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Baryshnikov/Brodsky

I had to laugh at one point last night, imagining my son at this event – “Baryshnikov/Brodsky” at the Winter Garden. My dear friend Lynn was offered two free tickets and invited me – who could say no to one of the world’s great dancers, though at nearly 70 a tiny bit past his prime, doing something with the work of one of the world’s great poets, a Nobel laureate?

However. This could not have been a more Russian event, melancholy to the core, steeped in the hopeless blackness of human life, and this on a bleak January night. There’s a lovely set, a kind of summer house made of glass; Mikhail enters with suitcase, walks through the house to the stage, sits, takes things out periodically – an alarm clock that rings, a pack of cigs he doesn’t smoke, glasses to read with, a cloth to wrap himself in after he takes off his shirt and rolls up his pants to reveal that still-toned body – and then either he or the voice of Brodsky himself recite poetry in gorgeous Russian with surtitles unrolling above.

And that’s it. The dancer goes in and out of the summer house, sometimes moving a bit with the words, writhing or galloping or grimacing. Lights go on and off. The poetry is stunning though I realized there’s a good reason we need to see poetry on the page, to go back and read lines again to make sense – Brodsky’s words are dense and metaphoric and often very difficult to understand, let alone being unfurled on top of a set while a lovely man moves below them. And often, the words are dark dark dark. A poem called Tragedy – by the end I wanted to hurl myself off the balcony. This was a Jewish writer who nearly starved to death during the Siege of Leningrad, later was denounced by Soviet authorities, sent to a mental institution and then to the Gulag. It’s all there in his rich work.

So I imagined my son seeing this, an aging dancer hardly moving while an obscure and depressing poem is read in Russian and the translation flies by. And I laughed. It was the only laugh of the evening. But – the presentation was beautiful and I am glad I went. Words, great words, and a beautiful man.

I also laughed today – when I was asked to join the committee to help produce the non-fiction collective’s conference in May, I said yes but my participation will be limited because I’m very busy. LOL! This morning I woke up to seven long emails requiring study and answers. It is taking a lot of time. And it will be worth it.

Tuesday night, I went to an event co-produced by my own writing department at U of T and the Editor’s Association of Canada: one of the country’s foremost editors, Martha Kanya-Forstner, in conversation with prize-winning novelist Michael Redhill, whose novel Bellevue Square she steered to a Giller prize. I went with my fellow conference volunteer Kirsten Fogg and met other friends there. My peeps! It was fascinating. The line I will hang above my desk: “Writers most often regret what they don’t cut, not what they do.”

And: “The art is in removing everything that isn’t
essential.”

Yesterday afternoon, Jennifer Turner, the architect of my heavenly kitchen, came by to give me advice on the reno plans. It was very comforting to have her eyes on our ideas – she knows how a house works, how THIS house works. And she thought our ideas were good.

I’m sitting in my study in the sun, fighting a cold. No illness possible – New York next week. Chicken soup, oil of oregano, and mostly, this bright patch of sunshine. And thou. Onward.

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2 Responses to “Baryshnikov/Brodsky”

  1. theresa says:

    Lovely to have been able to see this. One of my favourite books is Brodsky's Water Mark, a beautiful extended essay about Venice. Ravishing…

  2. beth says:

    I thought so much of you and John, knew you would have appreciated it so much – more than I, for sure, though I did appreciate. But I was sharing it with you as I watched. Brodsky is buried in Venice, as I'm sure you know.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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Chris Walks
This blog evolves. It once was about travels. Now it’s a reason to be at the keyboard that I value.

Theresa Kishkan
Theresa Kishkan is a writer living on the Sechelt Peninsula on the west coast of Canada.

I walk on. With my feet, and in my mind as well.

Carrie Snyder
Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.

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