Why I Love Pablo Neruda
For years, I have admired the poetry of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. His sensuous passion for life resonates deeply with me. His poetry, like much of my own, explores love, death, and life’s simple pleasures.
Neruda began writing poetry sometime between the ages of 10 and 13, about the same time I began jotting poems in my journal. In addition to odes and love poetry, he wrote surrealistic poems, political poems, and prose autobiography. While Neruda’s poems were all written in Spanish and translated into English, even in translation it’s easy to sense their tenderness, sensuality, and passion. While reading, one feels a strong undertone of melancholy.
He said that he lived for his poetry and that his poetry nourished everything in his life that he had striven for. As an active poet, Neruda claimed that he fought against self-absorption and was able to settle the debate between the real and the subjective deep within himself. Known as the people’s poet, his words merged public and private concerns. I believe writing is healing, especially when writing about personal subjects but at the same time, others can relate to the subject when universal truths are shared.
Like many creative writers and poets, Neruda was touched by early childhood trauma. His mother died within a month of his birth. This could possibly explain why his poems had an undertone of melancholy. This sort of early trauma can become even more intense as one ages. We can only imagine how he reflected back on childhood, what it was like growing up without his birth mother, and how life could have been different had she not died.
Two years after his mother died, Neruda’s family moved and his father remarried. While not much was written about his stepmother, his father did not inspire the young Pablo to write poetry. In fact, he tried to discourage him. His father didn’t like his poems, which was why Pablo began to publish his poetry using his chosen pseudonym, which we’ve all come to know as Pablo Neruda. At the age of fourteen, he took the name from a magazine without knowing that it was the name of a beloved Czech poet whose monument stood in Prague. By the time Neruda was twenty he had published two poetry books, and became one of Chile’s best-known poets.
I completely relate to what he says in his memoir: the writer’s work has much in common with the work of Arctic fisherman. “The writer has to look for the river, and if he finds it frozen over, he has to drill the hole in the ice. He must have a…