I first heard the name ‘Pablo Neruda’ while I was watching the movie ‘The motocycle diaries’, an epic of Ernest [Che] Guevara’s latin American travels. I had learnt to appreciate Guevara’s references and so I quickly looked up Pablo Neruda on Google.
When I read these lines:
Tonight I can write the saddest lines, I loved her and sometimes she loved me too
-Poem: Tonight I can write the saddest lines
I felt that there was something in the way the man had put his words together that affected me so deeply. I sought out the slightest hint of dishonesty, of ego in the man’s lines but I found none. How could someone manage to expose their whole being in two very sad lines. I was hooked.
I want to do with you what spring does with cherry trees
-Poem: Every Day You Play
His lines trigger thought, they stop you in your tracks and force you to contemplate them, they demand to be consumed attentively. Neruda wrote his first poems in 1914, when he was only 10 years old. Neruda hadn’t always been known as Neruda however, he was born Ricardo Eliécer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto but used Pablo Neruda as his pen name. Later, Pablo Neruda became his legal name and he went on to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971.
Born in Chile, Neruda wrote his poems in Spanish but his works have been translated elegantly into English and needless to say, into many other languages. His way with words even earned him diplomatic status; he served in Buenos Aires and Barcelona as a Chilean diplomat.
from "Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon"
Full woman, fleshly apple, hot moon,
thick smell of seaweed, crushed mud and light,
what obscure brilliance opens between your columns?
What ancient night does a man touch with his senses?
Loving is a journey with water and with stars,
with smothered air and abrupt storms of flour:
loving is a clash of lightning-bolts
and two bodies defeated by a single drop of honey.
Selected Poems translated by Stephen Mitchell (1997)
Neruda’s poetry avoids most poetic cliches, it expresses honesty without sacrificing dignity and manages to affect the reader almost effortlessly.
Mutsinzi is majoring in Computer Science. He likes reading, listening to music and creating.