I bought this collection of Pablo Neruda’s poetry (translated by Stephen Mitchell) in 2001 and its taken me until now, ten years later, to finish it. This extremely slow pace should not be mistaken for dislike of the book, however. I had not read Neruda’s work before I boughtFull Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon. Traveling Mexico, I was looking for a book in Spanish and English that I could read, enjoy, and practice my Spanish with and I remembered that my Spanish teacher had mentioned this poet’s name in class at one point.
I began reading the book by first reading the poem in Spanish, then in English, then in Spanish again, to begin to get a sense of the poetic phrasing and how the language was translated.
As I began reading, however, I fell in love with each new ode and the way Neruda was clearly in love with life, the universe, and everything. He wrote odes to socks, to birds, to onions, to anything and everything this world has to offer. All of these ordinary things, which he layered with sensual and resonant language, suddenly had new mystical properties. I could not look at the armored artichoke the same way again as I dropped it into a pot to boil.
One would think I would have powered through the book to read every single poem, but the truth was I could not leave my favorite poems behind. This was a book I always had at hand, on a night stand or in my stack of TBR books. No matter what other books I was reading, I always eventually came back to these poems, returning to them like old lovers. I reread my favorites again and again, while every once in a while progressing forward to the another poem, a new favorite to be added to the list.
Now that I’ve finally finished the book, beginning to end, I will still be keeping it close. There is so much beautiful language to revisit and rediscover. This is a book that will probably always be by my side. I love it so.