Happy Birthday, Pablo

Ricardo Eliezer Neftali Reyes Basoalto was born on this day in 1904 in Parral, Chile. He wanted to be a poet, but his family disapproved, especially his father (his mother died when he was 2 months old), so he wrote under a pseudonym, Pablo Neruda, in honor of the Czech poet Jan Neruda. Others encouraged him, including a teacher, Gabriela Mistral (who became the first Latin American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature). He honored the poet Walt Whitman as an influence.

Poets.org writes that “he sold all of his possessions to finance the publication of his first book Crepusculario (Twilight).” Neruda won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. A life-long defender of social justice, he was close to Chile’s President Salvador Allende. On September 11, 1973, Allende died in a military coup by General Pinochet. As Neruda’s home was being ransacked by armed forces, Neruda told them “Look around—there’s only one thing of danger for you here—poetry.” Already seriously ill, he died twelve days later on September 23.

Poetry Arrived from http://www.poetseers.org

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 plantations,
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.

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