Pablo Neruda - People's Poet

Pablo Neruda 1972

About Pablo Neruda:

Chilean poet, writer, diplomat, political activist and exile, Nobel Prize winner for Literature, "people's poet," senator, and one of the greatest South American poets.

Early Days:

Born Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto in southern Chile, on July 12, 1904, to a family who disapproved of his literary leanings, a young man sold all his possessions, took on the pen name of Pablo Neruda, and published his first book, Crepusculario ("Twilight") in 1923.

Following the success of this first book, the next year he had a publisher and with Veinte poemas de amor y una cancion desesperada ("Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair"), his life-long literary career was underway.

Political Life:

In 1927, honored for his contributions as a poet, Neruda was named honorary consul to Burma. From Rangoon, he went on to serve in Ceylon, Java, Argentina and Spain. His friendship with Spanish poet Federico García Lorca began in Buenos Aires and continued in Madrid, where Neruda establised a literary review called Caballo verde para la poesîa with Spanish writer Manuel Altolaguirre in 1935.

The outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 changed Neruda's life. He sympathized with the lloyalist against General Franco, and reported events, including the brutal murder of García Lorca in Espana en el corazon. One of the exemplary poems of this time is I’ll Explain Some Things. He was recalled from Madrid in 1937, left the consular service and returned to Europe to help Spanish refugees.

Returning to Chile, he was appointed Consul to Mexico in 1939, and on his return, four years later, he joined the Communist party and was elected to the Senate. Later, when Chilean government named the Communist party illegal, Neruda was expelled from the Senate. He left the country and went into hiding. He later traveled extensively through Europe and the Americas.

When the Chilean government reversed its position on leftist political figures, Neruda returned to Chile in 1952, and for the next 21 years, his life combined his passions for politics and poetry.

During these years, he was recognized on numerous occasions, including honorary doctorates, congressional medals, the International Peace Prize in 1950, the Lenin Peace Prize and the Stalin Peace Prize in 1953, and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971.

While serving as ambassador to France, Neruda was diagnosed with cancer. He resigned and returned to Chile, where he died on September 23, 1973. Before his death, he wrote his thoughts about the September 11 coup and the death of Salvador Allende in the Golpe de Estado.

Personal Life:

As a teenager in school in Temuco, Neruda met Gabriela Mistral, already a recognized poet. Between multiple, international love affairs, he met and married María Antonieta Haagenaar Vogelzanzin Java, whom he later divorced. He married Delia del Carril and this marriage also ended in divorce. He later met and married Matilde Urrutia, for whom he named their house in Santiago La Chascona. That and his home at Isla Negra are now museums, overseen by the Fundación Pablo Neruda.

Literary Works:

From his first childhood poem to the last, Neruda wrote more than forty volumes of poetry, translations, and verse drama. Some of his work was published posthumously, and some of his poems were used in the film Il Postino (The Postman), about the postman introduced to life, love and poetry by Neruda.

His Veinte poemas de amor y una cancion desesperada alone has sold more than a million copies.

His Canto General, written in exile and published in 1950, contains 340 poems about Latin American history from a Marxist point of view. These poems display his deep knowledge about the history, including his earlier work, the famous poem Alturas de Macchu Picchu, geography and politics of the continent. The central theme is the struggle for social justice, making him the People's Poet. The work contains illustrations by Mexican artists Diego Rivera amd David Alfaro Siqueiros.

Some of his work:

  • Poems by Pablo Neruda
  • Elementary Odes
  • Love
  • Poems by Pablo Neruda
  • Pablo NerudaNo matter if you read Neruda's poetry in Spanish or in translation, the power, the passion and the soul of the man shines through. Lover, political activist, the voice of the common man--all this and more from Pablo Neruda.
    While I am writing, I am far away;
    and when I come back, I have already left.
    I should like to see if the same thing happens
    to other people as it does to me,
    to see if as many people are as I am,
    and if they seem the same way to themselves.
    When this problem has been thoroughly explored,
    I am going to school myself so well in things
    that, when I try to explain my problems,
    I shall speak, not of self, but of geography.

    We are many
    You might be interested in exploring the non-profit site of Red Poppy, dedicated to furthering Pablo Neruda's commitment to humanitarianism and spreading his poetry around the world.
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