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Thread: The Poetry of Pablo Neruda

  1. #1

    The Poetry of Pablo Neruda

    Cat's Dream

    How neatly a cat sleeps,
    sleeps with its paws and its posture,
    sleeps with its wicked claws,
    and with its unfeeling blood,
    sleeps with all the rings--
    a series of burnt circles--
    which have formed the odd geology
    of its sand-colored tail.

    I should like to sleep like a cat,
    with all the fur of time,
    with a tongue rough as flint,
    with the dry sex of fire;
    and after speaking to no one,
    stretch myself over the world,
    over roofs and landscapes,
    with a passionate desire
    to hunt the rats in my dreams.

    I have seen how the cat asleep
    would undulate, how the night
    flowed through it like dark water;
    and at times, it was going to fall
    or possibly plunge into
    the bare deserted snowdrifts.
    Sometimes it grew so much in sleep
    like a tiger's great-grandfather,
    and would leap in the darkness over
    rooftops, clouds and volcanoes.

    Sleep, sleep cat of the night,
    with episcopal ceremony
    and your stone-carved moustache.
    Take care of all our dreams;
    control the obscurity
    of our slumbering prowess
    with your relentless heart
    and the great ruff of your tail.

    Translated by Alastair Reid
    -----------------------------------------------------

    I bought The House in the Sand today, which gave me the idea of starting this thread. My first contact with Neruda's writings was actually his autobiography, one of the best I've read in my life. But the great introduction to him was in fact the Italian movie The Postman.

    His poetry I discovered some time later. I started with Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, which didn't hold my attention as much as I expected. But I persevered and this new collection of poems seems far more interesting.

    What do people here think of the Chilean poet?

  2. #2
    I love Neruda and I am glad that he won the Nobel Prize. I can recommend his Nobel Lecture http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/l...lecture-e.html

    If You Forget Me

    I want you to know
    one thing.

    You know how this is:
    if I look
    at the crystal moon, at the red branch
    of the slow autumn at my window,
    if I touch
    near the fire
    the impalpable ash
    or the wrinkled body of the log,
    everything carries me to you,
    as if everything that exists,
    aromas, light, metals,
    were little boats
    that sail
    toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

    Well, now,
    if little by little you stop loving me
    I shall stop loving you little by little.

    If suddenly
    you forget me
    do not look for me,
    for I shall already have forgotten you.

    If you think it long and mad,
    the wind of banners
    that passes through my life,
    and you decide
    to leave me at the shore
    of the heart where I have roots,
    remember
    that on that day,
    at that hour,
    I shall lift my arms
    and my roots will set off
    to seek another land.

    But
    if each day,
    each hour,
    you feel that you are destined for me
    with implacable sweetness,
    if each day a flower
    climbs up to your lips to seek me,
    ah my love, ah my own,
    in me all that fire is repeated,
    in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
    my love feeds on your love, beloved,
    and as long as you live it will be in your arms
    without leaving mine


    Stationary Point

    I would know nothing, dream nothing:
    who will teach my non-being
    how to be, without striving to be?

    How can the water endure it?
    What sky have the stones dreamed?

    Immobile, until those migrations
    delay at their apogee
    and fly on their arrows
    toward the cold archipelago.

    Unmoved in its secretive life,
    like an underground city,
    so the days may glide down
    like ungraspable dew:
    nothing fails, or shall perish,
    until we be born again,
    until all that lay plundered
    be restored with the tread
    of the springtime we buried—
    the unceasingly stilled, as it lifts
    itself out of non-being, even now,
    to be flowering bough.
    There is hope, but not for us.

  3. #3
    The puddytat you saw Hawkman's Avatar
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    I've not read any Neruda before and if this is the kind of work he produces I want to read more. A lot more, actually. Thanks for the introduction.
    Oh no, not again...

  4. #4
    Neruda's poetry has many facets. As far as I'm concerned, he was the last great poet of love.

    This is an excerpt from Canto General, a long poem about the history and gepgraphy of South America:

    Arise to birth with me, my brother.
    Give me your hand out of the depths
    sown by your sorrows.
    You will not return from these stone fastnesses.
    You will not emerge from subterranean time.
    Your rasping voice will not come back,
    nor your pierced eyes rise from their sockets.

    Look at me from the depths of the earth,
    tiller of fields, weaver, reticent shepherd,
    groom of totemic guanacos,
    mason high on your treacherous scaffolding,
    iceman of Andean tears,
    jeweler with crushed fingers,
    farmer anxious among his seedlings,
    potter wasted among his clays--
    bring to the cup of this new life
    your ancient buried sorrows.
    Show me your blood and your furrow;
    say to me: here I was scourged
    because a gem was dull or because the earth
    failed to give up in time its tithe of corn or stone.
    Point out to me the rock on which you stumbled,
    the wood they used to crucify your body.
    Strike the old flints
    to kindle ancient lamps, light up the whips
    glued to your wounds throughout the centuries
    and light the axes gleaming with your blood.


    There's also his playful side, from The Book of Questions:

    Tell me, is the rose naked
    or is that her only dress?

    Why do trees conceal
    the splendor of their roots?

    Who hears the regrets
    of the thieving automobile?

    Is there anything in the world sadder
    than a train standing in the rain?


    There's his love poetry, for instance from One Hundred Love Sonnets:

    One time more, my love, the net of light extinguishes
    work, wheels, flames, boredoms and farewells,
    and we surrender the swaying wheat to night,
    the wheat that noon stole from earth and light.
    The moon alone in the midst of its clear page
    sustains the pillars of Heaven’s Bay,
    the room acquires the slowness of gold,
    and your hands go here and there preparing night.
    O love, O night. O cupola ringed by a river
    of impenetrable water in the shadows of Heaven,
    that raises and drowns its tempestuous orbs,
    until we are only the one dark space
    a glass into which fall celestial ashes,
    one drop in the flow of a vast slow river


    And he also wrote some unfortunate poems glorifying the Soviet Union and Stalin in particular:

    To be men! That is the Stalinist law! . . .
    We must learn from Stalin
    his sincere intensity
    his concrete clarity. . . .
    Stalin is the noon,
    the maturity of man and the peoples.
    Stalinists, Let us bear this title with pride. . . .
    Stalinist workers, clerks, women take care of this day!
    The light has not vanished.
    The fire has not disappeared,
    There is only the growth of
    Light, bread, fire and hope
    In Stalin's invincible time! . . .
    In recent years the dove,
    Peace, the wandering persecuted rose,
    Found herself on his shoulders
    And Stalin, the giant,
    Carried her at the heights of his forehead. . . .
    A wave beats against the stones of the shore.
    But Malenkov will continue his work.

  5. #5
    Artist and Bibliophile stlukesguild's Avatar
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    A strong argument could be made for Neruda as the greatest poet of the 20th century. He is certainly worth reading. Especially check out Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, The Captain's Verses, and Residence Earth.
    Beware of the man with just one book. -Ovid
    The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them.- Mark Twain
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  6. #6
    Artist and Bibliophile stlukesguild's Avatar
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    he also wrote some unfortunate poems glorifying the Soviet Union and Stalin in particular

    Yes... and he later regretted this... and admitted as much in some of his later poems. One must remember that flirtation with Communism and the Russian Revolution was part of the efforts toward a greater equality: the labor movement, and the struggle against fascism in Europe... especially Spain. Neruda made the same mistake many have made in assuming that the enemy of one's enemy is one's friend.
    Beware of the man with just one book. -Ovid
    The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them.- Mark Twain
    My Blog: Of Delicious Recoil
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  7. #7
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    Pablo Neruda is fantastic.

    The Soviet Union/Stalin poems seem to be of lower quality than his other writing, and I'm sure it's not just because of the subject matter. If they were his earliest poems, perhaps it has something to do with that?
    Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore

  8. #8
    Asa Nisi Masa mayneverhave's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Riverrun... View Post
    Pablo Neruda is fantastic.

    The Soviet Union/Stalin poems seem to be of lower quality than his other writing, and I'm sure it's not just because of the subject matter. If they were his earliest poems, perhaps it has something to do with that?
    Not necessarily. His early poems were quite good, actually. With Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair published when he was 19/20 to establish his reputation, it wasn't exactly that age could be correlated with quality. He wrote occasional poems, political poems, etc., which were perhaps sub-par (most likely do to them being obligatory), but a poet's complete oeuvre is rarely entirely spotless.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by mayneverhave View Post
    With Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair published when he was 19/20
    I didn't know that. That's very impressive.
    Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by stlukesguild View Post
    he also wrote some unfortunate poems glorifying the Soviet Union and Stalin in particular

    Yes... and he later regretted this... and admitted as much in some of his later poems. One must remember that flirtation with Communism and the Russian Revolution was part of the efforts toward a greater equality: the labor movement, and the struggle against fascism in Europe... especially Spain. Neruda made the same mistake many have made in assuming that the enemy of one's enemy is one's friend.
    As someone with left-wing sympathies, I'm not one to judge Neruda for his support of the Soviet Union. But it has cost him the admiration of many. There are many who only see poet who wrote odes to Stalin and who try to denigrate the rest of his work because of his political sympathies. This article is quite illustrative of what I mean.

  11. #11
    This is according to a creative writing professor:

    Neruda's poems are good, nice, or what have you because they were written by Neruda. Had they been written by an unknown poet, literary critics could have easily dismissed them as too wordy, too cheesy, and too flowery.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by miyako73 View Post
    This is according to a creative writing professor:

    Neruda's poems are good, nice, or what have you because they were written by Neruda. Had they been written by an unknown poet, literary critics could have easily dismissed them as too wordy, too cheesy, and too flowery.
    That sound like bull**** to me.

    I love his early poems, specially his second book "Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair". It is vigorous, poignant, and direct, yet subtle and very original in its imagery and metaphors. The poems express young, passionate, unhappy love perhaps better than any other book of poetry!

    Tonight I Can Write

    Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

    Write, for example, 'The night is starry
    and the stars are blue and 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 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 starry 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 tries to find her as though to bring her closer.
    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. As she was before my kisses.
    Her voice, her bright body. Her infinite 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 soul 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.
    There is hope, but not for us.

  13. #13
    Do an experiment. Pick a not so famous poem of Neruda and have your creative writer friend read it without saying a word that it's Neruda's. You will get the following:

    Too wordy, too cheesy, too flowery.


    If "I kissed her again and again under the endless sky." were written by an unknown poet, do you think it will appear in an anthology? NOPE. Cliche.
    Last edited by miyako73; 07-22-2010 at 02:12 PM.

  14. #14
    Asa Nisi Masa mayneverhave's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by miyako73 View Post
    This is according to a creative writing professor:

    Neruda's poems are good, nice, or what have you because they were written by Neruda. Had they been written by an unknown poet, literary critics could have easily dismissed them as too wordy, too cheesy, and too flowery.
    Well, that kinda presupposes that Neruda was born with a good reputation, which is obviously not the case. It had to be earned.

    THE INSECT

    From your hips to your feet
    I want to make a long journey.

    I am smaller than an insect.

    I go along these hills,
    they are the color of oats,
    they have slender tracks
    that only I know,
    burnt centimeters,
    pale perspectives.

    Here there is a mountain.
    I'll never get out of it.
    Oh, what giant moss!
    and a crater, a rose
    of dampened fire!

    Down your legs I come
    spinning a spiral
    or sleeping en route
    and I come to your knees
    of round hardness
    as to the hard peaks of a bright continent.

    I slide toward your feet,
    to the eight openings
    of your sharp, slow,
    peninsular toes,
    and from them to the void
    of the white sheet
    I fall, seeking blind
    and hungry your contour
    of burning cup!
    (tr. Donald D. Walsh)

    Neruda's poetry embraces his sensual, anti-intellectual sensibilities. Often it verges on the point of being bawdy, but the poetry is always controlled by metaphor and a delicate subtlety.

  15. #15
    Neruda's early love poetry in spanish had its period in chile. If translated to English, it loses its Spanish/Chilean/Latin-American literary vim.

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