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Selected Poems: Pablo Neruda


The winner of the 1971 Nobel Prize for Literature, Pablo Neruda is regarded as the greatest Latin American poet of the twentieth century. This bilingual edition makes available a major selection of his poems, both in the original Spanish and impressively rendered into English by “his most enduring translator, the poet Ben Belitt” (Robert Creeley).

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The winner of the 1971 Nobel Prize for Literature, Pablo Neruda is regarded as the greatest Latin American poet of the twentieth century. This bilingual edition makes available a major selection of his poems, both in the original Spanish and impressively rendered into English by “his most enduring translator, the poet Ben Belitt” (Robert Creeley).

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Neruda Touch

"Neruda was a kind of King Midas," Gabriel García Márquez once said. "Everything he touched turned to poetry." From his youthful days of insatiable love in Santiago, Chile, through the hermetic loneliness of the Far East to García Lorca and the tragedy of Spain to the heights of Macchu Picchu and, finally, to his "autumn" at Isla Negra, Pablo Neruda was the pure poet of an impure world. His myriad voices came from the earth and the sea, from women and shadows, from death and pollen. He breathed the language he wrote and thereby gave a presence to absence, a density to his emptiness and a voice to the voiceless.

Born Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto in 1904 in the rainy south of Chile, Neruda immediately gravitated to the poetic vein. He was befriended by Gabriela Mistral, the Chilean poet and Nobel Laureate, who secured him a scholarship to study in Santiago. By the age of 20 he had published his second book, Twenty Love Poems and A Song of Despair. Its unabashed sensuality and intense hunger was received with excitement and controversy, affirming his burgeoning talent.

This early fame led to Neruda's appointment to consular posts in Burma, Ceylon, Jakarta, and Singapore over the next five years. Out of this period of extreme loneliness and cultural shock came Residence on Earth, a disturbing voice entirely new to Spanish poetry, dense with enigmatic metaphors, impoverished in spirit and propelled by a mysterious rhythm of life and death.

Following his joyous introduction to the poets of Spain and the subsequent tragedy of the civil war, he returned to Chile. On his way through Peru, a pilgrimage to the ancient heights of Macchu Picchu provoked a transforming vision of the birth of Latin America and his own rebirth, which he explored in his Whitman-inspired work, Canto General.

"The Heights of Macchu Picchu," which is at the core of Canto General, is at once a return to past origins and a renaissance from the Latin American earth. It was written in 1944, at the height of World War II, when the Latin American voice was forging its identity out of and apart from the catastrophes of Europe.

The 12-part poem follows a physical and spiritual journey from the past to the present, from the lost history of Latin America to its dawn of resurgence and from the poet's interior confusion to his union with the lost dead. The language is dense with ambiguity and paradox, ripe with a surreal movement that evades any logic.

The first five sections of the poem are driven by a chaotic hunger for "the exhausted human spring." The darkness and sense of oblivion of Residence on Earth encounter a new world, a "towering reef of the human dawn," that contains a lost unity between man and earth, a place where the kernel of life and death once merged with human civilization.

In his encounter with Macchu Picchu, Neruda proclaims his vision of this formerly concealed world, whose life has suddenly been released. "Rise up with me, American love," he pleads to the earth itself and the dead spirits that once erected the great temple. A new incantatory language emerges with the fresh flow of the earth's elements and an awakening of the depths. It is the heart of Neruda's grand work, where his fresh, symbolic language, his repeated themes of sea and earth, man and history, chaos and meaning are taken to their deepest territories.

In the later years, Neruda continued to travel and to explore new worlds and new voices. One result of this was Odes to Common Things (Odas Elementales), simple celebrations of familiar objects that he made deliberately more accessible for the people of the countryside, to whom he felt obligated.

In the early '50s, Neruda took up residence at Isla Negra on the Chilean coast, where he set out on a poetic journey to explore his own life in the face of his present loves and influences.

In Isla Negra, we find the aging poet reflecting on his life in a simple and direct voice. Written in a series of notebooks that links past and present, Neruda recounts his origins and his continuing love for the world. He progresses from his imagined birth and discovery of the sea, sex, and poetry to the weight of time overtaking his daily life.

The impassioned struggle against chaos from his early poetry is gone, replaced by a surrendering to the inevitable. The enigmatic images and heavy language are replaced by clear, short verse. In taking account of the transformations in his life, he finds memory to be something elusive and unreliable, truth "a firefly in the dark." He is more generous with his spirit and more inquisitive with his questions.

It is impossible to communicate the fertile language, the originality of metaphor, and the sheer poetic expansiveness of Pablo Neruda's work. This must be left to the poetry itself -- of which there is never enough and from which he always opens fresh worlds, as in the opening of the final poem of Isla Negra, "The Future is Space":

El futuro es espacio,
espacio color de tierra,
color de nube,
color de agua, de aire,
espacio negro para muchos suenos,
espacio blanco para toda la nieve
para toda la musica.


The future is space,
earth-colored space,
color of water, air,
black space with room for many dreams,
white space with room for all snow,
for all music.

—Justin Frimmer

"The book is impressive for the number of pieces chose, the good taste of the selections, and above all, the mastery with which Ben Belitt has turned into English someof the finest and most difficult works of the celebrated Chilean poet."
New York Times Book Review
"One of the greatest poets of the Spanish world... also one of the major poets of the twentieth century.... A robust, Whitmanesque surrealism surges forth like a jungle river.... Ben Belitt's translations are inspired."
The New Yorker
"We are not likely to get, in English, a more detailed, subtle, and sympathetic analysis of the complicated and enigmatic poet Pablo Neruda."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802151025
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/28/1994
  • Series: Neruda, Pablo Series
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 1,382,419
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Pablo Neruda
Pablo Neruda
When presenting the legendary Chilean poet Pablo Neruda with the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971, Karl Ragnar Gierow of the Swedish Academy proclaimed, "Neruda is like catching a condor with a butterfly net. Neruda, in a nutshell, is an unreasonable proposition: the kernel bursts the shell."


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

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