Sunday, March 24, 2013

Literary Passports

I guess that I should clarify my earlier post about not being too keen on poetry.  I should have said that I don’t really care for American poetry.  Because the course I’m currently taking is an “American Literature” one, I sometimes forget that there is a whole world of stories, poems, and essays available to me.

And in the case of world literature, there are actually a number of poets that I adore.

Maybe you’re sitting there and asking “What’s the difference?”   Well, I’m getting to that; however, before I do, let’s look my numero uno when it comes to poetry apart from the United States: Pablo Neruda.

{About the Author} 

In addition to being a splendid poet, Neruda had a riveting life away from the writing desk.  Born and raised in Chile, Neruda began contributing articles to his local paper at just thirteen years old.  In 1924, my favorite of his collections - Veinte Poemas de Amor y una Cancion Desesperada {English translation: Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair} – was published.  He later became a politician, traveling to places like Burma {now Myanmar}, Singapore, and Barcelona.  Eventually, Neruda was given assignment in France, where he penned a socially- and politically-minded collection of poetry called España en el Corazón {English translation: Spain in the Heart}.  Upon returning to Chile, Neruda became an activist protesting against Chile’s President González Videla.  He was forced to live and work underground for two years.  Neruda’s writing continued to inspire and enlighten.  His accomplishments were most notably recognized in 1971 when he was awarded a Nobel Prize

{The Selections for Today’s Discussion}

I’ve chosen two pieces from Neruda. 

The first is Poema XX from Veinte poemas de amor y una cancion desesperada.  This collection is well-known by many as erotic and dramatic.  Neruda was only nineteen at the time it was published, but the poems certainly seem more mature. 

The second is entitled Soneto LXXIX from Neruda’s collection Cien sonetos de amor {English translation: One-hundred Love Sonnets}.  Despite being thirty-six years older than when Veinte poemas... was published, Neruda still manages to capture the sensuality and intimacy of love.

I think they’re best when read in Neruda’s native language of Spanish, but I fully realize that not everyone can read Spanish.  As such, I’m including them in both languages.  Not that the poems need any help in the romance department, but trust me when I tell you that they are the most delicious in Spanish.  But I digress – English will suffice!  {Can’t read Spanish, but wonder what they sound like?  Make a trip to YouTube.  You can find both of these recited in Spanish there!}

{En español}

Poema XX

Puedo escribir los versos más tristes esta noche.
Escribir, por ejemplo: "La noche está estrellada, y tiritan, azules, los astros, a lo lejos".
El viento de la noche gira en el cielo y canta.

Puedo escribir los versos más tristes esta noche.
Yo la quise, y a veces ella también me quiso.

En las noches como ésta la tuve entre mis brazos.
La besé tantas veces bajo el cielo infinito.

Ella me quiso, a veces yo también la quería.
Cómo no haber amado sus grandes ojos fijos.

Puedo escribir los versos más tristes esta noche.
Pensar que no la tengo. Sentir que la he perdido.

Oir la noche inmensa, más inmensa sin ella.
Y el verso cae al alma como al pasto el rocío.

Qué importa que mi amor no pudiera guardarla.
La noche está estrellada y ella no está conmigo.

Eso es todo. A lo lejos alguien canta. A lo lejos.
Mi alma no se contenta con haberla perdido.

Como para acercarla mi mirada la busca.
Mi corazón la busca, y ella no está conmigo.

La misma noche que hace blanquear los mismos árboles.
Nosotros, los de entonces, ya no somos los mismos.

Ya no la quiero, es cierto, pero cuánto la quise.
Mi voz buscaba el viento para tocar su oído.

De otro. Será de otro. Como antes de mis besos.
Su voz, su cuerpo claro. Sus ojos infinitos.

Ya no la quiero, es cierto, pero tal vez la quiero.
Es tan corto el amor, y es tan largo el olvido.

Porque en noches como ésta la tuve entre mis brazos, mi alma no se contenta con haberla perdido.
Aunque éste sea el último dolor que ella me causa, y éstos sean los últimos versos que yo le escribo.

{In English}

Poem 20 

I can write the saddest lines tonight.
Write, for instance: "The night is full of stars, and the stars, blue, shiver, in the distance."
The night wind whirls in the sky and sings.

I can write the saddest lines tonight.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

On nights like this, I held her in my arms.
I kissed her so many times under the infinite sky.

She loved me, sometimes I loved her.
How could I not have loved her large, still eyes?

I can write the saddest lines tonight.
To think that I don't have her. To feel that I have lost her.

To hear the immense night, more immense without her.
And the poem falls on the soul as the dew on the grass.

So what if my love couldn't keep her.
The night is full of stars, and she is not with me.

That's all. In the distance, someone sings. In the distance.
My soul is troubled after having lost her.

As if to bring her near, my eyes search for her.
My heart searches for her, and she is not with me.

The same night that whitens the same trees.
We, we who were, we are the same no longer.

I no longer love her, true, but how much I did loved her.
My voice searched the wind to touch her ear.

Someone else's. She will be someone else's. As it was before my kisses.
Her voice, her white body. Her infinite eyes.

I no longer love her, true, but perhaps I do love her.
Love is so short and oblivion so long.

Because on nights like this I held her in my arms,
my soul is troubled after having lost her.

Although this may be the last ache she causes me,
and this, the last poem I write for her.


{En español}

Soneto LXXIX

De noche, amada, amarra tu corazón al mío
y que ellos en el sueño derroten las tinieblas
como un doble tambor combatiendo en el bosque
contra el espeso muro de las hojas mojadas.

Nocturna travesía, brasa negra del sueño
interceptando el hilo de las uvas terrestres
con la puntualidad de un tren descabellado
que sombra y piedras frías sin cesar arrastrara.

Por eso, amor, amárrame el movimiento puro,
a la tenacidad que en tu pecho golpea
con las alas de un cisne sumergido,

para que a las preguntas estrelladas del cielo
responda nuestro sueño con una sola llave,
con una sola puerta cerrada por la sombra.

{In English}

Sonnet 79

Tie your heart at night to mine, love,
and both will defeat the darkness
like twin drums beating in the forest
against the heavy wall of wet leaves.

Night crossing: black coal of dream
that cuts the thread of earthly orbs
with the punctuality of a headlong train
that pulls cold stone and shadow endlessly.

Love, because of it, tie me to a purer movement,
to the grip on life that beats in your breast,
with the wings of a submerged swan,

So that our dream might reply
to the sky's questioning stars
with one key, one door closed to shadow. 


{The Difference}

What was that?!  Did you just let out a sigh?  If so, you’re not alone.  Every time I read one of Neruda’s love poems, I find myself sighing out of contentment, despair, or nostalgia.  His work is moving and emotional.  It can be swoon-inducing and full of romance.  It can be heart-breaking and scream of loneliness and longing.

In his capabilities at capturing the wild torrent of emotions that are often love, Neruda is not alone.  Many other poets from around the world do this with equal precision and skill.

These poems are a small sample that showcases one of the major differences between American poetry and its foreign counterparts:  Emotionality.

Pieces like Poema XX and Soneto LXXIX display a sleekness and romance that is sometimes hard to find in American poetry.  When I do come across similar modes in American writing, they are often portrayed with a sort of clumsiness.  They are heavy, awkward, and shallow.  Here, however, we glimpse love with softness.  There is certainly passion.  There is certainly mystery.  There can even be despair.  But whatever the emotion is, it is portrayed with an art and grace that masterfully surpasses the best of American poets.

Of course, this is just an exploration of one sort of emotion.  Other emotions – say anger or injustice – work just fine in American pieces.  But for romance or wistfulness, get your passports and library cards ready for a trip outside on our fifty states!

No comments:

Post a Comment