Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Continued Canonization

Cover of Osip Mandelstam: 50 Poems (Persea Books, 1977), 
translated by Bernard Meares with an introductory essay by Joseph Brodsky

This year saw the release of new editions of work by the two poets who are, by my reckoning, the two major voices of twentieth-century Russian poetry: Osip Mandelstam and Joseph Brodsky. To at least one of these judgments, Brodsky himself would have agreed: he thought that Mandelstam’s poetry would “last as long as the Russian language exists,” as well as that Mandelstam’s stature as an artist could be measured by “the quantity and energy of the evil directed against him.” I can’t think of many artists who could beat Mandelstam in that contest.