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Poetry Friday: Pablo Neruda = Love

A much younger Pablo Neruda – handsome, young poet. I can hear women’s hearts being broken into fragments over this man with the intense gaze.

I discovered Pablo Neruda around 15-17 years ago while I was still a wide-eyed, naive, impressionable graduate student in Psychology – just about ready for romance and the ‘river of words’ cascading from Neruda’s polished lines and glistening verse.

I was just mad about poetry – was breathing it at the same time that I was learning systemic therapy, projective techniques (marveling at the inkblot artwork in the Rorschach test), and taking ownership of my unresolved issues through several hands-on interactive Gestalt therapy workshops. I’ve always derived a certain high from traversing the creative and highly structured narratives – dancing around MANOVA and manipulation of independent variables with my disciplined yet free-floating spirit. My friends are aware of my romance with Neruda and they would indulge me by giving me scraps of his poetry or lovely copies of his book similar to this one I received on my birthday in 1999.

What can I say? I have fabulous soul sisters who know my heart. This week, I shall share a few lines from his Question Book written in 1974 – with all of you, my Poetry Friday friends. Our lovely host is Renee from No Water River who is offering us a Bowl Of Poetry Candy this week. I hope that Neruda’s words would speak to you as they always do to me.

III (p. 175)

Tell me, is the rose really naked

or does it just dress that way?

Why do the trees hide

the splendor of their roots?

Who hears the penance 

of the criminal automobile?

Is there anything in the world sadder

than a motionless train in the rain?

XXXI (p. 185)

Whom can I ask

what I meant to achieve in this world?

Why do I move without wanting to,

Why can’t I stand still?

Why do I roll around without wheels

and fly without feathers or wings?

And how can I talk transmigration

if my bones live in Chile?

XXXV (p. 187)

Won’t our life be a tunnel

between two vague clarities?

Or will it be a clarity

between two shadowy triangles?

Or maybe life is a fish

about to turn into a bird?

Will death be made out of non-being 

or some other more dangerous substances?

XLIV (p. 193)

Where is the child that I was –

inside of me still – or gone?

Does he know I never loved him

or he, me?

Why did we spend so much time

growing up, only to grow apart?

Why didn’t both of us die

when my infancy died?

And if spirit has fallen away from me

why does a skeleton follow me?

How about you, dear friends, when did you discover Pablo Neruda’s poetry?

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

38 comments on “Poetry Friday: Pablo Neruda = Love

  1. A fiction writer, Discovered Neruda in a Craft of Poetry course taught by Galway Kinnell. He played a beautiful, moving recording of Neruda reading.

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  2. I ended up, by chance, taking a poetry class in the summer just because… I needed a few credits for my degree. The teacher fell ill, and another poet, the laureate of Missouri John G. Neihardt took his place. It was a magical time, & he read from all kinds of poets, including Neruda. Then, the movie, Il Postino, which I adore, kept me going. Thanks for bringing him to us, Myra.

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    • Hi Linda, that sounds like a romance-filled summer. I have a recording of Il Postino as well as read by Andy Garcia, Madonna, and a few other artists. Priceless, isn’t it? Just beautiful.

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  3. Pingback: Poetry Friday: A Bowl of Poetry Candy

  4. Hi Myra! Now that’s a man to fall in love with. You have good taste. His words never cease to amaze 🙂 Lovely selections. Thanks for sharing!

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  5. “Is there anything in the world sadder

    than a motionless train in the rain?”

    Sighing with beauty…thank you…

    a.

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  6. Catherine Johnson

    I particularly like the last two lines, no wonder you’re a big fan. Thanks for sharing.

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  7. Thank you for such thoughtful offerings today, Myra! I’ve only read a little Neruda, but will spend some more time with him. I am especially drawn to that last selection today. The child inside YOU, I think, is alive and well – your passion for life and words and your curiosity shine through with every post. (And I always feel smarter after I read them.) ;0)

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    • Dear Robyn, you are truly very kind. Your comment has filled me with ‘childlike joy’ and exuberance this Saturday morning. 🙂

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  8. With the book The Dreamer by Pam Muñoz Ryan and Peter Sís I was introduced to Pablo Neruda… beautiful words to treasure…

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  9. I discovered Neruda thanks to another Myra–Myra Cohn Livingston (mentor to so many of us who write children’s poetry today; being able to study with Myra was such a gift). But I re-discovered Neruda thanks to the book that Julie Paschkis illustrated last year–take a look sometime and see how she integrated his words into her art.

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    • Hi there Janet, so lovely to have you visit us here in GatheringBooks. I have yet to share your lovely books in our site. I should check out more of Myra Cohn Livingston’s work as well, I’m sure she must be a kindred.

      And yes, I have read (and reviewed) Poet of the People by Julie Paschkis for Nonfiction Monday. Truly beautiful.

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  10. “Why do the trees hide the splendor of their roots.” Sigh. I love Neruda. A knitting friend just sent me his “Ode to My Socks” today. The simple odes are among my favorite poems.

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  11. Neruda! And I love that you chose this particular photograph of him – my favorite. How fabulous that you and your friends inscribe such lovely words to look back upon and remember, what stories lie in these inscriptions! I loved these lines in particular, Myra:
    Where is the child that I was –
    inside of me still – or gone?
    I still wonder this…and hope the answer is a resounding YES! even though these bones ache more and more with each passing day….

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    • Tara dearest, you are young, fresh, and beautiful (repeat ad infinitum) Hahahaha. I have quite a number of books such as these with lovely inscriptions, they do render a lovely nuance to the books themselves.

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  12. Thanks for sharing. I love “question” poems.

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    • Hi Liz, me too! Reminds me of Rilke’s “If you can not find the answer within the pages, live the question” – or something similar to that.

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  13. There is such aching beauty in his words. Seeng your treasured bilingual copy makes me think that I really must read them in the orginal…

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    • Hi Marjorie, I took a Spanish course when I was an undergraduate, and I still know a handful of words, but not enough for me to really understand the complexities and subtleties of Neruda’s poetry in the original. I love reading them aloud though, doesn’t matter if I don’t understand a thing, I just relish the words rolling off my tongue.

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  14. I wish I could read his poetry in the original! I can’t remember exactly when I discovered him, but not surprisingly, his food odes got my attention before any of his other work. As Marjorie said, there is an aching beauty in his words, such a depth of feeling, such a different perspective — something that’s always quite strikingly different from that of American poets. He draws from such a deep well of emotion; many American male poets leave me cold because they’re more concerned with “showing off” as wordsmiths, trying to impress with abstractions. Not for me at all.

    It doesn’t surprise me at all that you fell in love with his poetry :).

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    • Oh Jama, you are indeed a soul sister. I also close off when it’s ‘landscaped’ poetry rather than the ‘handcrafted’ ones with soul and verve and free-flowing beauty. Of course it did help that a kindred with glowing eyes and a thoughtful mind introduced Neruda’s poetry to me at the time. *wink wink*

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  15. P.S. Congrats on being selected to be a Cybils Poetry judge!

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  16. Hi Myra! Neruda seems like he must have been hard to resist in person! Do you remember the fashion show inspired by Neruda that I shared last year? It’s wonderful how the arts pollinate other aspects of our lives. Congrats on the judgeship!

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  17. I discovered Neruda in a teaching book by Nancie Atwell. She wrote about having her students write odes like his. I went in search of the odes, and fell in love with all his poetry. Thanks for posting this!

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  18. What a passionate post–and I love that inscription–made me sigh and then burst out laughing. I am only somewhat acquainted with Neruda. When I read his work, I usually feel like this must be what it feels like to take some psychadelic drug!

    This breaks my heart:
    Where is the child that I was –

    inside of me still – or gone?

    Does he know I never loved him

    or he, me?

    Thanks for sharing, Myra!

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  19. I think you know already that I am a Neruda fan! I discovered him around 13 years ago when my best friend, an Italian, had me watch a film in Italian with her, “Il Postino”, the Postman, about Neruda!

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  20. Pingback: Reading in September: A Round Up and AWB Reading Challenge «

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