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This article is taken from PN Review 212, Volume 39 Number 6, July - August 2013.

Ends and Beginnings: Ten Things about Josef Brodsky Gerry McGrath
For Lenke Rothman

I recognise this wind battering the limp grass
that submits to it as they did to the Tartar mass.
I recognise this leaf splayed in the roadside mud
like a prince empurpled in his own blood.
Fanning wet arrows that blow aslant
the cheek of a wooden hut in another land,
autumn tells, like geese by their flying call,
a tear by its face. And as I roll
my eyes to the ceiling, I chant herein
not the lay of that eager man's campaign
but utter your Kazakh name which till now was stored
in my throat as a password into the Horde.1


I

When 'A Part of Speech', the collection from which this poem is taken, first appeared in English in 1977, Joseph Brodsky was thirty-seven years old and had been writing and publishing for the better part of twenty years. Early admirers of his poetry included Anna Akhmatova, who regarded him as her natural heir.

In 1964, Brodsky was denounced to the Soviet authorities, tried and sentenced to five years' hard labour in the Archangelsk region of the Arctic. The sentence was commuted to eighteen months after protests by prominent figures, including Akhmatova, Shostakovich and Jean-Paul Sartre, and upon his release he returned to Leningrad. He was finally expelled from the Soviet Union in 1972 when, having turned down the offer of exile ...


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