The Essential Neruda

by Pablo Neruda

I don’t know if I can stress enough the importance I find comes with reading a book of poetry through twice, back-to-back. I haven’t necessarily done it with every poetry collection I’ve read––not the longer ones, specifically––but my opinion feels so much more well informed at the end of such an exercise. I think it has something to do with the nature of what I consider good poetry. There’s always at least some level of inaccessibility, of abstrusity. When I read a collection by an author I’m not necessarily familiar with, the start tends to involve parsing the fog and being more in touch with how I feel when I read than what I think the poem’s about. But then there comes a point where things just click into place, where things open up. Revisiting things after the click helps me to see what was previously experienced in a completely different way. This was definitely the case with The Essential Neruda.

If you’re unfamiliar with Neruda, The Essential Neruda is probably a reasonable starting point. The collection is a product of numerous thoughtful translations made by and compared between multiple scholars, working hard to try and capture the heart of the poems. Even if you struggle to ascertain specific meanings, you’re still in for a treat with his work, for the poet was a master of images. He uses them to effectively trigger something in the reader, an unlocking of the gate to emotion. Though we may not be fully aware of our feelings, if we’re at least receptive to them, Neruda will guide us on a journey into their depths. And this is special in its own right, but his writing takes on an entirely different aspect when we start to see distinct meanings within. What comes into focus is not only a rare wisdom, but an ability to capture the elusive and put it on display for all of us to experience.

So, I strongly recommend reading this book. Even if you’re unsure of what you witnessed by the end, I can’t see anyone being worse off in the attempt to understand, or simply to feel.