October 20, 2017

Book Review: Twenty Love Poems and A Song Of Despair

AUTHOR: PABLO NERUDA
BOOK TITLE: TWENTY LOVE POEMS AND A SONG OF DESPAIR
PUBLISHER: JONATHAN CAPE , LONDON
YEAR: 2004 (FIRST PUBLISHED 1969)
PAGES: 65
RATING: 4.5

Pablo Neruda’s Twenty love poems and a song of despair is one of the best selling collections of love poems worldwide. Twenty love poems… is Pablo Neruda’s third collection of poems and the acclaim with which it was greeted on publication (when Neruda was just 20 years old) has endured helping to establish this book of twenty one poems as the most celebrated and admired books of love poems ever published. Venerated as one of the best and unarguably the most prolific Latin American poet of the Twentieth Century, Pablo Neruda (real name Ricardo Reyes Bosoalto) was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971.

The poems in this collection plumb every emotional depth and cover a vast emotional land mass. They are lyrical, moving, tender and endearing explorations of love. At once explicit and engaging, the poems in this collection never slip into mawkish sentimentality because they are imbued with a peculiar emotional intensity that is ennobling. Pablo Neruda’s love poems are veritable celebrations of love and womanhood and this celebration takes diverse forms.

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Some of the poems celebrate the land of his birth, which in the hands of a poet like Pablo Neruda become poems for a loved one. The woman is one with the earth; sustaining and fecund:

“My rough peasant’s body digs in you
And makes the son leap from the depth of the earth” (p.9)

Others speak of intense love and painful absence. In poems that fall into this category, Neruda speaks of the pain not of love that is over but the excruciating pain of separation; of love hamstrung and magnified by distance:

“I love you still among these cold things
Sometimes my kisses go on those heavy vessels
That cross the sea towards no arrival” (p.53)

The poems speak also of love that festers like a raisin in the sun because it is unrequited. They also speak of love that has run its course but which lingers in the heart like a ghost because as the poet sings:

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“Love is so short, but forgetting is so long” (p.59)

There are poems here too which speak of love so intense it is akin to a possession and also of love that will be but which has not yet budded as the poet cries:

“Oh let me remember you as you were before you existed.” (p.41)

When you read the last line from the poem, “Everyday you play” where Neruda writes:
“I want to do to you what spring does with the cherry trees” (p.43) you will understand why Pablo Neruda is a maestro, why these poems have endured through the ages and why you must give this book as an enduring gift of love in this season of romance.

Radi8
InnJoo Reborn

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