Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) was born in Parral, Chile, the son of a railroad worker. Shortly after leaving college, he joined the Chilean foreign service to begin a distinguished career as consul and ambassador at a variety of posts around the world, including Burma, Ceylon, Indonesia, Siam, Cambodia, Spain, France, and Mexico. He was elected to the Chilean senate as a communist. But when he published letters attacking the policies of Videla, the President of Chile, he was forced into exile. He returned to Chile after the victory of anti-Videla forces, and rejoined the foreign service.
His vast literary output won many prizes and honors, although American readers found it difficult to separate his poetry from his politics, he was, at his prime, generally considered to be the greatest poet writing in Spanish. One critic pointed out that Neruda "never bothered his head about the state of poetry. He has just gone on exuding it as he draws breath." In an essay on impure poetry, Neruda wrote: "Let [this] be the poetry we search for: worn with the hand's obligations, as by acids, steeped in sweat and in smoke, smelling of lilies and urine, spattered diversely by the trades that we love by, inside the law or beyond it. A poetry impure as the clothing we wear, or our bodies, soup-stained, soiled with our shameful behavior, our wrinkles and vigils and dreams, observations and prophecies, declarations of loathing and love, idylls and beasts, the shocks of encounter, political loyalties, denials and doubts, affirmation and taxes."
Five Decades, a Selection: Poems, 1925-1970 appeared in 1974. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1971. Pablo Neruda died in 1973.
Poems - 10 in all
Brown and Agile Child
Fable of the Mermaid and the Drunks
Pablo Neruda - 2
TO SIT DOWN
AN ODE FOR IRONING
THE OLD WOMEN OF THE OCEAN