It has been a couple of years since I read any poetry, and the last time was also at the behest of the fine folks over at Book Riot and their annual Read Harder Challenge. I don’t know if I’m going to manage to complete this year’s challenge by the end of December – I know what books I am going to read for the remaining challenges, but I don’t know that I’ll be able to fit them all in.
But I wasn’t going to allow myself to use that as an excuse to not pick up this collection of Pablo Neruda’s work. The specific challenge this year was to read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love. It was one of the handful of tasks submitted by authors, and they are particulary specific. This one is from Ausma Zehanat Khan, author of the Esa Khattak/Rachel Getty mystery series, another was from Roxane Gay and instructed us to read from a micropress (review forthcoming). Neruda felt like the most logical choice for me, I had not read a complete collection of his work yet and I knew that many of his poems were not about love, which so many poems are.
Reading these poems I can see easily why Pablo Neruda won the 1971 Nobel Prize for Literature. This bilingual edition has the odes in their original Spanish facing the translation in English, with pencil illustrations accompanying them. It was simultaneously fascinating and infuriating. I would read the original versions, trying to translate for myself, and then read the English versions to make sure I had complete comprehension (woo boy is my Spanish rusty) and I would come up again and again with phrases I would have translated another way. It makes me wonder what would have happened to these odes in the hands of a woman translator.
Most importantly though I was captivated by the conceit of this collection, of reading about spring and autumn, the future and the past, fire and rain one after the other. If you’re looking for some poetry to round out your reading year this edition is the way to go.