The politics of poetry
NERUDA HIMSELF THOUGHT THAT THOSE WHO WANTED TO SEPARATE HIS POLITICAL POETRY FROM THE REST WERE ENEMIES OF POETRY, WRITE VIBHA MAURYA AND VIJAYA VENKATARAMAN
Pablo Neruda, Chilean poet, political activist and a simple human being, became a legend in his lifetime itself. It is not a mere coincidence that in many stories and novels of Latin American writers Pablo Neruda appears as a protagonist. García Márquez's story "I sell my dreams", included in his collection entitled Twelve Pilgrim Stories (1992), revolves around a woman Frau Frida, who earns a living foretelling other peoples' lives by interpreting her dreams. In a chance encounter with Neruda she tells him about her extraordinary power of dreaming. The poet dismisses her interpretation of dreams and adds that "nothing but poetry is gifted with intuition and far sight".
Faith in poetry
Neruda's faith in the power of poetry was not because he wrote thousands of verses but because his poetry held meaning for the most common and ordinary people. This closeness of the poet with the people has been captured in a splendid manner by Antonio Skármeta in his novel Neruda's Postman, later made into the film "Il Postino". When Neruda finds that Mario, the postman, has copied one of his love poems to woo his beloved and tells him that it is plagiarism, he is told by the postman that poetry does not belong to the one who writes it but to the one who uses it. While Neruda helps transform Mario into a poet, the postman in the process of learning to compose verses becomes a revolutionary.
With the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, Neruda got involved in the heroic resistance against the fascist forces. He was dismissed from his consular post for his involvement and his poet friends became targets of fascist attacks. Rafael Alberti's house was torched and García Lorca was assassinated. Neruda's outrage against the events is reflected in his collection of poems entitled Spain in my Heart (1936). These poems were printed under extraordinary circumstances. Amidst the roar of guns, the soldiers learnt to print with Manuel Altolaguirre's printing machine in an old mill. These poems were so eloquent and had such "power of speech" that they became part of peoples' discourse against fascism and war.
Nine days before his death and 72 hours after the fascist coup led by Pinochet in 1973, Neruda started writing the last chapter of his Memoirs in which he described the coup as a criminal putsch against the people of Chile. His funeral became the first massive protest meeting against the military dictatorship.
These examples drive home the point that there are perhaps very few poets or writers who have had such a great impact on world literature and politics.
Pablo Neruda (1904 - 1973) lived for 69 years out of which he wrote poetry for 55 years. Thus were born thousands of his poems and copious pages of other writings in prose. The publication of Crepusculario (1923) and Twenty Love Poems (1924) won him acclaim in Chilean literary circles at a very early age. A tone of subjective melancholy dominates the poems in these collections. Neruda's contact with the forests of Araucanía, the volcanoes, the cold torrential and interminable rain, the wind, the sound of the sea waves lashing the cliffs, left a deep impression on his young mind. Twenty Love Poems is a collection of intense and passionate poetry, about adolescent love, written in a warm, human and personal tone.
Neruda was a poet with a great sense of self-criticism and self-reflection. The optimistic militant poet in Neruda was to later reject the tone of oppressive desolation and anguished desperation as one of most bitter hours of his poetry. The ideological transformation that Neruda underwent changed the context and objectives of his poetry but the symbols and metaphors that he used continued to be the same, although the language in his later poetry became simpler and more colloquial. Neruda's poetic imagination and his love for the "sounds of the universe" or his relationship with the elements of nature also continued to be an integral part of his poetics.
Neruda was always concerned about human beings and human conditions. He did not believe in no man's land in literature. Each book of poem by him meant always a new beginning and an extraordinary ending. He says in his Memoirs:
I had to suffer and struggle, to love and sing; I drew my worldly share of triumphs and defeats, I tasted bread and blood. What more can a poet want? And all the choices, tears or kisses, loneliness or the fraternity of man, survive in my poetry and are as essential part of it, because I have lived for my poetry and my poetry has nourished everything I have striven for.
Neruda is remembered today for the power of his poetry, for his protest against fascism and oppression, for the voice he gave to the people of Chile.(The Literary Review)
(Vibha Maurya and Vijaya Venkataraman are with the Department of Germanic and Romance Studies, University of Delhi)
Lastupdate on : Mon, 1 Aug 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Mon, 1 Aug 2011 18:30:00 GMT
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