Joseph Brodsky Quotes.
Man is what he reads.
A writer is a tool of the language rather than the other way around.
I do not believe in political movements. I believe in personal movement, that movement of the soul when a man who looks at himself is so ashamed that he tries to make some sort of change – within himself, not on the outside.
As failures go, attempting to recall the past is like claiming to grasp the meaning of existence. Both make one feel like a baby clutching at a basketball: one’s palms keep sliding off.
Poetry is not an art or a branch of art: it’s something more.
Whoever it was who said that to philosophize is an exercise in dying was right in more ways than one, for by writing a book, nobody gets younger.
It’s not that prison makes you shed your abstract notions. On the contrary, it pares them down to their most succinct articulations. Prison is, indeed, a translation of your metaphysics, ethics, sense of history and whatnot into the compact terms of your daily deportment.
Yevtushenko is a high member of his country’s establishment, and he lies terribly about the United States to his Russian readers.
I remember myself, age five, sitting on a porch overlooking a very muddy road. The day was rainy. I was wearing rubber boots, yellow – no, not yellow, green – and for all I know, I’m still there.
If what distinguishes us from other species is speech, then poetry, which is the supreme linguistic operation, is our anthropological – indeed, genetic – goal.
The real history of consciousness starts with one’s first lie.
Of course there is no denying the possible pleasure of holing up with a fat, slow-moving, mediocre novel; still, we all know that we can indulge ourselves in that fashion only so much. In the end, we read not for reading’s sake, but to learn.
Cherish your human connections: your relationships with friends and family. Even your super weirdo creep cousin.
Poems, novels – these things belong to the nation, to the culture, and the people.
Regardless of whether one is a writer or a reader, one’s task consists first of all in mastering a life that is one’s own, not imposed or prescribed from without, no matter how noble its appearance may be. For each of us is issued but one life, and we know full well how it all ends.
My poems getting published in Russia doesn’t make me feel in any fashion, to tell you the truth. I’m not trying to be coy, but it doesn’t tickle my ego.
On the whole, books are indeed less finite than ourselves. Even the worst among them outlast their authors – mainly because they occupy a smaller amount of physical space than those who penned them. Often they sit on the shelves absorbing dust long after the writer himself has turned into a handful of dust.
Cherish your human connections: your relationships with friends and family.
Creativity is an unending exercise in uncertainty.
The mechanics of love imply some sort of bridge between the sensual and the spiritual, sometimes to the point of deification; the notion of an afterlife is implicit not only in our couplings, but also in our separations.
Prison is essentially a shortage of space made up for by a surplus of time; to an inmate, both are palpable.
For some odd reason, the expression ‘death of a poet’ always sounds somewhat more concrete than ‘life of a poet.’
Although I am losing my Soviet citizenship, I do not cease to be a Russian poet.
This assumption that the blue collar crowd is not supposed to read it, or a farmer in his overalls is not to read poetry, seems to be dangerous if not tragic.
What makes art in general, and literature in particular, remarkable, what distinguishes them from life, is precisely that they abhor repetition. In everyday life, you can tell the same joke thrice and, thrice getting a laugh, become the life of the party. In art, though, this sort of conduct is called ‘cliche.’
Unlike a state, a writer cannot plead the historical necessity of his actions.
One of the worst things that can happen to an artist is to perceive himself as the owner of his art, and art as his tool. A product of the marketplace sensibility, this attitude barely differs on a psychological plane from the patron’s view of the artist as a paid employee.
No matter how daring or cautious you may choose to be, in the course of your life, you are bound to come into direct physical contact with what’s known as Evil. I mean here not a property of the gothic novel but, to say the least, a palpable social reality that you in no way can control.
The charge frequently leveled against poetry – that it is difficult, obscure, hermetic and whatnot – indicates not the state of poetry but, frankly, the rung of the evolutionary ladder on which society is stuck.
I like the idea of isolation. I like the reality of it. You realize what you are… not that the knowledge is inevitably rewarding.
People who buy ‘The National Enquirer’ would buy poetry. They should be given a choice. I’m absolutely serious.
There is nothing odder than to apply an analytical device to a synthetic phenomenon: for instance, to write in English about a Russian poet.
I sit in the dark. And it would be hard to figure out
which is worse; the dark inside, or the darkness out.
which is worse; the dark inside, or the darkness out.
I wrote poems. That is my work. I am convinced… I believe that what I wrote will be useful to people not only now but in future generations.
It is not just shameful for a contemporary American poet to use rhymes, it is unthinkable. It seems banal to him; he fears banality worse than anything, and therefore, he uses free verse – though free verse is no guarantee against banality.
Contrary to popular belief, the outskirts are not where the world ends – they are precisely where it begins to unfurl.
The moment that you place blame somewhere, you undermine your resolve to change anything.
It is well to read everything of something, and something of everything.
Paperbacks of those we deem classics should be cheap and sold at supermarkets.
A language is a more ancient and inevitable thing than any state.
To put it in plain language, Russia is that country where the name of a writer appears not on the cover of his book, but on the door of his prison cell.
English is the only interesting thing that’s left in my life.
I belong to Russian literature, but I am an American citizen, and I think it’s the best possible combination.
Translation is not original creation – that is what one must remember. In translation, some loss is inevitable.
For a writer only one form of patriotism exists: his attitude toward language.
I am neither an Occidental writer nor a Russian writer. I am an accidental writer.
Time is water, and the Venetians conquered both by building a city on water, and framed time with their canals. Or tamed time. Or fenced it in. Or caged it.
Were we to choose our leaders on the basis of their reading experience and not their political programs, there would be much less grief on earth. I believe … that for someone who has read a lot of Dickens to shoot his like in the name of an idea is harder than for someone who has read no Dickens.
Any dispute in matters of taste usually results in a standoff.
To translate poetry, one has to possess some art, at the very least the art of stylistic re-embodiment.
The literature from which I come is rather large.
In general, with things unpleasant, the rule is: The sooner you hit bottom, the faster you surface.
An ethical man doesn’t need a consensus of his allies in order to act against something he finds reprehensible.
Time can be an enemy or a friend.
Geography blended with time equals destiny.
Writers seem mesmerized by the state – the temporal entity. The word ‘perestroika’ is impressed somehow on our minds. But that is not the duty of a writer.
After the last line of a poem, nothing follows except literary criticism.
No man-made system is perfect, and the system of oppression is no exception. It is subject to fatigue, to cracks, which you are the likelier to discover the longer your term.
I simply think that water is the image of time, and every New Year’s Eve, in somewhat pagan fashion, I try to find myself near water, preferably near a sea or an ocean, to watch the emergence of a new helping, a new cupful of time from it.
I started to write when I was eighteen or nineteen. However, until I was about twenty-three, I didn’t take it that seriously.
I began to despise Lenin, even when I was in the first grade, not so much because of his political philosophy or practice… but because of his omnipresent images.
The career of an esthete was nothing I ever intended.
I haven’t shifted language. I’m writing in English because I like it. I’m a sucker for the language, but the good old poems I’m still writing in Russian.
Beginning a poem, the poet as a rule doesn’t know the way it’s going to come out, and at times, he is very surprised by the way it turns out, since often it turns out better than he expected; often his thought carries further than he reckoned.
One who writes a poem writes it because the language prompts, or simply dictates, the next line.
Try not to pay attention to those who will try to make life miserable for you. There will be a lot of those – in the official capacity as well as the self-appointed.
Art is a spirit seeking flesh but finding words.
Anyone who regards poetry as an entertainment, as a ‘read,’ commits an anthropological crime, in the first place against himself.
My intention is to write poems. That’s what I’ve been doing most of my life.
To put it mildly, nothing can be turned and worn inside out with greater ease than one’s notion of social justice, public conscience, a better future, etc.
By writing… in the language of his society, a poet takes a large step toward it. It is society’s job to meet him halfway, that is, to open his book and read it.
The invention of ethical and political doctrines, which blossomed into our own social sciences, is a product of times when things appeared manageable. The same goes for the criticism of those doctrines, though as a voice from the past, this criticism proved prophetic.
This is the generation whose first cry of life was the Hungarian uprising.
What provides you with subject matter is your own language – and that’s all.
Prison is, indeed, a translation of your metaphysics, ethics, sense of history and whatnot into the compact terms of your daily deportment.
Poetry is rather an approach to things, to life, than it is typographical production.
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.
The more one reads poetry, the less tolerant one becomes of any sort of verbosity, be that in political or philosophical discourse, be that in history, social studies or the art of fiction.
A writer should care about one thing – the language. To write well – that is his duty. That is his only duty.
Good style in prose is always hostage to the precision, speed, and laconic intensity of poetic diction.
In terms of freedom, America doesn’t invite any comparison to Russia. It would be silly to make one. Every line that I care to write, I can have printed. There is no point to even talk about degrees.
My idea is simply – is very simple – is that the books of poetry should be published in far greater volume and be distributed in far greater volume, in far more substantial manner. You can sell in supermarkets very cheaply. In paperbacks. You can sell in drugstores.
I belong to the Russian language. As to the state, from my point of view, the measure of a writer’s patriotism is not oaths from a high platform, but how he writes in the language of the people among whom he lives.
The blue-collar is not supposed to read Horace, nor the farmer in his overalls Montale or Marvell. Nor, for that matter, is the politician expected to know by heart Gerard Manley Hopkins or Elizabeth Bishop. This is dumb as well as dangerous.
There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.
Every individual ought to know at least one poet from cover to cover: if not as a guide through the world, then as a yardstick for the language.
The one who writes a poem writes it above all because verse writing is an extraordinary accelerator of conscience, of thinking, of comprehending the universe.
Poetry is what is gained in translation.
I am a patriot, but I must say that English poetry is the richest in the world.
How delightful to find a friend in everyone.
Life has a great deal up its sleeve.
Bookstores should be located not only on campuses or on main drags, but at the assembly plant’s gates, also.
With poets, the choice of words is invariably more telling than the story line; that’s why the best of them dread the thought of their biographies being written.
Literature is a far more ancient and viable thing than any social formation or state. And just as the state interferes in literature, literature has the right to interfere in the affairs of state.
The real biographies of poets are like those of birds, almost identical – their data are in the way they sound. A poet’s biography lies in his twists of language, in his meters, rhymes, and metaphors.
What I like about cities is that everything is king size, the beauty and the ugliness.
American poetry to me is a sort of relentless, nonstop sermon on human autonomy.
One always pulls the trigger out of self-interest and quotes history to avoid responsibility or pangs of conscience.
One belongs to one’s language as a writer.
Who included me among the ranks of the human race?
The unbearableness of the future is easier to face than that of the present if only because human foresight is much more destructive than anything that the future can bring about.
Whenever one pulls the trigger in order to rectify history’s mistake, one lies. For history makes no mistakes, since it has no purpose.
I don’t suppose that I know more about life than anyone of my age, but it seems to me that, in the capacity of an interlocutor, a book is more reliable than a friend or a beloved.
Unfortunately, a human being is able to comprehend only that amount of evil which he is able to commit himself.
For a head of state presiding over a ruined economy, an active army with its low wages is god-sent: All he’s got to do is provide it with an objective.