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It's Poetry Month! cont'd.

Many people associate poetry with love or romance, and admittedly, being kind of a hopeless romantic myself, I do appreciate a good love poem. Continuing to commemorate National Poetry Month, I want to highlight another favorite poet of mine–one who brought the world around him to life, from everyday objects to the effects of love and relationships: Pablo Neruda. Neruda was a very colorful and innovative writer, and Poetry Foundation hails him as “one of the most influential and widely-read poets of the Americas.”

Born in Parral, Chile in 1904 as Ricardo Eliécer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto, Neruda wrote under a pen name from childhood to avoid the scrutiny of his father, who disapproved of his writing endeavors; he would later legally adopt his pen name. Neruda evolved into a nationally acclaimed poet, as well as a well-traveled diplomat, and he became heavily invested in politics. Neruda traveled to many countries as a government consul, and he later was elected to the Senate of Chile. His travels and diplomatic career are heavily reflected in many of his poems, as are snippets of his evocative romantic relationships. The poem I am sharing today is titled “Love,” but it’s not exactly a sappy portrayal of romance, but more so a sensual and ardent representation of lost love. In my opinion, Neruda writes of love and loss very beautifully.


Because of you, in gardens of blossoming

Flowers I ache from the perfumes of spring.

I have forgotten your face, I no longer

Remember your hands; how did your lips

Feel on mine?

Because of you, I love the white statues

Drowsing in the parks, the white statues that

Have neither voice nor sight.

I have forgotten your voice, your happy voice;

I have forgotten your eyes.

Like a flower to its perfume, I am bound to

My vague memory of you. I live with pain

That is like a wound; if you touch me, you will

Make to me an irreparable harm.

Your caresses enfold me, like climbing

Vines on melancholy walls.

I have forgotten your love, yet I seem to

Glimpse you in every window.

Because of you, the heady perfumes of

Summer pain me; because of you, I again

Seek out the signs that precipitate desires:

Shooting stars, falling objects.

The line “because of you” is repeated multiple times, lending gravitas to the effect the narrator’s past lover has had on the narrator. This indicates that the lover left a profound impression, even though the narrator can no longer recall just how their lover’s touch felt or how they sounded. I view this as being either willful forgetfulness, in an attempt to get over the lover, OR actual forgetfulness from the passage of time. Either way, the narrator has tried moving on but is haunted by small hints and memories of their long-gone lover.

Having been an admirer of nature and someone who incorporated the sights and sounds around him into his writing, Neruda uses nature imagery as an analogy for his speaker’s feelings, emphasizing the emotions through aromatic and visual stimuli. His lover is likened to the scent of flowers enveloping him without fail in the springtime, an unseen yet affecting element. He then likens his lover to still, white garden statues, objects that are immobile and silent and often overlooked because they are a static feature for many gardens. Just like the memory of his lover, these things persist in his presence without his consent.

In the fourth stanza, the speaker comments on the lover being a vague memory; however, the memory is not so vague that it does not cause emotional hurt upon thinking of them. “...if you touch me, you will / make to me an irreparable harm…” indicates the depth of pain the narrator feels because of the lover. The following lines, “Your caresses enfold me, like climbing / vines on melancholy walls…” use simile to compare the lover’s caresses to ivy. Ivy is an invasive and encroaching plant, often criticized due to its potential to choke other plants and flowers, so I view the memory of the lover as a detriment rather than a welcomed feeling. The narrator likens himself to a melancholy wall: stuck, unable to move, and poised in sorrow.

The speaker goes on to admit that, even though he no longer recalls the love from before, he is still haunted by the presence of his lover, memories of them conjured in random places. The final stanza reiterates how even something as simple as the scent of a season can evoke a flood of emotions caused by the lover’s memory. What strikes me as the most tragic thing about this poem is what is stated in the final lines: “ because of you, I again / seek out the signs that precipitate desires / shooting stars, falling objects.” To me, the lingering heartache left by the lover is also partially a desire for the lover still, which is a force that drives the speaker to willfully seek out things that will reinvent those feelings all over again. Shooting stars are fleeting and rare. Falling objects are unpredictable and sometimes jarring. So too can be a sensual and deep romantic love.

This is one of many of Neruda’s poems that I love and admire, and I highly appreciate the simple, yet artful way in which he describes objects and emotions. I feel that his poetry weaves life into words that many can relate with, and his understanding of the human experience is portrayed with a strong certainty. To learn more about this renowned poet, click here. To experience more of Neruda’s poetry, click here.

#NationalPoetryMonth #Poetry #PabloNeruda #Ilovepoetry

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