Jan 16 2013

Pablo Neruda – Poetry

Published by at 10:12 am under Poetry

Poetry
by Pablo Neruda

English version by Anthony Kerrigan

And it was at that age… Poetry arrived
in search of me. I don’t know, I don’t know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don’t know how or when,
no, they were not voices, they were not
words, nor silence,
but from a street I was summoned,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among violent fires
or returning alone,
there I was without a face
and it touched me.

I did not know what to say, my mouth
had no way
with names
my eyes were blind,
and something started in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
deciphering
that fire
and I wrote the first faint line,
faint, without substance, pure
nonsense,
pure wisdom
of someone who knows nothing,
and suddenly I saw
the heavens
unfastened
and open,
planets,
palpitating planations,
shadow perforated,
riddled
with arrows, fire and flowers,
the winding night, the universe.

And I, infinitesimal being,
drunk with the great starry
void,
likeness, image of
mystery,
I felt myself a pure part
of the abyss,
I wheeled with the stars,
my heart broke free on the open sky.

— from Pablo Neruda: Selected Poems, by Pablo Neruda / Translated by Anthony Kerrigan


/ Photo by futurowoman /

The autobiography of a poet and his art.

And it was at that age… Poetry arrived
in search of me.

It isn’t that he sought poetry but, rather, that poetry sought him. He was simply watching the world. In watching, he lost himself–

there I was without a face
and it touched me.

–and poetry came to him.

Every art beneath its surface craft is about seeing. And true seeing requires selflessness. (I use seeing in the widest sense of deep perception. Music and hearing fit comfortably within my definition of “seeing” too.) The ego-self always — always — colors and fogs our vision. Deep art requires stepping free from the ego’s blinders, to see honestly and fully. The ancient schools would say, only when we see — without self — do we have something to say. Only then is the artist ready.

and something started in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
deciphering
that fire

The path of the artist is also the path of awakening.

Egolessness, spiritual awakening, and art… This raises an obvious question: Why then do so many great artists embody just the opposite, exhibiting immense egos and imbalanced lives? Not everyone is taught to approach their art as a path of clarity and awakening, but there is still the artist’s desperate need to see beyond the limits of the ego. The result is that each artist develops his or her own unique way to lurch briefly free from ego to catch those pure moments of inspiration and vision.

and suddenly I saw
the heavens
unfastened
and open,
planets,
palpitating planations,
shadow perforated,
riddled
with arrows, fire and flowers,
the winding night, the universe.

But such an aggressive, chaotic approach becomes traumatic for the awareness, and the individual must then counterbalance by reinforcing the ego once again. This also explains why too many visionaries and artists turn to drink and other narcotics: to cope with these violent swings of consciousness.

Better to learn meditation and stillness and patience. Most of all, one must know the naked self. That’s how to stand whole before the immense vision.

Actually, you don’t just stand there, you step into it — a fulfillment, an overflowing, an expansion, a merging.

And I, infinitesimal being,
drunk with the great starry
void,
likeness, image of
mystery,
I felt myself a pure part
of the abyss,
I wheeled with the stars,
my heart broke free on the open sky.

That mystery then seeks you out, your arm, your hand, and the pen it holds.

and I wrote the first faint line,
faint, without substance, pure
nonsense,
pure wisdom…






Pablo Neruda, Pablo Neruda poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Pablo Neruda

Chile (1904 – 1973) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

More poetry by Pablo Neruda

12 responses so far

12 Responses to “Pablo Neruda – Poetry”

  1. Vera valsechion 16 Jan 2013 at 1:17 pm

    That is one of my favorite poems ever. It reminded me of THE POSTMAN, a film where Neruda is depicted as a major poet, living in Italy at the time. Precious!

  2. simonbaghon 16 Jan 2013 at 2:02 pm

    we are nothing but an upshot of a resurrection
    having faith in nothing we gain inner salvation

  3. simonbaghon 16 Jan 2013 at 2:11 pm

    we are nothing, but an upshot of resurrection
    believing in being nothing is way to salvation

  4. Jennyon 16 Jan 2013 at 2:16 pm

    My very favorite Neruda poem. Just reading it is like stepping into eternity.

  5. Bob Corbinon 16 Jan 2013 at 7:02 pm

    Now i see why why some people who write poems insist that they are not poets, but mere makers of rhymes. Neruda was a poet!

    Incidentally, i have tried to make a small donation to poetry chaikhana but Pay Pal will not accept my credit card. Any way i could send cash?

  6. Madathil Nairon 17 Jan 2013 at 3:16 am

    This is the second time this poem has appeared at chaikhana. I had translated it to my native Malayalam when it was posted first. Many liked the translation, although there were some who thought Neruda was inscrutable. Yet, the charm of his words enchanted them.

    This is the part I like most:

    “I don’t know how or when,
    no, they were not voices, they were not
    words, nor silence,
    but from a street I was summoned,
    from the branches of night,
    abruptly from the others,
    among violent fires
    or returning alone,
    there I was without a face
    and it touched me.”

    What could that “branches of night” be!? It is stupid to ask such questions when one is listening to a genius.

    Incidentally, I remember the first version you published, which I translated, was a little different. Was that a different translation?

  7. Carol Burnson 17 Jan 2013 at 5:43 am

    Thank you again, Ivan.

    I was not familiar with this poem, but have become so. . . Beautiful and compelling,
    sweeping us along so our. . ‘ heart breaks free on the open sky’

  8. Ivan M. Grangeron 17 Jan 2013 at 9:09 am

    Bob –
    I’ve had one other person recently say they couldn’t make a donation through PayPal. I haven’t figured out what the issue is. But, yes, you can always mail in donations, as well, at:

    Poetry Chaikhana
    PO Box 2320
    Boulder, CO 80306

    Every donation genuinely does help – thanks!

    Ivan

  9. fuzzy tomon 17 Jan 2013 at 3:58 pm

    A charming commentary by Iwan, of Pablo’s work – pure nonsense, pure wisdom. This commentary no doubt unfastened this poem and left it on the open sky but it struck me with a semlblance of my awakening in poetry and poems.
    Good insight, Iwan!

  10. Zoe Durga Harberon 17 Jan 2013 at 7:42 pm

    This is a beautiful poem. It is written in such a way as to demonstrate the state of mind he describes. Neruda, who is a master of poetry, writes like a beginner, someone who is new to poetry, does not know the ropes. He personifies in the voice of the poet the newness the awesomeness the sense of wonder that often accompanies the first mystical encounters. The fragments of sentences and non-completed thoughts, the lack of reference, as if caught in the midst of what can only be understood by being there. the self referrals as if he were observing self rather then being self. He continually presents the “not”-ness – not this, not that – the nothing, without substance. He gives a sense of complete abandon, the words of his poem seem to be the original words, the first word to spring into the mind, not worked over, looked over, but, like the experience of finding our creator, spontaneous and fresh. It feels uncorrected, simple, a sense of allowing all the parts of his self to co-exist – just as he describes the experience to be for him.
    I particularly like the lines “an I made my own way….and I wrote the first faint line,”
    This is such a wonderful expression of the triumph of knowing you are truly on the path – have found your path, and ,such as it is, it is magnificent in the freedom it reveals.

  11. Pegon 19 Jan 2013 at 9:20 am

    I love that first part where the poet has no face, no mechanics to create a voice. Then, the tentative steps to begin. Beautiful! Jane Kenyon did it for me. I was reading her poems in a rocking chair in spring in front of a huge picture window with the shadows of leaves speaking to me from the walls. I felt the expanse of the universe, but it wasn’t till a few years later that I made my first conscious travels into the cosmos. It is difficult now to write poetry, words fall so short anymore, lying in a heap at lights feet.

  12. Rena Navonon 21 Jan 2013 at 12:23 am

    Just having bought my apartment, I take cautious steps into its untried definitions of space. So does the poet in his new poem hesitatingly begin writing. Neruda is so generous to give those less than him the truth about his feelings of smallness in the dimensions of poetry. We less than him would not be so humble. His statement confirms my belief that a poet always is beginning all over again at the opening of each poem and never has the security of fame or name to fall back on. Isn’t that challenge its fiercesome beauty and constant creativity its high price?

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply