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About this poet

Born Ricardo Eliecer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto in the town of Parral in southern Chile on July 12, 1904, Pablo Neruda led a life charged with poetic and political activity. In 1923 he sold all of his possessions to finance the publication of his first book, Crepusculario ("Twilight"). He published the volume under the pseudonym "Pablo Neruda" to avoid conflict with his family, who disapproved of his occupation. The following year, he found a publisher for Veinte poemas de amor y una cancion desesperada ("Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair"). The book made a celebrity of Neruda, who gave up his studies at the age of twenty to devote himself to his craft.

In 1927, Neruda began his long career as a diplomat in the Latin American tradition of honoring poets with diplomatic assignments. After serving as honorary consul in Burma, Neruda was named Chilean consul in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1933. While there, he began a friendship with the visiting Spanish poet Federico García Lorca. After transferring to Madrid later that year, Neruda also met Spanish writer Manuel Altolaguirre. Together the two men founded a literary review called Caballo verde para la poesîa in 1935. The outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 interrupted Neruda's poetic and political development. He chronicled the horrendous years which included the execution of García Lorca in Espana en el corazon (1937), published from the war front. Neruda's outspoken sympathy for the loyalist cause during the Spanish Civil War led to his recall from Madrid in 1937. He then returned to Europe to help settle republican refugees in the United States.

Neruda returned to Chile in 1938 where he renewed his political activity and wrote prolifically. Named Chilean Consul to Mexico in 1939, Neruda left Chile again for four years. Upon returning to Chile in 1943, he was elected to the Senate and joined the Communist Party. When the Chilean government moved to the right, they declared communism illegal and expelled Neruda from the Senate. He went into hiding. During those years he wrote and published Canto general (1950).

In 1952 the government withdrew the order to arrest leftist writers and political figures, and Neruda returned to Chile and married Matilde Urrutia, his third wife (his first two marriages, to Maria Antonieta Haagenar Vogelzang and Delia del Carril, both ended in divorce). For the next twenty-one years, he continued a career that integrated private and public concerns and became known as the people's poet. During this time, Neruda received numerous prestigious awards, including the International Peace Prize in 1950, the Lenin Peace Prize and the Stalin Peace Prize in 1953, and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971.

Diagnosed with cancer while serving a two-year term as ambassador to France, Neruda resigned his position, ending his diplomatic career. On September 23, 1973, just twelve days after the defeat of Chile's democratic regime, the man widely regarded as the greatest Latin American poet since Darío, died of leukemia in Santiago, Chile.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

Viente poemas de amor y una cancion desesperada (1924)
Anillos (1926)
Residencia en la tierra (1933)
Espana en el corazon: Himno a las glorias del pueblo en la guerra (1937)
Alturas de Macchu-Picchu (1948)
Canto General (1950)
Los versos del capitan: Poemas de amor (1952)
Las uvas y el viento (1954)
Odas elementales (1954)
Estravagario (1958)
Cien sonetos de amor (1959)
Cantos ceremoniales (1961)
Plenos poderes (1962)
Las piedras de Chile (1961)
Memorial de Isla Negra (1964)
Las piedras del cielo (1970)
El mar y las campanas: Poemas (1973)
La rosa separada (1973)
El corazon amarillo (1974)
Jardin de invierno (1974)
Libro de las preguntas (1974)

Prose

El habitante y su esperanza (1925)
Discurso pronunciado con ocasion de la entrega del premio Nobel de literatura (1971)
Confieso que he vivido: Memorias (1974)
Correspondancia (1980)

Anthology

Paginas escogidas de Anatole France (1924)
Visiones de las hijas de Albion y el viajero mental (1935)
Romeo y Julieta (1964)
Cuarenta y cuatro (1967)

Drama

Fulgor y muerte de Joaquin Murieta: Bandido chileno injusticiado en California el 23 julio 1853 (1967)

Poetry in Translation

Residence on Earth (1962)
The Heights of Macchu Picchu (1966)
Twenty Poems (1967)
A New Decade: Poems, 1958-1967 (1969)
Pablo Neruda: The Early Poems (1969)
Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair (1969)
Selected Poems (1970)
Stones of the Sky (1970)
Neruda and Vallejo: Selected Poems (1971)
The Captain's Verses (1972)
Extravagaria (1972)
New Poems, 1968-1970 (1972)
Splendor and Death of Joaquin Murieta (1972)
Five Decades: A Selection (Poems 1925-1970) (1974)
Fully Empowered: Plenos poderes (1975)
Memoirs (1976)
Pablo Neruda and Nicanor Parra Face to Face (1977)
Isla Negra: A Notebook (1980)
Passions and Impressions (1982)
Windows That Open Inward: Images of Chile (1984)
A Separate Rose (1985)
100 Love Sonnets (1986)
Winter Garden (1986)
The Stones of Chile (1987)
The House at Isla Negra (1988)
The Sea and the Bells (1988)
Late and Posthumous Poems, 1968-1974 (1989)
Selected Odes of Pablo Neruda (1990)
The Yellow Heart (1990)
The Book of Questions (1991)
Spain in the Heart: Hymn to the Glories of the People at War (1993)
Pablo Neruda: An Anthology of Odes (1994)
Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon : Selected Poems of Pablo Neruda (1998)
The Essential Neruda (2004)

The Song of Despair

Pablo Neruda, 1904 - 1973
The memory of you emerges from the night around me.
The river mingles its stubborn lament with the sea.

Deserted like the wharves at dawn.
It is the hour of departure, oh deserted one!

Cold flower heads are raining over my heart.
Oh pit of debris, fierce cave of the shipwrecked.

In you the wars and the flights accumulated.
From you the wings of the song birds rose.

You swallowed everything, like distance.
Like the sea, like time. In you everything sank!

It was the happy hour of assault and the kiss.
The hour of the spell that blazed like a lighthouse.

Pilot’s dread, fury of a blind diver,
turbulent drunkenness of love, in you everything sank!

In the childhood of mist my soul, winged and wounded.
Lost discoverer, in you everything sank!

You girdled sorrow, you clung to desire,
sadness stunned you, in you everything sank!

I made the wall of shadow draw back,
beyond desire and act, I walked on.

Oh flesh, my own flesh, woman whom I loved and lost,
I summon you in the moist hour, I raise my song to you.

Like a jar you housed the infinite tenderness,
and the infinite oblivion shattered you like a jar.

There was the black solitude of the islands,
and there, woman of love, your arms took me in.

There were thirst and hunger, and you were the fruit.
There were grief and the ruins, and you were the miracle.

Ah woman, I do not know how you could contain me
in the earth of your soul, in the cross of your arms!

How terrible and brief was my desire of you!
How difficult and drunken, how tensed and avid.

Cemetery of kisses, there is still fire in your tombs,
still the fruited boughs burn, pecked at by birds.

Oh the bitten mouth, oh the kissed limbs,
oh the hungering teeth, oh the entwined bodies.

Oh the mad coupling of hope and force
in which we merged and despaired.

And the tenderness, light as water and as flour.
And the word scarcely begun on the lips.

This was my destiny and in it was the voyage of my longing,
and in it my longing fell, in you everything sank!

Oh pit of debris, everything fell into you,
what sorrow did you not express, in what sorrow are you not drowned!

From billow to billow you still called and sang.
Standing like a sailor in the prow of a vessel.

You still flowered in songs, you still broke in currents.
Oh pit of debris, open and bitter well.

Pale blind diver, luckless slinger,
lost discoverer, in you everything sank!

It is the hour of departure, the hard cold hour
which the night fastens to all the timetables.

The rustling belt of the sea girdles the shore.
Cold stars heave up, black birds migrate.

Deserted like the wharves at dawn.
Only the tremulous shadow twists in my hands.

Oh farther than everything. Oh farther than everything.

It is the hour of departure. Oh abandoned one.

From Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, by Pablo Neruda, translated by W.S. Merwin, published by Chronicle Books. Copyright © 1969 by W.S. Merwin. Reprinted by permission of W.S. Merwin. All rights reserved.

From Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, by Pablo Neruda, translated by W.S. Merwin, published by Chronicle Books. Copyright © 1969 by W.S. Merwin. Reprinted by permission of W.S. Merwin. All rights reserved.

Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda

Born Ricardo Eliecer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto in southern Chile on July 12, 1904, Pablo Neruda led a life charged with poetic and political activity.

by this poet

poem
There is something dense, united, settled in the depths,
repeating its number, its identical sign.
How it is noted that stones have touched time,
in their refined matter there is an odor of age,
of water brought by the sea, from salt and sleep.
 
I'm encircled by a single thing, a single movement: 
a mineral
poem
In these lonely regions I have been powerful
in the same way as a cheerful tool
or like untrammeled grass which lets loose its seed
or like a dog rolling around in the dew.
Matilde, time will pass wearing out and burning
another skin, other fingernails, other eyes, and then
the algae that lashed our wild rocks,
poem

Furrowed motherland, I swear that in your ashes
you will be born like a flower of eternal water
I swear that from your mouth of thirst will come to the air
the petals of bread, the spilt
inaugurated flower. Cursed,
cursed, cursed be those who with an ax and serpent
came to your earthly