Saturday, January 15, 2011

Josephy Brodsky: "An Immodest Proposal"

"In my view, books should be brought to the doorstep like electricity, or like milk in England: they should be considered utilities, and their cost should be appropriately minimal. Barring that, poetry could be sold in drugstores...

"Now, poetry is the supreme form of human locution in any culture. By failing to read or listen to poets, a society dooms itself to inferior modes of articulation—of the politician, or the salesman, or the charlatan—in short, to its own. It forfeits, in other words, its own evolutionary potential, for what distinguishes us from the rest of the animal kingdom is precisely the gift of speech. The charge frequently leveled against poetry—that it is difficult, obscure, hermetic, and whatnot—indicates not the state of poetry but, frankly, the rung of the evolutionary ladder on which society is stuck.

"For poetic discourse is continuous; it also avoids cliché and repetition. The absence of those things is what speeds up and distinguishes art from life, whose chief stylistic device, if one may say so, is precisely cliché and repetition, since it always starts from scratch. It is no wonder that society today, chancing on this continuing poetic discourse, finds itself at a loss, as if boarding a runaway train..."

The following address was delivered at the Library of Congress, October 1991
From 'On Grief and Reason: Essays' by Joseph Brodsky

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