Monday, September 14, 2009

"Any art is essentially a prayer" (Joseph Brodsky)

I am continuing my exploration of Russia through books... I loved Solomon Volkov's extraordinary Saint-Petersburg: A Cultural History, which brings to life many of my heroes such as Dmitri Shostakovich, the dancers of the Marinsky, and Gogol. Volkov also discusses great authors who are little known in the West, such as Mikhail Zoschenko, whose Galosh And Other Stories, with its graphic Soviet-style cover, is poised between the tragi-comedies of Gogol and Bulgakov; it's one of the funniest, most biting and simply best collection of stories I ever read.
Volkov also focuses on one of my favorite poets and freedom icons, Joseph Brodsky - with whom he discusses Russia, poetry, prison and much more in Conversations With Joseph Brodsky. Humorous, heart-wrenching (Brodsky's prison and mental hospital memories) and scholarly, this book is something of a precious encyclopedia.

This fall, I am awaiting two movies with trepidation, and it so happens both have to do with books. Of course, there is the universally anticipated Where The Wild Things Are (do watch the trailer!), based on Maurice Sendak's masterpiece of children literature. But there's also Bright Star (watch the beautiful trailer here). Directed by Jane Campion, who broke my heart with her early features Sweetie and An Angel At My Table, it tells an episode in the life of Keats. And as AUREA regulars know, I am a poetry lover, a verse muncher, a beast of poems.
Magically, I scored an invitation to a preview screening - held up thanks to my Gaynor Minden magnets, the invitation graces my fridge. Tomorrow is the day.
And until then, let's read a passage from Keats's Last Sonnet, which starts with the words "Bright Star!":

The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors:—

21 comments:

Annie said...

Have a great time tomorrow night! I love that quote and the poem.

If Jane said...

!!!! oh mary-laure...you are just so amazing!! ;)) love that you love joseph brodsky and you must tell me (well us!) about the screening!!

xx

Mary-Laure said...

ANNIE - I'm happy you like it; it's a beautiful poem.

IF JANE - I will try to report on the movie.
I love it that you love it that I love Brodsky! Are you also a fan?

Annie said...

Your post is wonderful.

My daughter and I met Joseph Brodsky when he was at Rice University (Houston) on a book tour. What a charmer he was! When he signed my daughter's book, he drew a heart next to her name, though he did not do the same for my book. Of course I have no idea what they may have been saying to each other in Russian.

Mary-Laure said...

ANNIE - OH MY GOD YOU MET BRODSKY!!!! I am beyond envious. I read he was extremely charming and an extraordinary reader/lecturer.
Thank you ever so much for sharing this memory with me!

donna baker said...

Thank you Mary-Laure for the info. I think the best thing I have gained from blogging is all of the new music, movies, books etc. that I didn't know about before. I think I am going to have to live vicariously through you.

Sam said...

Love "Sweetie" and "Angel at my table" - particularly "Angel.." though. ...and wonderful Keats! You'll have a ball tomorrow at the opening. I'm so behind on Russia and Russian literature - these sound like terrific reads!

Laura said...

I read the bright star is you - and agree 100%!
Did you know that France Musique has been having a program abot your dear Ballets Russes? It's everyday at 17:45 Paris time and today's is the 12 episode.

Mary-Laure said...

DONNA - the great things about blogs is that we can all live vicariously through each others' blogs, travel through each others' blogs, learn...

SAM - I'm thrilled you liked those movies. Few people have seen them. Like you, I think I like Angel better.

LAURA - I'll try to catch these shows online - maybe the podcasts are available.

Mel said...

Love the Bright Star trailer!
Can't wait to see it.
-M

Hadley Gets Crafty said...

I, too, am looking forward to Where the Wild Things Are. I hadn't encountered anything about Bright Star, but it does look lovely.

giulia said...

Ah, we have the same taste. Have used this as epigraph & as solace both.

JB was very close to Mikhail Baryshnikov, as you most likely know. (Yes, JB was a charmer & quite the ladies' man. Always better to know one than to be married to one...)

Wonderful news about the opening. I, too, look forward to these films.

ciao!

Susan

Mary-Laure said...

HADLEY - there is just such amazing anticipation about Where The Wild Things Are, it's just crazy.
One month to go!

GIULIA - yes, in the book Brodsky talks about his friend Baryshnikov with a lot of admiration and tenderness, it's quite touching.
You wrote: "JB was a charmer & quite the ladies' man. Always better to know one than to be married to one..." - this made me laugh...
(And Giulia the Cat, you probably know that Brodsky loved cats; the book I read featured many pics of him lovingly holding cats in his arms).

The Seeker said...

What a lovely post!!!
That poem is so beautiful.

xoxo

Beth said...

Hope you enjoyed the screening.

I love Brodsky’s words - your post title. I wrote them down.

apriliniowa said...

Lucky lass you are. I miss my old college town and it's frequent poetry readings.

Mary-Laure said...

BETH - you have NO IDEA how much I enjoyed the movie. It's wonderful.

APRILINIOWA - ah yes, poetry readings are great but scarce in most places...

janis said...

Inspirational post! Thank you Mary-Laure...

Spangler Cummings said...

One reviewer said, "it is a miracle BRIGHT STAR exists"! Have you ever...

Mary-Laure said...

SPANGLER - I'd love to read that review, do you remember where you saw it?...
(BTW, a miraculous film it is indeed)

Angie Muresan said...

I adore Joseph Brodsky's work. It's amazing what some people go through without having the evil enter their soul, isn't it? I had a spring and summer love affair with Russian literature. Like an old lover, it makes me crave the feelings inside me, only it can awaken.