Pablo Neruda: Biography, Love Poems & Facts

Instructor: Megan Pryor

Megan has tutored extensively and has a Master of Fine Arts Degree in Fiction.

In this lesson we will explore the life and work of Pablo Neruda, a famous poet who is especially well-known for his love poems. After a look at his life, we will look at his work, several specific poems, and a few fun facts about him.

Introduction

If you're into poetry, especially love poems, you might have heard of Pablo Neruda. If you haven't, don't worry. This lesson will tell you what you need to know. Pablo Neruda was a Chilean poet and politician. He was originally named Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto, but changed his name legally. Over the course of his writing career, Neruda became well-known for his sometimes explicit love poems and also his political writing. One of the highlights of his career came in 1971 when he won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Biography

Writing

When Pablo Neruda started writing poetry as a teenager, he probably did not foresee the legend he would become in either Chile or the world. He did change his name, though, to honor the Czech poet Jan Neruda.

Pablo Neruda As A Young Man
Photograph of Pablo Neruda

Pablo explored many genres, including surrealist poetry, historical epics, political writing, autobiography, and love poems. Pablo Neruda earned the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a world-renowned contemporary of Pablo Neruda's, even went as far as to call Neruda 'the great poet of the 20th century in any language'. Many people recommend reading Pablo Neruda's poems in the original Spanish if possible, since they think they lose some of their meaning when translated; however, even his poems that have been translated to other languages are well-respected and considered great works of literature.

In addition to winning the Nobel Prize for Literature, Neruda also won several other awards, including, but not limited to, the International Peace Prize in 1950, the Lenin Peace Prize, and the Stalin Peace Prize in 1953.

Politics

Neruda's writing and political self were inextricably linked. In July 1945, Neruda gave a reading to 100,000 people. The reading was dedicated to Luis Carlos Prestes, the Communist revolutionary leader. Neruda was a member of the Chilean Communist party and even represented the party as a senator. Due to his political ideology, Pablo Neruda had a warrant issued for his arrest in 1948. He spent months in hiding before escaping from Chile. Before being driven into hiding, Neruda also held diplomatic positions, following in the footsteps of many other Latin American poets.

Death

Pablo Neruda eventually developed cancer. He was hospitalized, but died just a few days later from heart failure. Against orders from the Chilean dictator at the time, Augusto Pinochet, Chileans flooded the streets to mourn Pablo Neruda's death.

Poetry

Overview

Neruda wrote extensively. His complete works total over 3,000 pages. Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair is Pablo Neruda's most famous collection of poetry. Neruda's love poems are considered particularly evocative because he combines the traditional elements of love poetry (such as relationships and feelings between two people) and mixes them with his relationship to Chile and the wilderness.

One of Pablo Neruda's other most well-received texts is his book of poetry Residence on Earth, which explores his experience as a diplomat. The work deals with his sense of isolation and meaningless as a diplomat, a position for which he was not emotionally ready. This book also contains a lot of his political poetry, including a long poem titled 'The Furies and the Penalties' which is in part about the Spanish Civil War.

Poem XVII

The following is one of Pablo Neruda's most famous poems:

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,/or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off./I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,/in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms/but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;/thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,/risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

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