Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Poetry Tuesday: Pablo Neruda - Ode to the Book

I have picked up my Neruda autobiography titled "Memoirs" again.  I read the first chapters and blogged about it last August and haven't gotten back to it since the summer!   Sad to say my "to read" pile of books is a very high stack!  I am hoping to have more time in the coming months to get back to the soul enriching pleasures of reading and music for some part of each week. Maybe even whilst soaking in my nice whirlpool bath!  One of the real treats in my new abode is having 2 bathrooms - the main bath which is semi-ensuite to the guest room/den which is equipped with a jaccuzi tub and the other ensuite to my bedroom which has a walk in glass enclosed shower.  Heaven!

It is appropriate that I mark my return to bookish ways and reading Neruda's Memoirs that I share with you his poem Ode to the Book.  It is good to be reminded that life is not lived in a book and life begins when you close your book and go out and experience what is around you.  Some things in life need to be experienced first hand as he points out in the line, " I learned about life from life itself"...  Neruda had such a way with words  - lines such as 
The whole of night
clings to its shores, by dawn
it wakes up singing
as if it had excited a guitar
express emotion with such imaginative phrases.  I can feel the joy of the dawn in his words.  Reading his Ode to the Book makes me feel happy
I will enjoy reading another chapter or two of his Memoirs before life calls me to close the book and go play - or probably more correctly - go to work.

Ode to the Book
by Pablo Neruda

When I close a book
I open life.
I hear
faltering cries
among harbours.
Copper ignots
slide down sand-pits
to Tocopilla.
Night time.
Among the islands
our ocean
throbs with fish,
touches the feet, the thighs,
the chalk ribs
of my country.
The whole of night
clings to its shores, by dawn
it wakes up singing
as if it had excited a guitar.

The ocean's surge is calling.
The wind
calls me
and Rodriguez calls,
and Jose Antonio--
I got a telegram
from the "Mine" Union
and the one I love
(whose name I won't let out)
expects me in Bucalemu.

No book has been able
to wrap me in paper,
to fill me up
with typography,
with heavenly imprints
or was ever able
to bind my eyes,
I come out of books to people orchards
with the hoarse family of my song,
to work the burning metals
or to eat smoked beef
by mountain firesides.
I love adventurous
books of forest or snow,
depth or sky
but hate
the spider book
in which thought
has laid poisonous wires
to trap the juvenile
and circling fly.
Book, let me go.
I won't go clothed
in volumes,
I don't come out
of collected works,
my poems
have not eaten poems--
they devour
exciting happenings,
feed on rough weather,
and dig their food
out of earth and men.
I'm on my way
with dust in my shoes
free of mythology:
send books back to their shelves,
I'm going down into the streets.
I learned about life
from life itself,
love I learned in a single kiss
and could teach no one anything
except that I have lived
with something in common among men,
when fighting with them,
when saying all their say in my song.

Translated by Nathaniel Tarn


  1. It is an old argument, the benefit of books vs. the actual living of life. I guess my thought would be that, in as much as it is possible, to read and to study before stepping out into the world seeking the experiences brought though living life. I think the odds for mental and physical survival are improved that way.

    The question of separating an individual's art from his character or his politics or his religion also is one often discussed. In my case, I am unable to separate Pablo Neruda's political beliefs and "companions" from anything he might have written. That well could be my loss, but we all have our prejudices and beliefs, and must live with them.

    Your post got me thinking today, Peggy. My mind was overdue to be stirred a bit. Thank you.

  2. Very nice post Peggy"When I close a book i open life"

    i like that poem very much.Thank you

  3. Nice to have you drop by Fram. I hope you are starting to get over your cold. I certainly agree with you about researching before stepping out into some new venture or path. A mix of reading before doing is probably the best course

    An interesting thought you have brought up about separating someone's beliefs from the work they produce. I can understand that it is difficult to separate the creative products from the individual creating them when that person is on the opposite side of the fence in the area of personal/political beliefs. I must admit, I can't get that fired up in the area of politics or religion or individual ideology, although I guess I would draw the line if the person was believed by me to be personally involved in something which was imo totally immoral or hurtful to another person.

    That said, I can understand your point of view. You are certainly right - we all have our own beliefs and codes of conduct and live our lives by them.

    Thanks for popping by. I must cook up some other thought provoking topics to blog about.

  4. Anita, it is nice to see you visit my pages. I enjoyed my visit to your blog the other day and those photos you took when out running of the Lady on the horse. Lots of snow in Norway these days (LOL... just like in Canada I might add)

  5. Thanks, for understanding my viewpoint, Peggy.

    Some people think I am too harsh for the blogs with my opinions, but I actually am used to be paid for being open and honest about them.


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