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By Pablo Neruda
Translated by W.S. Merwin
Introduction by Cristina Garcia
Illustrations by Pablo Picasso
New York: Penguin Books, 2004
ISBN: 0-14-24-3770-0
94 pages

Comments by Bob Corbett
March 2014

It is with sadness, frustration and disappointment that I have to write that this work just didn’t work for me. Perhaps it would be better for me to reverse that and say that I was just not a decent reader of this book.

The first 19 poems, which I read several times each, just didn’t make much sense to me, nor was I able to feel the love in them. I could sense the passion in the vocabulary, but I didn’t sense love even though I could get the sex. The women, and each seemed to be written to a different lover, were attractive in each poem, and he was certainly filled with passion, but love? I see them as different things.

The last two poems, however, were strikingly different. The 20th poem of “love” is one of passion and feeling at the lack of reciprocal love. This seemed to me the most straight forward poem of passion in the whole collection. The last poem, the “Song of Despair,” was very touching. He has lost his lover and is suffering and in pain at the loss. I was deeply moved by it.

The physical book itself is quite lovely. The edition I have was only about 6 inches by 4 inches, with facing pages of the Spanish original and the English translations. The poems were accompanied by a number of drawings by Pablo Picasso which were marvelous in themselves.

I don’t write to attack or dismiss the poems of Pablo Neruda. Rather, I simply express my own response to what I read. I think I see “love” as something far beyond passionate sex, and the bulk of his writing seemed to be much more about passionate sex itself. I didn’t see a great deal of love in the poems. I just wasn’t the right reader for this small collection.

Bob Corbett


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Bob Corbett