Guest poem sent in by Aseem
(Poem #1588) At a Lecture
Since mistakes are inevitable, I can easily be taken for a man standing before you in this room filled with yourselves. Yet in about an hour this will be corrected, at your and at my expense, and the place will be reclaimed by elemental particles free from the rigidity of a particular human shape or type of assembly. Some particles are still free. It's not all dust. So my unwillingness to admit it's I facing you now, or the other way around, has less to do with my modesty or solipsism than with my respect for the premises' instant future, for those afore-mentioned free-floating particles settling upon the shining surface of my brain. Inaccessible to a wet cloth eager to wipe them off. The most interesting thing about emptiness is that it is preceded by fullness. The first to understand this were, I believe, the Greek gods, whose forte indeed was absence. Regard, then, yourselves as rehearsing perhaps for the divine encore, with me playing obviously to the gallery. We all act out of vanity. But I am in a hurry. Once you know the future, you can make it come earlier. The way it's done by statues or by one's furniture. Self-effacement is not a virtue but a necessity, recognised most often toward evening. Though numerically it is easier not to be me than not to be you. As the swan confessed to the lake: I don't like myself. But you are welcome to my reflection.
Gotcha. It's so rare to find a truly great poet who's not represented on Minstrels, that discovering that you don't have a single Brodsky poem was an almost electric shock of opportunity. And so, like water pouring into a plug suddenly pulled, this poem. One reason, perhaps, that Brodsky doesn't feature on Minstrels is that most of his best poems are too long to fit on the site (see for example 'A part of speech' or 'Strophes' or 'Lullaby on Cape Cod' or the incredible 'Gorbunov and Gorchakov') - finding something short enough proved quite a task. This poem, written in English in 1995, will do nicely though. For one thing, it expresses brilliantly the sense I always have while reading Brodsky of listening to someone older and infinitely wiser talk - an urge to just shut up and listen. Not that Brodsky ever talks down or lectures (self-effacement, as the poem suggests, is a common theme in his work) but because his words have such an aching yet simple ring of truth that one wishes one could memorise them forever just as one is sure one will have forgotten them tomorrow. Brodsky is not a poet who can be remembered or quoted - his voice is not so easily trapped (In A Part of Speech he writes: "Hence all rhymes, hence that wan flat voice / that ripples between them like hair still moist / if it ripples at all). And yet to read him is to experience a sense of quiet and half-cynical longing that stays with you long after the words of the poem are forgotten. That's why I think the last line of this poem captures Brodsky exactly. To read him is to be a mirror to a truly great intellect, holding on to his images for as long as one can, knowing that once they leave the world will seem strangely blank. Aseem. Biography: http://nobelprize.org/literature/laureates/1987/brodsky-bio.html Joseph Brodsky died on January 28, 1996.