Friday, January 07, 2011

Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda

I stopped at the bookstore today to pick up David Levithan's latest book, The Lover's Dictionary, which was stocked on a table of Valentine's Day-related books. Which is how I came to notice this lovely little book sitting nearby - it's a collection of Neruda poems entitled Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, which I bought as a gift for myself. It's a small book with an artisanal feel to it because of the really nice paper that forms its cover (with French flaps, for those of you who understand the term - or with big folded-in flaps for those who don't) and rough-cut edges on the pages inside. Each poem is presented in the original Spanish text facing a translation by W.S. Merwin, and the book is interspersed with illustrations by Pablo Picasso.

I am looking forward to savoring Neruda's lovely poems, which were written when he was a very young man and published in 1924, when he was only 19. The two that I read in the store were astonishing in their imagery and sensuality. Here is just a snippet of the translation of number fourteen, "Every Day You Play":

Every day you play with the light of the universe.
Subtle visitor, you arrive in the flower and the water.
You are more that this white head that I hold tightly
as a cluster of fruit, every day, between my hands.

You are like nobody since I love you.
Let me spread you out among the yellow garlands.
Who writes your name in letters of smoke among the stars of the south?
Oh let me remember you as you were before you existed.

You can read the rest here, but the poem closes with "I want to do with you/what spring does with the cherry trees." *swoon*

A lovely gift, whether for yourself or someone else.

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