Monday, July 12, 2004

Happy Birthday Neruda!

If Pablo Neruda were alive, today would be his 100th birthday. Neruda died in 1973, but his poetry lives on. Copper Canyon Press brought out new translations of much of Neruda's poetry a few years ago. I haven't gotten to all of them yet, but thus far one of my favorites is The Book of Questions translated by William O'Daly. Here is a sample:

What are you guarding under your hump? said a camel to a turtle. And the turtle replied: What do you say to oranges? Does a pear tree have more leaves than Rememberance of Things Past? Why do leaves commit suicide when they feel yellow?
He also wrote some beautiful love poems and seems to have been rather fond of odes. An excerpt from one of my favorites, "Ode to My Socks"
Outrageous socks, my feet became two fish made of wool, two long sharks of ultramarine blue crossed by one golden hair, two gigantic blackbirds, two cannons; my feet were honored in this way by these heavenly socks. They were so beautiful that for the first time my feet seemed to me unacceptable like two decrepit firemen, firemen unworthy of that embroidered fire, of those luminous socks. (from Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon, translated by Stephen Mitchell)
If it weren't so darn hot out I'd be tempted to dig some yummy winter socks out of my drawer. NPR has been doing some stuff on Neruda today. And here's a news story with some nice biographical information in it. Enjoy some cake and poetry in honor of a fabulous poet.