Joseph Brodsky Collection
Joseph Aleksandrovich Brodsky, the Russian poet was born in Leningrad, U.S.S.R. on May 24, 1940 to Russian Jewish parents. His mother worked as a professional translator, and his father served as a photographer for the Soviet Navy. As a teenager, Brodsky taught himself English and Polish and began writing poetry at age eighteen. Famed Russian poet Anna Akhmatova encouraged his poetry when they met in 1960. In 1962, in Saint Petersburg, Anna Akhmatova introduced Brodsky to the artist Marina Basmanova, with whom he would have a son, Andrey. The U.S.S.R. government charged and arrested Brodsky in 1963 for “social parasitism” or failure to work. The government tried and convicted Brodsky in March of 1964. Successful protests led by Anna Akhmatova, Evgeny Evtushenko, Dmitri Shostakovich and Jean-Paul Sartre during Brodsky’s detention eventually reduced his sentence from five years of physical work in a gulag labor camp to eighteen months in Siberia. Upon release, the KGB ordered him to leave the country and sent him to Vienna. While in Vienna, Brodsky lost his citizenship and soon immigrated to the United States. Brodsky settled in Ann Arbor, with the help of poet W. H. Auden. During the 1972-73 academic year, Brodsky was Poet in Residence and Professor of English and Russian at both the University of Michigan and Queens College in New York. Initially connected to the Pioneer Valley through professional collaboration with Peter Viereck, Brodsky filled the position of Poet in Resident and Distinguished Acting Professor at The Five Colleges from 1974-1975, as well as filling the position of the first of The Five College Distinguished Visiting Professorships. In 1981, Brodsky received the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Award and became a professor in the Five College Consortium, based in Amherst, Massachusetts. In 1982, Brodsky served as the Five College Professor of Literature at Mount Holyoke College. In 1986, he served as an Andrew Mellon Professor of Literature at Mount Holyoke College.
Brodsky was granted United States citizenship in 1977. In 1978, Brodsky was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters at Yale University. In 1979, he was inducted as a member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and two years later received the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's "genius" award. Brodsky was a recipient of The International Center in New York's Award of Excellence. In 1986, his collection of essays Less Than One won the National Book Critics Award for Criticism and he was given an honorary Doctorate of Literature from Oxford University. Brodsky received the National Book Award for criticism in 1986. In 1987 he was honored with the Nobel Prize for Literature. Brodsky married a student named Maria Sozzani in 1990 while teaching literature in France and they had one daughter, Anna. In September of 1991, he became the fifth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress or as the award is more commonly know, "U.S. Poet Laureate". Brodsky died in New York City at the age of fifty-five on January 28, 1996.
Essays and Plays