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The Essential Neruda: Review

Book Reviews

The Essential Neruda: Selected Poems

“dan cristal a cristal, sangre a la sangre,
y dan vida a la vida las palabras.”

“words give glass-quality to glass, blood to blood,
and life to life itself.” (P152)

Of all the books I want to read, books of poetry are somewhere near the bottom of the list. Having written poetry myself, I’ll admit this is somewhat mystifying, but while I occasionally enjoy writing it as an outlet, I find I often dislike the ambiguity that comes with trying to interpret someone else’s poetic turn of phrase. It is for exactly this reason that poetry made the category list for #nonficbingo2018 – to push me out of my comfort zone.

While browsing the Poetry section in my local public library, I came across The Essential Neruda: Selected Poems. Having studied Spanish in the past, I was intrigued. I made myself read the Spanish aloud as I went through these, to hear the rhythm of Neruda’s phrasing, which is, in fact, quite beautiful.

Many of Neruda’s poems center around nature, the struggles of everyday people, the wonders of life, and (of course) love/sex. He also has a series of poems for Machu Picchu. His poems are at times, wandering, and deeply evocative. Reading Neruda, I found, puts me in a rather wistful and contemplative state.

I noticed a couple fun tidbits regarding the selections included in this anthology: doves (palomas) and foam (espuma) are frequently recurring. Also, he seems to like the idea of fullness and curves combining, and I’m not sure if this is because of the sexual undertones, the beautiful way the words sound together (because they really do), or both. 😉

Here are two examples:

Colmas la curvatura del silencio.”

“You overflow the curvature of silence.” (P104, emphasis mine)

“tu cadera
es la curva colmada
de la copa,”

“your hip
is the curve of the wineglass,
filled to the brim,” (P130, emphasis mine)

I am definitely a fan of the curva colmada word combo now. It just rolls off the tongue. Read that second snippet (“tu cadera…“) out loud and try to tell me the cadence and alliteration of it isn’t simply brilliant.

If you speak or have studied Spanish, and have an interest in poetry, I would highly recommend The Essential Neruda.


I thought this passage was beautiful (if a little melancholy):

“Poco a poco y también mucho a mucho
me sucedió la vida
y qué insignificante es este asunto:
estas venas llevaron
sangre mía que pocas veces vi,
respiré el aire de tantas regiones
sin guardarme una muestra de ninguno
y a fin de cuentas ya lo saben todos;
nadie se lleva nada de su haber
y la vida fue un préstamo de huesos.
Lo bello fue aprender a no saciarse
de la tristeza ni de la alegría,
esperar el tal vez de una última gota,
pedir más a la miel y a las tinieblas.”

“Little by little, and also in great leaps,
life happened to me,
and how insignificant this business is.
These veins carried
my blood, which I scarcely ever saw,
I breathed the air of so many places
without keeping a sample of any.
In the end, everyone is aware of this:
nobody keeps any of what he has,
and life is only a borrowing of bones.
The best thing was learning not to have too much
either of sorrow or of joy,
to hope for the chance of a last drop,
to ask more from honey and from twilight.” (P174)


Non Fiction Bingo 2018 Progress

#nonficbingo2018 keeps shaking its curvy hips on down the road!

nonfiction bingo 2018 the essential neruda


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