Nobel Prize-winning poet Joseph Brodsky, who was exiled from the Soviet Union in 1972, was named Friday as the new poet laureate consultant in poetry at the Library of Congress.
Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, who made the announcement, called Brodsky "a powerful and evocative voice about Russian life and culture" who brings "the driving curiosity and penetrating observations of an outsider" to American poetry.Brodsky, 50, a professor of literature at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, will succeed Mark Strand of the University of Utah on Sept. 1 in the position created by Congress in 1985 to honor the nation's leading poets.
Born in Leningrad, Brodsky left school at 15 and supported himself as a mill worker and merchant seaman while he wrote poetry and taught himself English.
Popular in Soviet underground literary circles, he was denounced by the Leonid Brezhnev government for "social parasitism" and "decadent poetry," and sentenced to a labor camp. Released after 18 months, he was stripped of his Soviet citizenship and forced to emigrate.
Befriended by English writer W.H. Auden, Brodsky settled in the United States and became a citizen. He was poet-in-residence at the University of Michigan, and also has taught at New York University, Queens College, Smith College, Columbia University and at Cambridge University in England.
He won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1987, an honor previously bestowed on only four other Americans: John Steinbeck, Saul Bellow, Isaac Bashevis Singer and Czeslaw Milosz.
He received a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Award in 1981, and won the 1986 National Book Award for criticism for his essay collection, "Less Than One."
Four of Brodsky's poems were published in the 1960s in Leningrad anthologies, but most of his work has appeared only in the West, where it has been translated into at least 10 languages.