Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair

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First published in 1924, Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada remains among Pablo Neruda's most popular work. Daringly metaphorical and sensuous, this collection juxtaposes youthful passion with the desolation of grief. Drawn from the poet's most intimate and personal associations, the poems combine eroticism and the natural world with the influence of expressionism and the genius of a master poet. This edition features the newly corrected original Spanish text, with masterly English translations by ...

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Overview

First published in 1924, Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada remains among Pablo Neruda's most popular work. Daringly metaphorical and sensuous, this collection juxtaposes youthful passion with the desolation of grief. Drawn from the poet's most intimate and personal associations, the poems combine eroticism and the natural world with the influence of expressionism and the genius of a master poet. This edition features the newly corrected original Spanish text, with masterly English translations by award-winning poet W. S. Merwin on facing pages.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This collection of poems, first published by Neruda at the age of 19 in 1924, caused something of a scandal because of its frank and intense sexuality:
``I have gone marking the atlas of your body / with crosses of fire. / My mouth went across: a spider, trying to hide. / In you, behind you, timid, driven by thirst.''

It later became one of Neruda's best-loved works, selling two million copies by the 1960s. Why? With image after arresting image, Neruda charts the oceanic movements of passion, repeatedly summoning imagery of the sea and weather:

``On all sides I see your waist of fog, / and your silence hunts down my afflicted hours; / my kisses anchor, and my moist desire nests / in you with your arms of transparent stone.''

As irresistible as the sea, love is engulfing

``You swallowed everything, like distance. / . . . In you everything sank!''

, but also departs as mysteriously as it arrived, leaving the poet's heart a ``pit of debris, fierce cave of the shipwrecked.'' These unabashedly romantic poems, wonderfully translated by Merwin, are illustrated in this edition by the paintings of Jan Thompson Dicks with aptly Fauvist tones and iconic formality. Dec.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780811803205
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books LLC
  • Publication date: 1/1/1993
  • Series: Cape Editions Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 80
  • Product dimensions: 5.69 (w) x 7.64 (h) x 0.57 (d)

Meet the Author

Pablo Neruda
Neftali Ricardo Reyes, whose pseudonym was to be Pablo Neruda, was born in Parral, Chile, in 1904. He grew up in the pioneer town of Temuco, briefly encountering Gabriela Mistral, who taught there for a time. In 1920 he went to Santiago to study, and the following year published his first collection of poetry, La Cancion de la Fiesta. A second collection, Crepusculario, brought him critical recognition; and in 1924 the hugely successful Veinte Poemas de Amor y una Cancion Desesperada appeared. From 1927 to 1943, Neruda lived abroad, serving as a diplomat in Rangoon, Colombo, Batavia, Singapore, Buenos Aires, Barcelona, Madrid, Paris, and Mexico City. This is the period that saw the publication of the first two volumes of his celebrated Residencia en la Tierra. He joined the Communist Party of Chile after World War II, was prosecuted as a subversive, and began an exile that took him to Russia, Eastern Europe, and China. Already the most renowned Latin American poet of his time, he returned to Chile in 1952. He died there in 1973, having just seen the fourth edition of his Obras Completas through the press. In receiving the Nobel Prize in 1971, he had said that the poet must achieve a balance "between solitude and solidarity, between feeling and action, between the intimacy of one's self, the intimacy of mankind, and the relevation of nature."
W.S. Merwin has published many highly regarded books of poems, for which he has received a number of distinguished awards—the Pulitzer Prize, Bollingen Award, Fellowship of the Academy of American Poets and the Governor's Award for Literature of the state of Hawaii among them. He has translated widely from many languages, and his versions of classics such as The Poem of the Cid and The Song of Roland are standards.

Cristina García is the author of Dreaming in Cuban, which was nominated for a National Book Award.

Biography

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

The Morning is Full

The morning is full of storm in the heart of summer.

The clouds travel like white handkerchiefs of good-bye,
the wind, traveling, waving them in its hands.

The numberless heart of the wind beating above our loving silence.

Orchestral and divine, resounding among the trees like a language full of wars and songs.

Wind that bears off the dead leaves with a quick raid and deflects the pulsing arrows of the birds.

Wind that topples her in a wave without spray and substance without weight, and leaning fires.

Her mass of kisses breaks and sinks,
assailed in the door of the summer's wind.

Es La Mañana Llena

Es la mañana lleno de tempestad en el corazón del verano.

Como pañuelos blancos de adiós las nubes,
el viento las sacude con sus viajeras manos.

Innumerable el corazón del viento latiendo sobre nuestro silencio enamorado.

Zumbando entre los árboles, orquestal y divino,
como una lengua llena de guerras y de cantos.

Viento que lleva rápido robo la hojarasca y desvia las flechas latientes de los parajos.

Viento que le derriba en ola sin espuma y sustancia sin peso, y fuegos inclinados.

Se rompe y se submerge su volumen de besos combatido en la puerta del viento del verano.

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Table of Contents

Introduction vii
I. Body of a Woman 3
II. The Light Wraps You 5
III. Ah Vastness of Pines 9
IV. The Morning Is Full 11
V. So that You Will Hear Me 15
VI. I Remember You As You Were 21
VII. Leaning into the Afternoons 23
VIII. White Bee 27
IX. Drunk with Pines 33
X. We Have Lost Even 35
XI. Almost out of the Sky 39
XII. Your Breast Is Enough 43
XIII. I Have Gone Marking 47
XIV. Every Day You Play 53
XV. I Like for You to Be Still 57
XVI. In My at Twilight 61
XVII. Thinking, Tangling Shadows 65
XVIII. Here I Love You 71
XIX. Girl Lithe and Tawny 75
XX. Tonight I Can Write 77
The Song of Despair 83
Selected Bibliography 91
Suggestions for Further Reading 93
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 10 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2007

    Love poems at their best

    I have read this book many times in either Spanish, my native language or English, my second language and home. I give this book to family and friends and have given it to special women in my life. Thanks Neruda.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2006

    Poet Stephen Barichko Reviews Neruda

    'Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair' is, by far, one of my favorite books by Neruda. I have found that it is not necessarily a favorite because of the maturity of his poetic voice, but because of the honesty of his poetic voice. He writes about love the way everyone thinks about love. He writes of things the way all people think of them privately but will not openly share. I have come to believe that everyone truly thinks in a poetic and artful way, but most do not take the time to give voice to it or just don't have the means to. Neruda writes what we are all thinking--and it takes a great amount of sensitivity to write such simple yet such profound and true poetry. A wonderful book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 13, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Beautiful

    Neruda is magical, his vocabulary is simply delicious. His heart jumps of the page with every word. Simply magnificent!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2007

    Nice Book

    I enjoyed this book to no end. Great reading, beautiful verse.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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