self-educated high-school dropout, he was charged with "social parasitism"
at age 24 and spent 18 months in a labor camp in the Union of Soviet Socialist
Republics (USSR). In 1972, seven years after his release, Brodsky was exiled
from the USSR. He became a United States citizen in 1977. A major collection
of his poetry, Selected Poems, was published in English translation in
1973, followed by A Part of Speech in 1980. A volume of essays, Less Than
One, received the National Book Critics Circle Award in criticism for 1986;
History of the Twentieth Century, a book of poems, was published the same
year. To Urania and Watermark were published in 1992.
While living in New York City and teaching literature
part of the year at Mount Holyoke College, Brodsky was awarded a MacArthur
Foundation grant in 1981. In 1987 he received the Nobel Prize in literature;
he was the second youngest person to be so honored. Among the important
influences on his work were classical Russian, English metaphysical, and
modern Polish poetry, as well as such writers as Marcel Proust, W. H. Auden,
and Herman Melville. Brodsky was named U.S. poet laureate in 1991.