Friday, May 20, 2016

Saturday Show and Tell

As a result of doing the April challenge, I wanted to write a regular feature, but about a cross-section of things that illuminate my life. Hence - Saturday Show and Tell - a showcase of things each week that lit up my brain and fired my imagination. Enjoy!

Selected Poems - Pablo Neruda, translation by Ben Belitt

So, Pablo Neruda made poor political decisions and alliances, probably reactionary decisions based on wars during his young life. Well, Allande was a good choice, but Stalin was not. He also raped a woman. He was not a man that I'd probably invite to dinner, unless I had already read his poetry. Then, I would invite him. Is that wrong? Probably. I don't know much about the rape. I know he admitted to it in a piece he wrote (that I haven't read), but I don't know if showed remorse or made reparations or anything. I just know what I read in the introduction to this book and his Wikipedia page. He did acknowledge, later in his life, that Stalin was not the hero he thought. He was Chilean, traveled the world (often on the run), Neruda is a pen name because his father would be disappointed, and he won a Nobel.

by M. Behroozi

The man was an exceptional poet. First, I didn't know that there was such a thing as surreal poetry. All poetry feels surreal, isn't that what makes it powerful? As I've said before, I'm new to poetry. I hated it as a kid. My mother loved it, and that was enough for me to think it was the worst. (Want your kids to hate something? Love it and try to get them to love it, too.) There is a poem about celery in here. I thought at first it was an allusion to something else, and I'm still not convinced it isn't, and I think that's what makes it wonderful. I read a piece of it to my husband because I was in awe and needed to see if he reacted the same way. Neither of us comprehended the meaning of what I was reading, but it didn't matter because the language was above that.

Don't believe me? Let me show you.

This, the celery's signature, its firefly
taste, its cartography
soaking in colors:
its head droops, angelically green,
its delicate scallops of despair;
its celery feet range the market-stalls
in the day's mutilation, sobbing:
doors close at its passing
and delectable horses kneel down.

Second, I can not conceive of translating poetry. It's tricky enough to write it in my native language with my own brain, but a translator reads it and writes it and reads someone else's mind to do it. That's magic, and if Neruda wrote even part of what this translator says he did - then wow! a punctual nutriment, like smoke in the air:
force in repose, the volatile power in the oil...

Third, instead of quoting all of my favorite passages from this book, (I will slip them in to other posts for the rest of my life. How could I not?) I will simply suggest you find a copy and read it. Slowly. I'm having trouble getting to the end because I keep going back to re-read what I've already read. Remember that the man who wrote these words was assassinated. He was already dying, but Pinochet thought politics more important than poetry.

...a velvety fruit falls into our mouths from the sky,
comets and birds and conventual bells:
only those who grow fat on geometry, perfect and
it may be, saw us twinkle in passing.

If you have a favorite Pablo Neruda poem, I'd love for you to share in the comments!

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