Monday, August 31, 2020

Joseph Brodsky*

Joseph Brodsky (1940―1996) is a Russian poet whose Orthodox family baptised him in the tradition of that church in 1942. Although Brodsky’s poetry is not overtly political, he was arrested and eventually exiled. His focus on personal themes, and the meaning of existence, was unsettling to the Soviet authorities.

His poetry is not overtly religious, in most cases. Moscow writer and literary critic Vladimir Bondarenko, however, is convinced that the Christmas poems Brodsky wrote annually for thirty years express a faith which is “the key line and motif of his poetry and possibly the only thing he reflected about in earnest without a shade of irony, so inherent to him.” His Nativity Poems were published posthumously as a collection in 2001.

Brodsky’s Selected Poems (1973), translated by George L. Kline, incudes the notable 213-line poem “Elegy for John Donne.” The following poem was also translated by George L. Kline

In villages God does not live only...

In villages God does not live only
in icon corners, as the scoffers claim,
but plainly, everywhere. He sanctifies
each roof and pan, divides each double door.
In villages God acts abundantly―
cooks lentils in iron pots on Saturdays,
dances a lazy jig in flickering flames,
and winks at me, witness to all of this.
He plants a hedge, and gives away a bride
(the groom's a forester), and, for a joke,
he makes it certain that the game warden
will never hit the duck he's shooting at.
The chance to know and witness all of this,
amidst the whistling of the autumn mist,
is, I would say, the only touch of bliss
that's open to the village atheist.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Joseph Brodsky: first post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.