Joseph Brodsky tried to write a poem every Christmas, concentrating the vanishing energies of the year on a day when even unbelievers may be forgiven a twinge of belief—that is what myths are for. Nativity Poems collects the nineteen poems he finished, of which more than half have never been translated into English. [1] Brodsky has been a difficult poet to bring over from Russian—the rhyming forms he favored have fewer and fewer masters in English, and the longer he lived in America the more cocksure he became in his adopted language. In his last books, he was translating without help and writing too many poems directly into English, in which he had a wooden ear as well as a wooden tongue. Poetry, unlike prose, is almost impossible to write in a language not mastered until adulthood.

Nativity Poems is the best book of Brodsky translations since A Part of Speech...

 
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