a guest blog post by Stephanie DeCosta
Neruda, born Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto, in Chile at the turn of the 20th Century became famous for his poetry from a very young age, having his first work published when he was all of 13. “Pablo Neruda” was the name he used to avoid being found out by his father, who did not approve of his son’s writing aspirations. This pen name is believed to have been a combination of Czech Poet Jan Neruda and French Poet Paul (or Pablo) Verlaine. Despite his father’s disapproval, Neruda continued to write under his pen name, and eventually adopted it as his legal name. His illustrious and varied career not only included verse, journalism, and other writing, but also diplomatic office, political leadership, and international negotiator and peace-maker. He wrote in a variety of styles, including surrealist poems, historical epics, overtly political manifestos, a prose autobiography, and erotically charged love poems such as the ones in his collection Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair (1924). He often wrote in green ink, which was his personal symbol for desire and hope.
“… dark smell of seaweed…”
“… blaze of the rose-tree…”
“…pale stones of your fingernails…”
What imagery. What gorgeous, delicious, unique imagery. Pablo Neruda and I are having a love affair—unbeknownst to him. How can you not fall in love with him? I mean, not only is he a poet but just look at the above picture: dark, deep in thought, impeccably dressed. His words wrap around my heart like a velvet sash and tug tight tearing me between emotions. There is SO much that can be done with his work…
- There is a movie about him. Check out http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0110877/ (The Postman: Il Postino). Students can experiment with genre writing and compose a film review.
- I have attached a file called “Pablo Pieces” that has several project outlines which can be used with his work: pablo pieces
- Pablo Neruda wrote surrealist poems; Salvador Dali created surrealist art. Both were alive at the same time as well. Below is one of Dali’s most famous paintings. Students can write an art response OR use this painting as the inspiration for their own poem
Below are my 3 favorite Neruda poems. Students can get into groups to explicate them, deliver a dramatic reading, identify literary devices and create “found” poem based on them.
Perhaps not to be is to be without your being,
without your going, that cuts noon light
like a blue flower, without your passing
later through fog and stones,
without the torch you lift in your hand
that others may not see as golden,
that perhaps no one believed blossomed
the glowing origin of the rose,
without, in the end, your being, your coming
suddenly, inspiringly, to know my life,
blaze of the rose-tree, wheat of the breeze:
and it follows that I am, because you are:
it follows from ‘you are’, that I am, and we:
and, because of love, you will, I will,
We will, come to be.
Carnal apple, Woman filled, burning moon,
dark smell of seaweed, crush of mud and light,
what secret knowledge is clasped between your pillars?
What primal night does Man touch with his senses?
Ay, Love is a journey through waters and stars,
through suffocating air, sharp tempests of grain:
Love is a war of lightning,
and two bodies ruined by a single sweetness.
Kiss by kiss I cover your tiny infinity,
your margins, your rivers, your diminutive villages,
and a genital fire, transformed by delight,
slips through the narrow channels of blood
to precipitate a nocturnal carnation,
to be, and be nothing but light in the dark.
I crave your mouth, your voice, your hair.
Silent and starving, I prowl through the streets.
Bread does not nourish me, dawn disrupts me, all day
I hunt for the liquid measure of your steps.
I hunger for your sleek laugh,
your hands the color of a savage harvest,
hunger for the pale stones of your fingernails,
I want to eat your skin like a whole almond.
I want to eat the sunbeam flaring in your lovely body,
the sovereign nose of your arrogant face,
I want to eat the fleeting shade of your lashes,
and I pace around hungry, sniffing the twilight,
hunting for you, for your hot heart,
like a puma in the barrens of Quitratue.