Thursday, April 8, 2010

Poetry by Pablo Neruda - Sonnet XI

This is the second of my April is Poetry Month Neruda posts. If you have not read the previous posts to celebrate poetry month and previous blogs relating Pablo Neruda's great poetry go here to catch up. He is just my most favourite poet.

Pablo Neruda was a kind of King Midas. Everything he touched turned to poetry, says Gabriel García Márquez, who also considers the Chilean Nobel laureate "the greatest poet of the twentieth century, in any language." [The Fragrance of Guava, 1983].

This week's Neruda piece titled Sonnet XI is, unlike last week's piece,  is from a later collection titled 100 Love Sonnets, which was dedicated to his 3rd wife Matilde Urrutia, the love of his life.  He produced this collection of love poems over a 3 year period when they began living together some 10 years after they met.  They lived together for the last 18 years of his life.

Sonnet XI is known by it's first line: "I Crave Your Mouth, Your Voice, Your Hair".   The poem shows off Neruda's mastery with symbolism.  In it he uses an image from nature, a wild puma hunting and craving his prey and musing on the enjoyment of the eating to come. The image is symbolic of his passionate yearning and earthy love for Matilde. I am charmed by the sensuality of this poem.

Neruda's great strength was both his ability to pull symbolism from nature and also to give the reader a poetic window into the senses that the scenes he painted evoked.  For instance, a line from the Sonnet below - "sniffing the twilight"  is a wonderful image which takes  from nature and blends the concrete with the ethereal.

The video below is from one of 25 video poems in Four Seasons Productions newly released Moving Poetry Series.  The poem is recited in its native Spanish by Carlos Alfaro and includes English subtitles translated from Spanish by Stephen Tapscott.  There are some wonderful nature scenes in the video.  To learn more about the series go here to

I Crave Your Mouth, Your Voice, Your Hair

I crave your mouth, your voice, your hair.
Silent and starving, I prowl through the streets.
Bread does not nourish me, dawn disrupts me, all day
I hunt for the liquid measure of your steps.

I hunger for your sleek laugh,
your hands the colour of a savage harvest,
hunger for the pale stones of your fingernails,
I want to eat your skin like a whole almond.

I want to eat the sunbeam flaring in your lovely body,
the sovereign nose of your arrogant face,
I want to eat the fleeting shade of your lashes,

and I pace around hungry, sniffing the twilight,
hunting for you, for your hot heart,
like a puma in the barrens of Quitratue.

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