National Poetry Month – Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda was the adopted name of the Chilean poet Ricardo Eliécer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto (1904 – 1973). He came up with a pen name because his father didn’t approve of his poetry, which Pablo started writing at age ten. Neruda, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971, was considered to be one of the greatest poets of the 20th Century.

Pablo Neruda in Paris, 1971, after being awarded the Nobel prize for literature.

Pablo Neruda in Paris, 1971, after being awarded the Nobel prize for literature.

NPR reported that in 2014, archivists discovered some previously unpublished works by Neruda:

“Forrest Gander, the Brown University professor who translated the poems into English, likens the discovery to finding a trove of new sketches by Michelangelo.”

One of the new poems was a tribute to Neruda’s third wife and muse, Matilde Urrutia. NPR provided an excerpt:

“Never alone, with you
over the earth,
crossing through fire.
Never alone.
With you in the forests,
finding again
dawn’s
stiff arrow,
the tender moss
of spring
With you
in my struggle,
not the one I chose
but
the only one.”

(You can read the full poem and the others recently discovered in the book Then Come Back: The Lost Neruda translated by Forrest Gander.)

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While Neruda was best known for his love poems, he was also a leftist politician and diplomat and close friend of Marxist president Salvador Allende. Neruda died in Chile in 1973, less than two weeks after a U.S.-backed military coup replaced Allende with the brutal dictator Augusto Pinochet.

Allende (left) with Neruda (right)

Allende (left) with Neruda (right)

Neruda, who was 69 and had prostate cancer, had planned to go into exile, where he would have been an influential voice against the dictatorship. A day before his scheduled departure, however, he was taken by ambulance to the Santa Maria clinic in Santiago, where he died, reportedly from “natural causes.” Suspicions that the dictatorship had a hand in his death lingered.

In 2011 a Chilean judge ordered that an investigation be launched pursuant to suggestions that Neruda may have been poisoned by the Pinochet regime. On April 8, 2013, his remains were finally exhumed. While initial tests confirm he had advanced cancer, toxicology studies about possible poisoning were inconclusive.

Then in November of 2015, Chile’s government acknowledged that Neruda might have been killed by “a third party.”

Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda

You can read more about Neruda here, and access his poems here.

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About rhapsodyinbooks

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2 Responses to National Poetry Month – Pablo Neruda

  1. One of my all time favourites! Thanks for posting.

  2. Literary Feline says:

    I really like his poetry. How interesting about his history! I hadn’t known that about his death before. Thank you for sharing!

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