Pablo Neruda and the Quest for Surrender

by Elie, Managing Editor
__________________________________________________________________________________________

NATIONAL POETRY MONTH
4/2 - Richard Siken Tells Me We'll Never Get Used To It, by Po, EIC
4/3 - William Carlos Williams: This Is Just To Say, by Layah, CD
4/4 - We Are All Writers On the Same Dreadful Typewriter 
as Allen Ginsberg, by Jenny, EE
4/5 - Pablo Neruda and the Quest for Surrender, by Elie, ME

The first time I ever fell in love with a poet was in winter. I was going out of my mind in the white snowbanks of northern New Jersey during the in-between lull of college semesters. To alleviate my boredom, I would trek out to a sprawling Barnes & Noble bookstore a mere twenty-minute drive away, where I’d spend hours attempting to write poems and stories, all the while incessantly battling the overhead speakers playing Diana Vickers on repeat.

During one such visit, I found myself strolling along the poetry section tucked away in a neglected corner of the first floor. I saw a little red paperback with a title that begged for further examination: Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair. The name of the author, Pablo Neruda, was vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t quite place it. I picked up the book and started flipping through it. As I read through each sparse page, I felt overcome by an emotion I hadn’t felt since the early days of my relationship with Bob Dylan’s Bringing it All Back Home.

[Bob Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home; Elie’s copy of Neruda’s Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair]

It was something deeply personal that could yet speak for a continent, something that was clearly potent with the ability to splinter barriers and blockades: the triumph of the word over the visual.

I can write the saddest lines tonight.
Write for example: ‘The night is fractured
and they shiver, blue, those stars, in the distance’
The night wind turns in the sky and sings.

-“I Can Write the Saddest Lines Tonight,” 1-4

Neruda wove together the dance of nature with the pain of isolation in a world where the sky crooned its misery to the shining blue stars, all of it a reflection of the fear and revulsion of his airy prospect of resigned loneliness. The fear that shook the author’s pen as he wrote came through so loudly in my ears; I bought the book, just to take it home with me.

He spoke of that wonderfully immortal way that wounds refuse to heal. Or maybe they do, maybe they can, and perhaps it’s just us keeping them open for the sensation of the pain.

I don’t love her, that’s certain, but how I loved her.
My voice tried to find the breeze to reach her.
Another’s kisses on her, like my kisses.
Her voice, her bright body, infinite eyes.
I don’t love her, that’s certain, but perhaps I love her.
Love is brief: forgetting lasts so long.

-“I Can Write the Saddest Lines Tonight,” 21-26

Long before Dylan broke the heart of a generation or Adele launched a million YouTube covers, Neruda was singing his own song of agony, of the scorch of a lost love moving on and loving again. Love is brief: forgetting lasts so long. There are few things that burn quite like imagining a former flame getting lit by the wick of a new love. We all at various time share that fear of dying alone. That sensation that hovers over us until time comes along and cauterizes the bitterness.

I was alone like a tunnel. The birds fled from me,
and night swamped me with its crushing invasion.
To survive myself I forged you like a weapon,
like an arrow in my bow, a stone in my sling.

-“Body of a Woman,” 4-8

Was he writing about a woman or a god? The archaic quality of the expressed emotion coupled with the swift current of the writing left more lost than gained on first read. I was unable to grasp the details of what he was expressing, but the feel of it was crystal clear. He was able to take the pain of solitude and turn it into kindling for a bright, jumbled fire that could illuminate our home and keep us warm. He was like a man born with his head in the noose, putting words together to try and stave off execution.

And I think that’s what resounded the most that first time – the position I felt him take, a position of conscious decision to allow the past to hurt like it will, but not to let it overwhelm. I left the bookstore with a book in my hand, but more than just words on a page in my head.

Advertisements

Comments

  1. EstherGutkovsky says:

    “There are few things that burn quite like imagining a former flame getting lit by the wick of a new love.”
    I love how you phrased that. Completely true and beautifully worded.

  2. STAL XIV says:

    this is brilliant.

Trackbacks

  1. […] CD 4/4 – We Are All Writers On the Same Dreadful Typewriter as Allen Ginsberg, by Jenny, EE 4/5 – Pablo Neruda and the Quest for Surrender, by Elie, ME 4/6 – Let's Shake the Dust, Anis Mojgani, by Layah, CD 4/11 – Terrence Hayes, Kanye […]

Leave a Comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

SOME THINGS ABOUT US

LANDFILLS is a grassroots literary, arts and culture online collective based in Chicago. All work is original, except the featured images that accompany text posts (which are blatantly stolen from tumblr.com). Complaints should be directed to Po via Twitter.
%d bloggers like this: