Interlude 5: Ode to Joseph Brodksy

30 Sep

(I’ve driven to write these poems by some unknown force. I wouldn’t call it inspiration. Probably the same damn thing pushing me to read so much poetry recently. Anyway, I’ve working away on The Brotherhood of the Eye—please don’t steal the title, people—a few hundred words at a time. I think it’s great, but I’ve been wrong before. Meanwhile, this.)

 

Joseph Brodsky, of the Nobel.

Slayer of dilettantes.

20th century poet.

He screams poetry.

Poet! Po-et! Po-ette! Poe-ette!

(Must use capitals with a writer like Brodsky.)

With Brodsky, you are either all-in or you get nothing.

He doesn’t meet you in the simple fields;

he insists you join him in the marble halls.

He operates in a mode both personal and mythic.

Lucretius, Augustus, some bum on the street.

Memory, collective, personal—

gathered in a posie of wilting flowers.

 

He’s rich, baby, and thick with words.

 

The Soviet authorities called him a parasite, a pornographer.

He survived Stalin, Malenkov, Bulganin, Khrushchev.

Then in 1972, blammo!

Goodbye, homeland.

 

An exile, he lived in Michigan.

He augured in the shadow of a nascent Detroit.

 

Master of poetic forms, check.

Master of the ode to nature, check.

Immense erudition on the classical world, check.

A supreme poetic talent, I suppose.

 

Yet something leaves me dry.

There’s something un-immediate about his work.

I don’t know what I want from him,

but he doesn’t give it to me.

 

Okay, okay, okay,

So here I am critiquing a Nobel Prize winner.

Yes, tacky, yes, vexing to the learned.

Yes, arrogant, yes, an ant sneezing at the anthill.

But here I am.

Writing a poem about Brodsky.

And awaiting my Nobel.

 

I don’t love him. (Does anyone?)

His work has so few points of entry.

He leaves me craving something sinister.

Ted Hughes, maybe.

Something darker.

Some spark of humor, perhaps?

Some speck of danger?

Give me O’Hara or Parker.

Give me Bukowski or Rilke.

 

Still, if you give yourself to him, he gives plenty in return.

Stranger, he writes, move carefully through our carrion.

Leave our names alone.

 

He’s a marvelous Odysseus, ruminating on his return.

It would appear some filthy island, he writes, with bushes, and buildings and great grunting pigs. A garden choked with weeds.

 

Great lines. Captures something essential about a selfish man.

 

He was a philosopher.

Aesthetics is the mother of ethics, he writes.

Well, maybe.

And snobbery is the form of despair.

Well, maybe.

 

Brodsky’s good, if sincere, company.

A writer of another time.

Brimming with integrity.

The sex is hidden.

The dark thoughts are hidden.

Instead, an ennobling body of work.

I suppose I could sum him up, thus:

Poetry for poets.

 

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