Thursday, March 7, 2019

Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: I Explain a Few Things

My book for Book Beginnings is I Explain A Few Things: Selected Poems by Pablo Neruda. It includes more than fifty poems spanning Neruda's career, translated into English by various poets and printed alongside the Spanish.

The introduction says: The title comes from a defining poem in Neruda's book Third Residence, usually incorporated into the more ambitious Residence on Earth. A benchmark in the Chilean oeuvre, it is a manifesto renouncing the romantic tonalities of Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair and an embrace of the type of ideological poetry with which he would be identified for the rest of his life. In it Neruda is at his most domestic -- it has a house as its leitmotif -- while also striving to confront the impact of the Spanish Civil War on him and his entire generation. The personal and the universal are juxtaposed in just the exact way. It is, undoubtedly, one of my own favorite poems. The title also encompasses Neruda's humble approach to art, making it heartfelt and confessional, a journey of self-discovery. Plus, it articulates his moral dilemma in appropriate fashion: how can one make art out of tragedy?

I think it will take me a few months to finish this. I started several other books this week, so I will feature one of those next week (and probably the week after that). This is one of my books for my Classics Club list.

The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda's Voice
For the Friday 56: page 56 has the last few lines at the end of a long poem, I have included the last stanza beginning on page 55:

From France, and Okinawa, and the atolls 
of Leyte (Norman Mailer has written it out) 
and the infuriated air and the waves, 
almost all the men have come back now, 
almost all . . . The history of mud and sweat 
was green and sour; they did not hear 
the singing of the reefs long enough 
and perhaps never touched the islands, those wreaths of 
     brilliance and perfume, 
except to die: 
                    dung and blood 
hounded them, the filth and the rats, 
and a fatigued and ruined heart that went on fighting. 
But they have come back,
                                         you have received them 
into the immensity of the open lands 
and they have closed (those who came back) like a flower 
with thousands of nameless petals 
to be reborn and forget.

This is a poem about the United States (I Wish the Woodcutter Would Wake Up), selected from the collection Canto General (poems 1938-49).


  1. I have always had trouble reading Neruda, though I have tried several times. My quotes for Unsheltered

  2. I haven't read anything by Pablo Neruda, but this collection looks interesting. Thanks for mentioning it.

  3. I haven’t read any poetry in ages - I used to love it ��A lovely choice! Happy Friday! X

  4. Thanks for sharing this poem that says so much. Here's mine: “I OWE YOU ONE”

  5. I've read Pablo Neruda's poetry. It can make a huge difference who the translator was, so it is great they included the Spanish.

    1. I can't read all of the Spanish yet, but I can understand some of it. Working on it!

  6. I've heard of the poet but hadn't seen his work before. I can see why reading this one will take some time. This week I am featuring Murder in Belgravia by Lynn Brittney from my review stack. Happy reading!

  7. I read some Neruda poems back in uni. Hope you're enjoying them.

  8. Not for me, but I appreciate it just the same. Happy weekend!

  9. I'm not familiar with the author, but I hope you're enjoying it. :)

  10. One of the lists I'm working on is winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature. This book would b a good Neruda pick for me.

    Thanks for joining us for Book Beginnings!


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