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  Philologica 3 (1996)  
   
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A. L. BEGLOV

JOSEPH BRODSKY:
THE MONOTONY OF POETIC SPEECH
(Based on the Material of his Iambic Tetrameters)

 
 
 


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Summary

This article is devoted to one of the most specific features of Brodsky’s poetry. A reader and, all the more so, a listener who hears this poet reciting his verses, is often astonished by the unusual monotony of his speech: it appears as if its stream, subordinated to nothing but its own laws, captivates the author himself. This peculiarity cannot be completely put down to his manner of recitation: this phenomenon is also conditioned by some objective formal characteristics which pertain to Brodsky’s poetic language.

Although the variations in iambic tetrameters is quite considerable in Brodsky, one can see a distinct similarity in the structure of all his rhythmic types; this similarity lies in a significant difference between the maximum and the minimum of the proportion of stresses on the first three ictuses. This contrasting rhythm of frequently- and unfrequently-stressed feet is caused by a highly frequent use of some rhythmic forms and the very rare use of other forms. It is clear that the concentration of identical rhythmic forms itself provides a high level of monotony which, however, does not only depend on the proportion of particular rhythmic variations, but also on their combinations. In this respect, Brodsky is the most monotonous poet in Russian. In many of his works, homogeneous lines can form extended groups of 10 to 15 lines. In other poets, such massifs of uniform lines are also found, but they are much less frequent and never reach the same level as in Brodsky. Besides, in his forerunners, monotonous fragments are, more often than not, semantically relevant, whereas in Brodsky, leanness and repetition of forms are a neutral background. In the former case, rhythm is controlled by the poet; in the latter, the poet is controlled by the rhythm: Brodsky, who more than once talked of a poet as a tool of language, was himself possessed by the melody of his own speech.

 


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