1976). "Less Than One," sct. 1, Less Than One: Selected Essays (1986).
  • ''What should I say about life? That's it's long and abhors transparence.''
    Joseph Brodsky (b. 1940), Russian-born U.S. poet, critic. May 24, 1980. Written on his 40th birthday.

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To Urania

Everything has its limit, including sorrow.
A windowpane stalls a stare. Nor does a grill abandon
a leaf. One may rattle the keys, gurgle down a swallow.
Loneliness cubes a man at random.
A camel sniffs at the rail with a resentful nostril;
a perspective cuts emptiness deep and even.
And what is space anyway if not the
body's absence at every given
point? That's why Urania's older than sister Clio!

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