Sadly, it got edited out of the programme (though not too surprisingly since they recorded almost fifty minutes for what was, ultimately, only a half-hour show), so I thought I'd share it with you here.
A Russian-American poet and essayist, Joseph Brodsky (1940-1996) was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1972 for alleged "social parasitism".
With the help of W H Auden and others, he settled in the USA, taught at Yale and other universities, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1987 "for an all-embracing authorship, imbued with clarity and poetic intensity", and was made American Poet Laureate in 1991.
Watermark is a long, discursive, essay, that describes the author's feelings about Venice. It would prove little or no use to those one-day tourists who throng the city, because it doesn't tell you even a fraction of what you need to know in order to point your camera in the right direction!
It is about the ideas and the emotions that Venice can arouse in the visitor with the temperament (and time) to watch and listen. It is also, and this is its quiet genius, about how the city shows the writer to himself.
This passage is from a section of the book that especially pleases me because most of our Venetian pilgrimages have been made in wintertime and because, like Brodsky, I am forced to greet each day with a heaped handful of pills!
In winter you wake up in this city, especially on Sundays, to the chiming of its innumerable bells, as though behind your gauze curtains a gigantic china tea-set were vibrating on a silver tray in the pearl-grey sky.Superb!
You fling the window open and the room is instantly flooded with this outer, peal-laden haze, which is part damp oxygen, part coffee and prayers.
No matter what sort of pills, and how many, you've got to swallow this morning, you feel it's not over for you yet.
On Quote... Unquote... I didn't go on to quote (but I can do so here!) a line by Brodsky that, when I read it, summed up – in one sentence – my own feelings about La Serenissima...
Because one is finite, a departure from this place always feels final: leaving it behind is leaving it forever.
Brodksy himself never left Venice 'forever': he rests at peace on the cemetery island of San Michele. Venice-lovers unlikely to be accorded a similar privilege can, instead, comfort themselves by reading Watermark
Image: 'Dawn on the Piazetta San Marco' by Brian Sibley, © 2000.
There are more of our photos of this wondrous city in our flickr collection Visions of Venice