This highly regarded second volume of Brodsky's prose includes, in addition to his Nobel lecture, essays on the condition of exile, the nature of history, the art of reading, and the idea of the poet as an inveterate Don Giovanni. We also encounter an homage to Marcus Aurelius and an appraisal of the case of the double agent Kim Philby, both of which were selected for inclusion in the annual Best American Essays volume.
The title essay is Brodsky's celebrated study of the poetry of Robert Frost, and the book also features a fond appreciation of Thomas Hardy, a "Letter to Horace," a close reading of Rilke's poem "Orpheus. Eurydice. Hermes," and a memoir of Stephen Spender. Among the other pieces are Mr. Brodsky's open letter to Czech President Vaclav Havel and his "Immodest Proposal" for the future of poetry, an address he delivered while serving as U.S. Poet Laureate.
In his Nobel lecture, Brodsky declares that "verse really does, in Akhmatova's words, 'grow from rubbish'; the roots of prose are no more honorable"—but the flowering of Brodsky's own prose in these fine essays gives us both thought and language at their noblest.