As failures go, attempting to recall the past is like claiming to grasp the meaning of existence. Both make one feel like a baby clutching at a basketball: one's palms keep sliding off.

Time can be an enemy or a friend.

To put it in plain language, Russia is that country where the name of a writer appears not on the cover of his book, but on the door of his prison cell.

Beginning a poem, the poet as a rule doesn't know the way it's going to come out, and at times, he is very surprised by the way it turns out, since often it turns out better than he expected; often his thought carries further than he reckoned.

There is nothing odder than to apply an analytical device to a synthetic phenomenon: for instance, to write in English about a Russian poet.

It is well to read everything of something, and something of everything.

Americans have been tremendously fortunate in poetry, regarding both the quantity and quality of poetry produced. Unfortunately, it remains in schools and universities; it is not widely distributed.

Bookstores should be located not only on campuses or on main drags, but at the assembly plant's gates, also.

Poetry is not an art or a branch of art: it's something more.

I started to write when I was eighteen or nineteen. However, until I was about twenty-three, I didn't take it that seriously.

The longer you stay skeptical, doubtful, intellectually uncomfortable, the better it is for you.

Reduced... to a crude formula, the Russian tragedy is precisely the tragedy of a society in which literature turned out to be the prerogative of the minority.

English is the only interesting thing that's left in my life.

What we regard as Evil is capable of a fairly ubiquitous presence if only because it tends to appear in the guise of good.

No man-made system is perfect, and the system of oppression is no exception. It is subject to fatigue, to cracks, which you are the likelier to discover the longer your term.

Although I am losing my Soviet citizenship, I do not cease to be a Russian poet.

I simply loved all my life; loved is too strong a word, but I had a tremendous sentiment, partly conditioned, of course, by the reality of where I grew up, for the spirit of individualism, for the idea of your being on your own in a big way.

I had been imprisoned three times and had twice been incarcerated in a madhouse.

I haven't shifted language. I'm writing in English because I like it. I'm a sucker for the language, but the good old poems I'm still writing in Russian.

I am a patriot, but I must say that English poetry is the richest in the world.

On the whole, infinity is a fairly palpable aspect of this business of publishing, if only because it extends a dead author's existence beyond the limits he envisioned, or provides a living author with a future he cannot measure. In other words, this business deals with the future which we all prefer to regard as unending.

Yevtushenko is a high member of his country's establishment, and he lies terribly about the United States to his Russian readers.

I am no parasite.

Prison is, indeed, a translation of your metaphysics, ethics, sense of history and whatnot into the compact terms of your daily deportment.

What paradise and vacation have in common is that you have to pay for both, and the coin is your previous life.

To have another life, one ought to be able to wrap up the first one, and the job should be done neatly.

No matter how daring or cautious you may choose to be, in the course of your life, you are bound to come into direct physical contact with what's known as Evil. I mean here not a property of the gothic novel but, to say the least, a palpable social reality that you in no way can control.

I do not believe in political movements. I believe in personal movement, that movement of the soul when a man who looks at himself is so ashamed that he tries to make some sort of change - within himself, not on the outside.

Mandelstam was, one is tempted to say, a modern Orpheus: sent to hell, he never returned, while his widow dodged across one-sixth of the earth's surface, clutching the saucepan with his songs rolled up inside, memorizing them by night in the event they were found by Furies with a search warrant. These are our metamorphoses, our myths.

I don't suppose that I know more about life than anyone of my age, but it seems to me that, in the capacity of an interlocutor, a book is more reliable than a friend or a beloved.

It is a virtue, I came to believe long ago, not to make a meal out of one's emotional life. There's always enough work to do, not to mention that there's world enough outside.

The surest defense against Evil is extreme individualism, originality of thinking, whimsicality, even—if you will—eccentricity.

This is the generation whose first cry of life was the Hungarian uprising.

If one's fated to be born in Caesar's Empire, let him live aloof, provincial, by the seashore...

Weaknesses have a certain function in a poem... some strategy in order to pave the reader's way to the impact of this or that line.

What concerns me is that man, unable to articulate, to express himself adequately, reverts to action. Since the vocabulary of action is limited, as it were, to his body, he is bound to act violently, extending his vocabulary with a weapon where there should have been an adjective.

The unbearableness of the future is easier to face than that of the present if only because human foresight is much more destructive than anything that the future can bring about.

This assumption that the blue collar crowd is not supposed to read it, or a farmer in his overalls is not to read poetry, seems to be dangerous if not tragic.

When you have those two languages - an analytic one like English and a synthetic, very sensual thing like Russian, you get almost a psychotic sense of humanity that permeates nearly everything. It can help you understand, and it can discourage you, because you see how little can be done.

Prison is essentially a shortage of space made up for by a surplus of time; to an inmate, both are palpable.

What I like about cities is that everything is king size, the beauty and the ugliness.

The eye identifies itself not with the body it belongs to but with the object of its attention.

What gets left of a man amounts to a part. To his spoken part. To a part of speech.

Any dispute in matters of taste usually results in a standoff.

The concept of historical necessity is the product of rational thought and arrived in Russia by the Western route. The idea of the noble savage, of an inherently good human nature hampered by bad institutions, of the ideal state, of social justice and so forth - none of these originated or blossomed on the banks of the Volga.

My intention is to write poems. That's what I've been doing most of my life.

Contrary to popular belief, the outskirts are not where the world ends - they are precisely where it begins to unfurl.

A writer is defined by the language in which he writes, and I would stick to that definition.

Believe your pain.' This awful bear hug is no mistake. Nothing that disturbs you is. Remember all along that there is no embrace in this world that won't finally unclasp.