Daily Archives: July 28, 2012

Odes to Common Things – Pablo Neruda

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I love Pablo Neruda–complete fan girl, always. I love him in Spanish and in English and it is a tribute to his lovely lucid language that he sounds irresistible in both. Odes to Common Things is a collection of poems translated by Ken Krabbenhoft and published more than  20 years after Neruda’s death. He was so prolific and wrote so often of subjects that fascinated him that there are twenty-five odes about everything from scissors to gillyflowers. Scissors have cut the shape of all life, loves, grave clothes and fingernails. Gillyflowers have evolved from discarded weeds to “fragrant light, perfect protagonists of silence”. Neruda makes you think about the commonplace as if you are encountering it for the first time–and as if you have the eyes of a poet.

La mesa fiel

sostiene

sueño y vida

titánico cuadrúpedo.

Tables are trustworthy:

titanic quadrupeds,

they sustain

our hopes and our daily life.

Ode to French Fries — What sizzles / in boiling / oil / is the world’s / pleasure 

Ode to a Pair of Socks — So this is / the moral of my ode: / beauty is beauty / twice over / and good things are doubly / good / when you’re talking about a pair of wool / socks / in the dead of winter.  

Ode to the Cat — There was something wrong / with the animals: / their tails were too long, and they had / unfortunate heads. / Then they started coming together, / little by little / fitting together to make a landscape, / developing birthmarks, / grace, / pep. / But the cat, / only the cat / turned out finished, / and proud: / born in a state of total completion, / it sticks to itself and knows exactly what it wants… / Nothing hangs together / quite like a cat

Neruda touches on loneliness, war, hunger, kindness, memory in his adoration of things. He is lush, rich and sensual–an apple is an opportunity to seduce:

You, apple, / are the object / of my praise. / I want to fill / my mouth / with your name. / I want to eat you whole.

A ti, manzana, / quiero / celebrarte / llenándome / con tu nombre / la boca, / comiéndote.

How could you not love things and the poet who enshrines them?  I would write an ode to Pablo Neruda, but my Spanish is nowhere near as mellifluous as his.  

Odes to Common Things, Bilingual Edition   Pablo Neruda / Bulfinch Press  1994