Saturday, April 11, 2015

Poetry Found Him: Pablo Neruda: National Poetry Month

“It was at that age
that poetry came in search of me.” 

Pablo Neruda, Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair

Poetry found Pablo Neruda, born Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto, at an early age--an age where his father opposed Neftali's poetry writing and politics, but Neftali published his first poems as a teenager under his real name. To escape his father's disapproval, by the time he was 20, he wrote under the name for which he gained universal fame--"the greatest poet of the 20th century in any language," according to novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Not only was he wildly popular as a poet, he became a diplomat and ambassador for his native country, Chile. 

Here are some of his well-known lines:

“Then love knew it was called love. 
And when I lifted my eyes to your name, 
suddenly your heart showed me my way” 

“To feel the love of people whom we love is a fire that feeds our life.” 

“And one by one the nights between our separated cities are joined to the night that unites us."

“Laughter is the language of the soul.” 

“Love is the mystery of water and a star.” 

Pam Muñoz Ryan's fictional biography of Neruda's boyhood and coming of age shows young readers how Neruda overcame his father's opposition and followed his dream. Written in heartfelt poetic prose, The Dreamer, illustrated by Peter Sís, encourages young people to be who they are and use the talents they are given. 

The back matter explains fact and fiction and includes some of Neruda's poetry.

And finally, a caution:

Advice to a Young Woman with Bad Judgment in Men

Pablo Neruda and Shakespeare,
E Barrett Browning and Keats,
Elvis (Costello & Presley)
Wrote of love and its infinite sweets

And its cruelty and heartache and cheating,
Its pain, sure to last evermore.
With such a great love in your life, girl,
Why wouldn’t you show him the door?

He wooed you with promises plenty,
“Red wine for red lips,” so he said.
Not quite the Khayyam--still you bought it--
The words going straight to your head.

Now Nazareth, Joan Jett, and Petty
Sing love’s truer tale to you.
Watch out for poets, my darlin’,
Or they’ll get the better of you.

~Jane Heitman Healy ©2010


  1. I love it, and especially your Advice!

  2. Great poem, Jane! Nice to hear more about Pablo.

  3. Thanks, Catherine. Try out the Munoz Ryan book!

  4. Good advice! Poetry and poets can be dangerous--in politics and for the heart!