Nativity Poems

Joseph Brodsky; Translated by Melissa Green, Seamus Heaney, Anthony Hecht, Glyn Maxwell, Paul Muldoon, Derek Walcott, Richard Wilbur, and the author; Photographs by Mikhael Lemkhin

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

128 Pages



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Brodsky endeavored from the time he first "took to writing poems seriously" to compose a poem for every Christmas. These efforts resulted in a remarkable group of poems—about time, eternity, and love—which span the life's work of a great poet and great thinker, an artist of metaphysical reflection and formal invention. In Nativity Poems, this sequence is presented in English in its entirety for the first time--with some of the finest poets of the English-speaking world contributing to the translation of these moving and wonderfully crafted meditations.


Praise for Nativity Poems

"Here is an autobiography told by [Brodsky's] Christmases . . . We register the process of a poet beginning to become a great poet. It is no longer a matter of battling the universe; the universe now begins to battle through him."—Richard Eder, The New York Times

"[Late in] his too-short life, Brodsky's Christmas poems became occasions for contemplating the first Christmas. He played increasingly with the symbols of Christmas—the star, the magi, the baby Jesus, and the manger . . . For the first time, Brodsky's full sequence of eighteen Nativity poems has been collected in one volume and translated into English. Six illustrious poets, including Seamus Heaney, Derek Walcott, Richard Wilbur, and Paul Muldoon, have translated Brodsky's poems from the original Russian. The volume is a tribute to the work that won Brodsky the 1987 Nobel Prize in Literature and his appointment as Poet Laureate of the United States."—Chuck Leddy, Harvard Review

"What started as an annual habit of writing poetry on Christmas day for Joseph Brodsky has turned into this enchanting collection of 18 poems . . . Brodsky showcases his poetic talents, sometimes spiritual and sometimes sardonic, in this lovely edition . . . Peter Vail's interview with this Russian Nobel Prize-winning poet is appended as 'A Conversation with Joseph Brodsky' at the end of the collection and further invites the reader to savor this gem of a Christmas treasure."—Virginia Quarterly Review

"Brodsky weaves a myth of solitude from city street to cosmos, leaving us in blue-tinged nighttime, where there exists nothing but our single upturned faces and the stars."—Sophia Domokos, The Harvard Book Review

"Every year from 1962 to 1993 during the Christmas season, Nobel prize-winning poet Brodsky, who came to the United States in 1972 as an exile from the Soviet Union, endeavored to write a 'nativity poem' . . . For this enjoyable collection, six poets (including the author) have ably undertaken the translations from the original Russian (which appears on facing pages), preserving in most cases the meter of the original. The collection ends with an illuminating conversation with the author. Highly recommended."—Library Journal

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The poet, essayist, and playwright Joseph Brodsky (1940-96) came to the United States in 1972, an involuntary exile from the Soviet Union. He received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1987 and served as Poet Laureate of the United States in 1991 and 1992.
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