Review: The Poetry of Pablo Neruda

Posted 21 September, 2015 by Lianne in Books / 3 Comments

The Poetry of Pablo Neruda
By: Pablo Neruda
Format/Source: Paperback; my copy

“In his work a continent awakens to consciousness.” So wrote the Swedish Academy in awarding the Nobel Prize to Pablo Neruda, the author of more than thirty-five books of poetry and one of Latin America’s most revered writers, lionized during his lifetime as “the people’s poet.” This selection of Neruda’s poetry, the most comprehensive single volume available in English, presents nearly six hundred poems, scores of them in new and sometimes multiple translations, and many accompanied by the Spanish original. In his introduction, Ilan Stavans situates Neruda in his native milieu as well as in a contemporary English-language one, and a group of new translations by leading poets testifies to Neruda’s enduring, vibrant legacy among English-speaking writers and readers today.

Over the years I’d come across an occasional line or poem from Pablo Neruda but sort of delayed in picking up a collection of his works because I didn’t quite know which collection to pick up. After much debate, hours of browsing GoodReads, Indigo, Amazon, etc., I finally settled on picking up this collection; it seems the most complete, and I might as well jump in, right?

I think my favourite poems and poets are either Spanish or Latin American. There’s something sensual and emotional about their poetry, the imagery that they conjure more immediate and profound, the choice of words more appealing to me. I read somewhere that Neruda was influenced partly by Federico Garcia Lorca, my favourite Spanish poet, and reading some of his poems I can see how so. But Neruda’s poetry falls under two primary themes: that of love, and that of the political situation in Latin America during the mid-twentieth century. While some of his most famous poems come from the former theme, I think it’s the latter that got him the Nobel Prize as the reader follows his feelings about what’s going on in his home country and its neighbouring countries. I thought it was interesting to follow them, as well as following the changes in his poetic style.

I have a few favourite poems coming out of this collection, but hands down this familiar poem is probably my favourite:

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

Write, for example,’The night is shattered
and the blue stars shiver in the distance.’

The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

Through nights like this one I held her in my arms
I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.

She loved me sometimes, and I loved her too.
How could one not have loved her great still eyes.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.

To hear the immense night, still more immense without her.
And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.

What does it matter that my love could not keep her.
The night is shattered and she is not with me.

This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance.
My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

My sight searches for her as though to go to her.
My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.

The same night whitening the same trees.
We, of that time, are no longer the same.

I no longer love her, that’s certain, but how I loved her.
My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.

Another’s. She will be another’s. Like my kisses before.
Her voice. Her bright body. Her inifinite eyes.

I no longer love her, that’s certain, but maybe I love her.
Love is so short, forgetting is so long.

Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms
my sould is not satisfied that it has lost her.

Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer
and these the last verses that I write for her.

That one line, “Love is so short, forgetting is so long”, is what gets me here.

Overall I’m glad to have finally gotten around to reading his poetry. I suppose it was overall a good place to check out his poetry as it looks like most of his poems were included in this collection.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Learn more about the author on Wikipedia || Order this book from the Book Depository

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3 Responses to “Review: The Poetry of Pablo Neruda”

    • Nice! I’ve been reading a lot more poetry this year, which is lovely (I seem to have a thing for Romantic poets right now; I have Coleridge sitting on my night table and I have Shelley ordered). If you’re making note of this one, can I also recommend Federico Garcia Lorca? I find his poems absolutely stunning <333

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