On Grief and Reason is the second volume of Joseph Brodsky's essays, and the first to be published since he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1987. In addition to his Nobel lecture, the volume includes essays on the condition of exile, the nature of history, the art of reading, and the idea of the poet as an inveterate Don Giovanni, as well as a homage to Marcus Aurelius and an appraisal of the case of the double agent Kim Philby (the last two were selected for inclusion in the annual Best American Essays volume). The title essay is a consideration of the poetry of Robert Frost, and the book also includes a fond appreciation of Thomas Hardy, a Letter to Horace, a close reading of Rilke's poem Orpheus. Eurydice. Hermes, and a memoir of Stephen Spender. Among the other essays are Mr. Brodsky's open letter to Czech President Vaclav Havel and his immodest proposal for the future of poetry, an address he delivered while serving as U.S. Poet Laureate. In his Nobel lecture, Mr. Brodsky declared that verse really does, in Akhmatova's words, grow from rubbish; the roots of prose are more horable - but his own prose's flowering in these essays gives us thought and language at their blest.
Joseph Brodsky (1940-96) came to the United States in 1972, an involuntary exile from the Soviet Union. He received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1987 and served as Poet Laureate of the United States in 1991 and 1992.