One Less Hope: Essays on Twentieth-Century Russian Poets

By Constantin V. Ponomareff | Go to book overview

The Ebb of Joseph Brodsky’s Poetic Inspiration

But you don’t dissect a bird to
find the origins of its song.
Joseph Brodsky: Less Than One


Poems 1965

In Brodsky’s first collection of poems published in the U.S. in 1965, his metaphorical voice was full of promise:

V kazhdom iz nas
Bog.141

(In every one of us/ there is a God.)

History might go its way, but a God’s presence - the Source of universal energy - was in each genuine poem. Brodsky’s poetic space had nothing to do with historical time, as horrifying as it might be. His poetic inspiration had its source elsewhere:


Sedaya noch’,
i dremlyushchie ptitsy
kachayutsya ot siney tishiny. (St., 29)

(The night is grey,/ and the slumbering birds/ are rocked by the blue stillness.)

In the larger, cosmic context, man was not dependent on the quirks of history, but had it in him to wait out the difficult times:

Ya khochu perezhdat’, peregnat’, perezhit’ eto vremya, (St., 41)

(I want to wait till this time is over, to overtake and survive it,)

It was in his power to do this, for even the dead in the Jewish cemetery near Leningrad had been in charge of their own lives:

141 Joseph Brodsky, Stikhotvoreniya i poemy (Washington D.C.-New York, 1965), p. 23.
Further page references to this edition will be given in text or footnotes as St. All trans-
lations are mine.

-93-

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