The Essential Neruda: Selected Poems

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New translations of Neruda's most important poems, gathered to celebrate the centennial of his birth.

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New translations of Neruda's most important poems, gathered to celebrate the centennial of his birth.

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Editorial Reviews

The Bloomsbury Review
"The call for a more accessible collection of Neruda's important poems is answered with City Lights' The Essential Neruda, a 200-page edition that offers 50 of Neruda's key poems. The editors and translators know how to extract gold from a lifetime of prolific writing. If you want a handy Neruda companion and don't know where to begin, this is it."
From The Critics
"What better way to celebrate the hundred years of Neruda's glorious residence on our earth than this selection of crucial works - in both languages! - by one of the greatest poets of all time. A splendid way to begin a love affair with our Pablo or, having already succumbed to his infinite charms, revisit him passionately again and again and yet again." – Ariel Dorfman
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780872864283
  • Publisher: City Lights Books
  • Publication date: 4/1/2004
  • Language: Spanish
  • Edition description: Bilingual
  • Pages: 200
  • Sales rank: 141,322
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda is regarded as the greatest Latin American poet of the 20th century. Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1971, his breadth of vision and wide range of themes are extraordinary, and his work continues to inspire new generations of writers. Mark Eisner, poet and translator, is a Visiting Scholar at Stanford University´s Center for Latin American Studies. He has wandered and worked throughout Latin America from Cuba to Chile for years and is currently directing and producing a documentary film on Pablo Neruda.


Pablo Neruda (1904-1973), whose real name is Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto, was born on 12 July, 1904, in the town of Parral in Chile. His father was a railway employee and his mother, who died shortly after his birth, a teacher. Some years later his father, who had then moved to the town of Temuco, remarried Doña Trinidad Candia Malverde. The poet spent his childhood and youth in Temuco, where he also got to know Gabriela Mistral, head of the girls' secondary school, who took a liking to him. At the early age of thirteen he began to contribute some articles to the daily "La Mañana," among them, Entusiasmo y Perseverancia -- his first publication -- and his first poem. In 1920, he became a contributor to the literary journal "Selva Austral" under the pen name of Pablo Neruda, which he adopted in memory of the Czechoslovak poet Jan Neruda (1834-1891). Some of the poems Neruda wrote at that time are to be found in his first published book: Crepusculario (1923). The following year saw the publication of Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada, one of his best-known and most translated works. Alongside his literary activities, Neruda studied French and pedagogy at the University of Chile in Santiago.

Between 1927 and 1935, the government put him in charge of a number of honorary consulships, which took him to Burma, Ceylon, Java, Singapore, Buenos Aires, Barcelona, and Madrid. His poetic production during that difficult period included, among other works, the collection of esoteric surrealistic poems, Residencia en la tierra (1933), which marked his literary breakthrough.

The Spanish Civil War and the murder of García Lorca, whom Neruda knew, affected him strongly and made him join the Republican movement, first in Spain, and later in France, where he started working on his collection of poems España en el corazón (1937). The same year he returned to his native country, to which he had been recalled, and his poetry during the following period was characterized by an orientation towards political and social matters. España en el corazón had a great impact by virtue of its being printed in the middle of the front during the civil war.

In 1939, Neruda was appointed consul for the Spanish emigration, residing in Paris, and, shortly afterwards, consul general in Mexico, where he rewrote his "Canto general de Chile," transforming it into an epic poem about the whole South American continent, its nature, its people and its historical destiny. This work, entitled Canto general, was published in Mexico 1950, and also underground in Chile. It consists of approximately 250 poems brought together into fifteen literary cycles and constitutes the central part of Neruda's production. Shortly after its publication, Canto general was translated into some ten languages. Nearly all these poems were created in a difficult situation, when Neruda was living abroad.

In 1943, Neruda returned to Chile, and in 1945 he was elected senator of the Republic, also joining the Communist Party of Chile. Due to his protests against President González Videla's repressive policy against striking miners in 1947, he had to live underground in his own country for two years until he managed to leave in 1949. After living in different European countries he returned home in 1952. A great deal of what he published during that period bears the stamp of his political activities; one example is Las uvas y el viento (1954), which can be regarded as the diary of Neruda's exile. In Odas elementales (1954-1959) his message is expanded into a more extensive description of the world, where the objects of the hymns -- things, events and relations -- are duly presented in alphabetic form.

Neruda's production is exceptionally extensive. For example, his Obras completas, constantly republished, comprised 459 pages in 1951; in 1962 the number of pages was 1,925, and in 1968 it amounted to 3,237, in two volumes. Among his works of the last few years can be mentioned Cien sonetos de amor (1959), which includes poems dedicated to his wife, Matilde Urrutia, Memorial de Isla Negra, a poetic work of an autobiographic character in five volumes, published on the occasion of his sixtieth birthday, Arte de pajáros (1966), La Barcarola (1967), the play Fulgor y muerte de Joaquín Murieta (1967), Las manos del día (1968), Fin del mundo (1969), Las piedras del cielo (1970), and La espada encendida.

Pablo Neruda died in 1973.

© The Nobel Foundation 1971

Good To Know

Always a political activist, Neruda was an anarchist for a time, but joined the Communist Party of Chile in 1945. He actually ran for president of Chile but eventually left the race to support Salvador Allende.

He had three wives throughout his lifetime: Mar a Antonieta Hagenaar, Delia de Carril, and Matilde Urrutia. He married Mar in 1930, but they divorced in 1936. He lived with Carril from the 1930s until they divorced in 1955 (they married in 1943). In 1966, he married Urrutia.

Neruda owned three homes in Chile that are open today as museums: "La Chascona" in Santiago, "La Sebastiana" in Valpara, and "Casa de Isla Negra" in Isla Negra, where he and his third wife, Matilde Urrutia, are buried.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto (real name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      July 12, 1904
    2. Place of Birth:
      Parral, Chile
    1. Date of Death:
      September 23, 1973
    2. Place of Death:
      Santiago, Chile

Read an Excerpt

Prefatory Note by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

There have been many Pablos in history, and Pablo Neruda is one to exceed Picasso in the prolific production of great works, as well as in the depths of his proletarian empathies.

I met this Pablo in the Hotel Havana Libre (once the Havana Hilton) in 1959 in the first days of revolutionary euphoria, and that night he spoke his poetry to several thousands of multi-ethnic Fidelistas (still in combat clothes) in the great government hall where the late dictator had held forth. His rapport with the masses was evident in every poem he spoke (with standing ovations), just as poems in this book speak to us all, Spanish-speaking or not.

Neruda had told me before the reading, "I love your wide-open poetry" — by which he meant, I believe, the poetry of the Beat Generation that we had published in San Francisco and some of which had been published in translation in Lunes de Revolucion (the Monday literary supplement to the big daily).

And I answered, "You opened the door." I hope this edition will open the door for the greater American public (who needs these messages).

Lawrence Ferlinghetti San Francisco, January 2004
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Table of Contents

Body of woman 3
Inclined in the afternoons 5
I like you when you're quiet 7
I can write the saddest verses 9
Dead Gallop 13
Oneness 17
Ars Poetica 19
System of Gloom 21
The Phantom of the Cargo Ship 23
It Means Shadows 29
Only Death 33
Barcarole 37
Walking Around 43
Ode With a Lament 47
Entrance Into Wood 51
Autumn Returns 55
There's No Forgetting (Sonata) 59
I Explain Some Things 63
The Heights of Macchu Picchu ä
From air to air 69
Powerful death 71
And then on the ladder 75
Climb up with me 79
Stone upon stone 85
Down through the blurred splendor 89
Rise up and be born with me 91
The United Fruit Co 95
To everyone, to you 99
The Great Ocean 103
The Potter 107
Ode to a Chestnut On the Ground 109
Ode to the Book (II) 115
Ode to a Watch In the Night 123
Ode to Wine 129
The Fable of the Mermaid and the Drunkards 135
The Great: Tablecloth 137
Full woman, carnal apple 141
I don't love you as if you were a rose 143
The Poet's Obligation 145
The word 149
The Sea 155
The People 157
Poetry 167
Those Lives 171
October Fullness 175
There Is No Clear Light 179
Insomnia 183
The Future Is Space 185
Right, comrade, it's the hour of the garden 189
The Egoist 193
Winter Garden 197
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2007

    Gracias a la Vida de Pablo!

    M. Eisner has compiled an elegant presentation and translation of the profound Pablo's soulful echo. The translations are smooth and majestic. He has clearly discovered the light radiating from Neruda's heart. Thank you for this lovely red poppy spanish/english edition!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2013

    I found this book to contain the best translations of Pablo's or

    I found this book to contain the best translations of Pablo's original Spanish into English, and truly a well selected compilation, spanning his entire career. Great as an entrance into Pablo, great if you've already dwelled in him for years. And truly, a wonderful gift. The collaboration is so cohesive and rich, from a US Poet Laureate, Robert Hass, as one of the seven or so translators, to the legendary  Lawrence Ferlinghetti of City Lights not only publishing the book but writing the intro! 

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  • Posted May 9, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Everyone should own Neruda work

    Everyone should own Neruda works, along with Ohio Blue Tips by Jeanne E. Clark, The Photos In The Closet by Daniel E. Lopez, and works by Alison Townsend.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2008

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