by Pablo Neruda
And it was at that age … Poetry arrived
in search of me. I don’t know, I don’t know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don’t know how or when,
no, they were not voices, they were not
words, nor silence,
but from a street I was summoned,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from others,
among violent fires
or returning alone,
there I was without a face
and it touched me.
I did not know what to say, my mouth
had no way
my eyes were blind,
and something started in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
and I wrote the first faint line,
faint, without substance, pure
of someone who knows nothing,
and suddenly I saw
with arrows, fire and flowers,
the winding night, the universe.
And I, infinitesimal being,
drunk with the great starry
likeness, image of
for myself a pure part of the abyss,
I wheeled with the stars,
my heart broke loose on the wind.
(Translated from the Spanish by Alastair Reid)
Pablo Neruda was the pen name and, later, legal name of the Chilean poet and politician Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto. He chose his pen name after Czech poet Jan Neruda.
Neruda wrote in a variety of styles such as erotically charged love poems as in his collection Twenty Poems of Love and a Song of Despair, surrealist poems, historical epics, and overtly political manifestos. In 1971 Neruda won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez once called him “the greatest poet of the 20th century in any language.” Neruda always wrote in green ink as it was his personal color of hope.