WATERMARK is an apt title for this splendid collection of thoughts and fugues on the city of Venice, a place where Brodsky returned yearly for seventeen years and where in the solitude of the winter months in this most desirable of tourist destinations he composed some of his best poetry and translations. Brodsky's title refers to the repeated traces (watermarks) the sea makes on the canals and decaying buildings of Venice, like pages from a book of history or of poetry, or a novel. He writes extended soliloquies about the surfaces of the water in the canals and in the surrrounding sea that softly and surely continues to submerge Venice. He also writes colloquies of conversations with Ezra Pound's widow and the subsequent memories and opinions of that controversial figure. His rambling discourses while strolling the narrow streets that follow the canals inevitably to the sea are rich in observation and philosophy. His love for Venice is always palpable. '...the whole city, especially at night, resembles a gigantic orchestra, with dimly lit music stands of palazzi, with a restless chorus of waves, with the falsetto of a star in the winter sky. The music is, of course, greater than the band, and no hand can turn the page.'
Joseph Brodsky is at his finest in much of this small volume. For those who love Venice by association or by dreams of history and the music of Vivaldi, Bellini, and the art of Tiepolo or Titian, this collection of reveries is a must. Elegant, charming, stimulating, and nostalgic.