January 3, 1891 (January 15, New Style) saw the birth of one of Russia’s most subtle, exquisite, complex, and insightful poets – Osip Mandelstam. A strange man – half mad, quarrelsome, and considered unpleasant by some – he was also a remarkable genius.
Mandelstam was not an easy man to get along with. He was an abrasive fault-finder who lived much of his life in penury. Before being arrested and sent into exile, he was denied the right to publish. He lost his mind from desperation and horror, all the while continuing to write poetry of stunning grandeur.
Despite being plagued by terror of the regime, he boldly tore into Stalinism with lines like
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