Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Reader's Diary #247- Pablo Neruda: The Captain's Verses (FINISHED)

Three comments:

1. I loved how all the poems in the "Desire" section had animal titles. "Tiger" has several lines in particular that mark a sudden shift in the book's tone. "I break/ your limbs one by one" for instance. While it's obviously a more violent idea of love than acknowledged before, I don't get the impression it's as sinister as it first appears. I think for the one of the first times in the book, Neruda presents the more selfish side of love and this is his way of expressing his guilt. This theme is continued on with the beginning of "Condor" but it switches in the end as the two become partner predators and the new prey is life.

2. In the section entitled "Lives" the book's tone switched once again. Suddenly the poems seem to take a panoramic view of the lovers, showing them in context: a political context. I got nervous when I first noticed what was going on. I thought one of two things would happen; I'd balk at the intrusion of politics into what has otherwise been a beautiful love story OR I'd crumble under the spell of Neruda's genius. Fortunately neither of those happened. I still enjoyed the book and I'm not planning on overthrowing any capitalist regimes any time soon. These particular poems served a purpose outside the politics; they represented the coming together of a couple's ideals and presented the two as a single force. Plus, perhaps my favourite couple of lines in the whole collection are in this section; the poem "The Soldier's Love" ends as follows:
"Kiss me again, beloved.

Clean that gun, comrade."

What a juxtaposition of images!

3. I love how one particular poem addresses point blankly that preoccupation with his lover's body which I had mentioned in an earlier post. In "Ode and Burgeonings" Neruda writes
"Someone asks: 'Tell me, why, like waves
on a single coast, do your words
endlessly go and return to her body?'"

The response? The wave is the"purest wave of life". On it's own, it seems for the first time that he has sunken into the dreaded sentimentality of which I've been so wary. I've not done him justice. Within the context of the relationship that is explored throughout the entire collection, the line is convincing.


Anonymous said...

No hablo español, unfortunately. But I took French in high school so I guess I can sort of relate. I just posted something inspired by you. Can I link to your blog from mine? I'll be putting up a 'links' section soon.

John Mutford said...

That's great actually. I was checking out your blog yesterday and I like what you do. I've taken a lot of jabs at Hallmark's brand of poetry, so it's nice to see someone using quality stuff.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I could be off track here, but it seems Neruda is deliberately looking at love from various starting points as an exercise in itself, as if he asked himself what would happen if he brought in a political context, for example.

Did it feel that way? And if it did, did that detract from the poems at all?

John Mutford said...

Barbara, I'm not sure if it was a deliberate attempt to show love at various points, as much as it was an autobiographical account. The poems were supposedly all written for his wife-to-be, so the various angles were most likely just a product of their actual relationship. The politics for instance, were very much a part of Neruda himself. The Wikipedia entry on him is quite fascinating. Still, the fact that their relationship can relate to love worldwide is a testament to his skill.