Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Belfast Tune

BB NOTE: Joseph Brodsky, my favorite poet who I had the chance to meet and talk to many years ago now, came to mind today. He knew much about exile, about being separated both by choice and against the will. He was an extraordinary poet and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. This poem came to mind as I saw Robin Adams name as one of the 21. Robin, rector of Church of the Word, Gainesville (and, until recently, a member of the Executive Board of the Diocese of Virginia) is from Northern Ireland and knows personally what it means to walk through the fire on your way home.

Joseph Brodsky, who was imprisoned in the Gulag for being a poet and forced into exile in the early 1970s, came to the United States speaking little English. By 1980 he would be winning awards, not only for his Russian poetry, but his American English prose. When I met him, I handed my well-worn, nearly falling apart, well marked and highlighted copy of "Less The One," for him to sign. As I handed it to him, I was suddenly horrified by the condition of his book - I had read it so many times it was almost in pieces. What possessed me to bring that copy and not buy a new one. I almost wanted to snatch it back, but he all ready had it in his hands and was turning it over and over and over again. I was shrinking into the floor. Then he turned to me and smiled broadly. I had offered him a great compliment and he wrote a special note into my book, which I cherish, especially now that he's gone.

Belfast Tune
By Joseph Brodsky

Here's a girl from a dangerous town
She crops her dark hair short
so that less of her has to frown
when someone gets hurt.

She folds her memories like a parachute.
Dropped, she collects the peat
and cooks her veggies at home: they shoot
here where they eat.

Ah, there's more sky in these parts than, say,
ground. Hence her voice's pitch,
and her stare stains your retina like a gray
bulb when you switch

hemispheres, and her knee-length quilt
skirt's cut to catch the squal,
I dream of her either loved or killed
because the town's too small.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

He also once said:

At an interview in Stockholm airport, to a question: "You are an American citizen who is receiving the Prize for Russian-language poetry. Who are you, an American or a Russian?", he responded: "I am Jewish".