Thursday, December 06, 2007

Twenty Love Poems

I received a beautiful book for my birthday.
Twenty Love Poems and A Song of Despair.
The poetry of Pablo Neruda.
I started going through these poems today and I am finding them to be just amazing.
Gorgeous things. Of course, they were originally written in Spanish and so this is a translation. Especially in the realm of poetry, anything translated, suffers. Yet even in English, there is a resonance and beauty in these verses.
The first paragraph of the Foreword, written by Stephen Dobyns, moved me to a place just this side of tears. Dobyns writes:

A friend of mine, a Catalan poet, has told me that he once heard Pablo Neruda read his poetry in Venezuela in the 1960’s to an audience of well over six hundred people. When Neruda finished, there were requests from the audience. The first was for Poem 20 from Veinte poemas de amor y una cancion desesperada. The poem begins in W.S. Merwin’s translation, “Tonight I can write the saddest lines” (Puedo escribir los versos mas tristes esta noche). Neruda apologized. He had not brought that particular poem with him. “At which point,” my friend said, “four hundred people stood up and recited the poem to him.”

See… If such a scene were mine, which is to say, if my own poetry were ever to elicit such an en masse response by my readers, I feel I would then be able to die with an equanimity and peace which I currently do not possess.
Then again, (and herein lies a conundrum), simultaneously, I would want to live, and to go on living, all the more.



Stefanie said...

I've got that Neruda book. Different edition though. It has both the Spanish and English, does yours? Neruda is a wonderful poet and this book is especially good. What a great birthday present. Enjoy!

cipriano said...

Stefanie, this one only has the English translation... it is beautiful stuff though, bridging the languages, as it does.
Do you read Spanish?
If so... I must hate you, I am afraid!
No, just kidding. Envy, more like it.

Merisi said...

If my memory does not betray me, the poem "Puedo escribir los versos mas tristes esta noche" was written by Neruda as a very young man, 19 years, maybe his first ever. I watched a black and white home movie with him reciting this poem during a 100th birthday party that friends of his held ín Washington in 2004. I have the book "Neruda. On the Blue Shore of Silence" autographed by many of these friends on that evening, like Antonio Skarmeta, Alastair Reid, Edith Grossman, Volodia Teitelbaum. I was in Neruda heaven that evening. :-)