My book for Book Beginnings
is I Explain A Few Things: Selected Poems
by Pablo Neruda. It includes more than fifty poems spanning Neruda’s career, translated into English by various poets and printed alongside the Spanish.
The introduction says: The title comes from a defining poem in Neruda’s book Third Residence, usually incorporated into the more ambitious Residence on Earth. A benchmark in the Chilean oeuvre, it is a manifesto renouncing the romantic tonalities of Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair and an embrace of the type of ideological poetry with which he would be identified for the rest of his life. In it Neruda is at his most domestic — it has a house as its leitmotif — while also striving to confront the impact of the Spanish Civil War on him and his entire generation. The personal and the universal are juxtaposed in just the exact way. It is, undoubtedly, one of my own favorite poems. The title also encompasses Neruda’s humble approach to art, making it heartfelt and confessional, a journey of self-discovery. Plus, it articulates his moral dilemma in appropriate fashion: how can one make art out of tragedy?
I think it will take me a few months to finish this. I started several other books this week, so I will feature one of those next week (and probably the week after that). This is one of my books for my Classics Club list.
For the Friday 56: page 56 has the last few lines at the end of a long poem, I have included the last stanza beginning on page 55:
From France, and Okinawa, and the atolls
of Leyte (Norman Mailer has written it out)
and the infuriated air and the waves,
almost all the men have come back now,
almost all . . . The history of mud and sweat
was green and sour; they did not hear
the singing of the reefs long enough
and perhaps never touched the islands, those wreaths of
brilliance and perfume,
except to die:
dung and blood
hounded them, the filth and the rats,
and a fatigued and ruined heart that went on fighting.
But they have come back,
you have received them
into the immensity of the open lands
and they have closed (those who came back) like a flower
with thousands of nameless petals
to be reborn and forget.
This is a poem about the United States (I Wish the Woodcutter Would Wake Up), selected from the collection Canto General (poems 1938-49).