Monday, June 9, 2014

Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda

Title: Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair
Author: Pablo Neruda
Original Publication Date: 1924
Pages: 70

Neruda does not play with the intangible. He does not waste words with the abstract. One simply needs to read and take in the pure and stark versification of the sensualities of life, both in love and lust.

Neruda’s distinct style in poetry is easily distinguishable.

First, his work is intuitive of the austere beauty of nature and his Chilean roots. The verses are reflective of the uncompromising beauty of the environment that he has witnessed in his formative years. The poems allude to the vastness of the pines, the heart of summer, sweet blue hyacinths, still ponds, barren lands, and white bees.

“I will bring you happy flowers from the mountains, 
dark hazels, and rustic basket of kisses.”
(74, Poem XIV)

Second, Neruda also leads us to enjoy the sweetness existing in realm of the senses. He fearlessly incorporates love and lust in his verses.

“My somber heart searches for you, nevertheless,

And I love your joyful body, your slender and flowing voice.”
 (75, Poem XIX)

“Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.”
(77, Poem XX)

But to read and consume these two aspects of his poetry in a compartmentalized manner would be an affront to why Gabriel Garcia Marquez called Neruda “the greatest poet of the 20th century in any language."* Neruda combines the sensual experience of the individual with the beauty of the natural and the reader is treated to a union unlike any other.

“Body of a woman, white hills, white thighs

You look like a world, lying in surrender.
My rough peasant’s body digs in you
and makes the son leap from the depth of the earth.”
(3 Poem I)

“I go so far a to think that you own the universe.
I will bring you happy flowers from the mountains,
dark hazels, and rustic basket of kisses.
I want
to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.”
(74, Poem XIV)

* The fragrance of guava: Conversations with Gabriel García Márquez.

I did not give a short introduction on Neruda reserving most of my comments later on for a review on his memoirs.

My copy is bilingual, a Spanish-English translation by W.S. Wermin, which definitely polished my rusting Spanish speaking skills.

The same copy is infused with Pablo Picasso’s works like this,

You get the idea that it seeks to perhaps contribute to the general them of the book, but I have no sound knowledge if this was sanctioned or approved by Neruda in its first translated printing in 1969, five years before he died, or whether the same pictures accompanied the first print in Chile in 1924, or if it appeared only in this copy published by Penguin Books.

This book forms part of my remarkably extensive reading list on Nobel Prize for Literature Laureates

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