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Drinking too many coffees with the great Russian poet Joseph Brodsky


It was 1974 and tension was high between the Soviets and Americans. The dissident poet Joseph Brodsky and the dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov met in New York and had a lot to talk about

I first met the poet Joseph Brodsky at a dinner in New York in early autumn 1974. I had just escaped from the Soviet Union, and he had been thrown out of the country two years before. After the dinner we went to a café in Greenwich Village. I remember drinking so many espressos – something I wasn’t used to – that I couldn’t fall asleep afterwards because of the heartbeat.

Actually the heartbeat was not only due to the coffee. “I think we have a lot to talk about,” said Joseph. We did. We both came from Leningrad and had many friends, acquaintances and experiences in common. We talked about where I had lived during my 10 years in Leningrad, and Joseph knew every spot. He was fascinated by architecture – specifically the canals, arches, bridges and Italianate palaces of Leningrad refracted into abstraction by the ripples of the Neva River. I remember his eyebrows going up when I said my last apartment had been near the Hermitage, just across the Moika River from the house where Pushkin lived and died. He said, with an ironic grin: “And we left all that beauty…”

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