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"Where is the child I was, still inside me or gone?"

- Pable Neruda

Pablo Neruda
Neruda's body of poetry is so rich and varied that it defies classification or easy summary.

It developed along four main directions, however. His love poetry, such as the youthful Twenty Love Poems and the mature Los versos del Capitán (1952; The Captain's Verses), is tender, melancholy, sensuous, and passionate.

In "material" poetry, such as Residencia en la tierra, loneliness and depression immerse the author in a subterranean world of dark, demonic forces. His epic poetry is best represented by Canto general, which is a Whitmanesque attempt at reinterpreting the past and present of Latin America and the struggle of its oppressed and downtrodden masses toward freedom. And finally there is Neruda's poetry of common, everyday objects, animals, and plants, as in Odas elementales.

These four trends correspond to four aspects of Neruda's personality: his passionate love life; the nightmares and depression he experienced while serving as a consul in Asia; his commitment to a political cause; and his ever-present attention to details of daily life, his love of things made or grown by human hands.

Many of his other books, such as Libro de las preguntas (1974; "Book of Questions"), reflect philosophical and whimsical questions about the present and future of humanity. Neruda was one of the most original and prolific poets to write in Spanish in the 20th century, but despite the variety of his output as a whole, each of his books has unity of style and purpose. (Encyclopedia Britannica)

Neruda, Pablo (1904-73). A Latin American poet with an international reputation, Pablo Neruda was also committed to politics and social reform. Often referred to as the "poet of enslaved humanity," he was awarded the Lenin peace prize in 1953 and the Nobel prize for literature in 1971

Neruda was born Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto on July 12, 1904, in Parral, Chile. His mother died soon after. He completed his secondary schooling in 1920, the year he began using the name Pablo Neruda. In 1921 he went to Santiago to continue his education but soon became so devoted to writing poetry that his schooling was abandoned. Neruda's first book, `Crepusculario', was published in Spanish in 1923. The next year he published `Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair'.

Early in life he took an interest in politics. He was for a time an anarchist but later became a Communist. His government service began in 1927 and ended only shortly before his death on Sept. 23, 1973, in Santiago. From 1927 to 1933 Neruda represented Chile in South Asia--in Burma (now Myanmar), Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Java (now part of Indonesia), and Singapore. In 1933-34 he was Chilean consul in Buenos Aires, and while there he met the great Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca. From Argentina he went to Spain, where he served through the early part of the Spanish Civil War. His `Spain in the Heart' was published in 1937 during the war.

Over the next decades Neruda traveled widely and continued writing poetry. Among his other books were `Residence on Earth' (1933), written while he was in South Asia; `General Song' (1950), one of the greatest epic poems written in the Americas; and `One Hundred Love Sonnets' (1959). During the Marxist regime of Salvador Allende, Neruda was Chile's ambassador to France (l971-72). He died in Santiago on Sept. 23, l973. (Compton's Living Encyclopedia)

Selected Poems:
The me bird
If you forget me
In the night

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Last Updated: December 11, 1998