Joseph Brodsky was born in Leningrad on May 24, 1940. He left school at the age of fifteen, taking jobs in a morgue, a mill, a ship's boiler room, and a geological expedition. During this time he taught himself English and Polish and began writing poetry. His first poems appeared mainly in Syntax, a Leningrad underground literary magazine. In 1964, he was tried and sentenced to five years of administrative exile for the charge of parasitism. As a result of intervention by prominent Soviet cultural figures, he was freed in 1965. In 1972, under tremendous pressure from the authorities, he emigrated to the United States. He wrote nine volumes of poetry and several collections of essays. His works include A Part of Speech, To Urania, Watermark, On Grief and Reason, So Forth, and Collected Poems in English. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1987 and was named poet laureate of the United States, the first poet whose native language was not English to achieve this honor. He died of a heart attack on January 28, 1996.