Happy Birthday, Pablo Neruda: Quotes about Life (and Love)

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Born in Chile on July 12, 1904, we recognize Pablo Neruda 112 years later as a political activist and eclectic poet. As a Communist holding several Chilean governmental posts, Neruda faced danger when Radical Party presidential candidate Gabriel González Videla turned against the Communist Party. After the Communist Party was banned from Chile over the course of the next year, he traveled around Europe whilst in exile and began writing. One of his most famous works, “Tonight I Can Write,” was highly controversial for being sexually explicit. In contrast, Neruda’s “Ode to My Socks” is a great example of his odes that celebrate and praise everyday objects. Continue Reading ›

Just in Time for Valentine’s Day: Some of Our Favorite Literary Love Quotes

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It probably doesn’t surprise anyone that Valentine’s Day is nearly upon us. The media shows us two reactions to this little, commercial holiday: 1) the lovey dovey people feeding each other heart-shaped chocolates into their perfect, air-brushed mouths, and 2) single, bitter people, doubling down on the BOGO chocolate at the local grocery store. Many of us, however, do not adhere to that binary system and enjoy reading love stories, bundling up with chocolate and/or a significant other, and taking the holiday as basically an ordinary day with cheap chocolate. By the way, there are some good deals on boxed chocolate when V-Day finally rolls around.

In spirit of the holiday, enjoy the following collection of love-inspired quotes and the works from whence they came. Books don’t have to fall under the taboo heading of “romance” to have a little of the good stuff, otherwise known as love. Continue Reading ›

Top Ten Pick-Up Lines in Literature

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For the Power of Words, I give you Exhibit A: Arthur Miller (Death of a Salesman, The Crucibleand Marilyn Monroe.

As Exhibit B: Salman Rushdie (The Satanic Verses, Midnight’s Children and Padma Lakshmi.

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I could go on.

Here are ten great lines from literature that just might help you get lucky, too. 

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1.  “The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.”

– From The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Continue Reading ›

At the Intersection of Poetry and Music

Four adaptations of poems set to music: some tender, some bizarre, all personal homages to poems and their masters. Enjoy!

“I’m Nobody! Who Are You?” by Emily Dickinson

Composed by Israeli singer-songwriter Efrat Ben Zur.

I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us — don’t tell!
They’d banish — you know!

How dreary to be somebody!
How public like a frog
To tell one’s name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!

“Sonnet 49” by Pablo Neruda

The best loved love poet as sung by jazz artist Luciana Souza.

It’s today: all of yesterday dropped away
among the fingers of the light and the sleeping eyes.
Tomorrow will come on its green footsteps;
no one can stop the river of the dawn.

No one can stop the river of your hands,
your eyes and their sleepiness, my dearest.
You are the trembling of time, which passes
between the vertical light and the darkening sky.

Continue Reading ›

Was Pablo Neruda Murdered?

pablo_neruda “I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep your eyes close.”
― Pablo Neruda, 100 Love Sonnets

The man who wrote some of the most romantic verse in literature may have come to a very violent end. In 1973, just twelve days following the death of his close friend and political ally Salvadore Allende died, Neruda was found dead as well.  Allende was deposed by Augusto Pinochet, who ruled Chile for eight years, from 1973 to 1981.

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Salvadore Allende

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Augusto Pinochet

While the official cause was of Neruda’s death was  “complications due to prostate cancer,”  there has long been speculation that Neruda was poisoned, charges Neruda’s personal driver has leveled. In February, the court ordered that Neruda’s remains be exhumed for signs of foul play.

Some have objected to the exhumation, citing such things as the moist tropical soil that would degrade the body to such a state that any  traces would be long gone. Others argue that Chile’s forensics are not sophisticated enough to conduct a thorough analysis. Still, samples will be taken and sent elsewhere (location not announced) for the analysis.

We may never know for sure what took Neruda’s life.  But, of course, his words will live on. Here is one of my favorite of his many beautiful poems, translated by another of my favorite poets, W.S. Merwin:

Tonight I Can Write (The Saddest)

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

Write, for example, ‘The night is starry and the stars are blue and shiver in the distance.’

The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

Through nights like this one I held her in my arms.
I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.

She loved me, sometimes I loved her too.
How could one not have loved her great still eyes.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.

To hear the immense night, still more immense without her.
And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.

What does it matter that my love could not keep her.
The night is starry and she is not with me.

This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance.
My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

My sight tries to find her as though to bring her closer.
My heart looks for her,

and she is not with me.

The same night whitening the same trees.
We, of that time, are no longer the same.

I no longer love her, that’s certain, but how I loved her.
My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.

Another’s. She will be another’s. As she was before my kisses.
Her voice, her bright body. Her infinite eyes.

I no longer love her, that’s certain, but maybe I love her.
Love is so short, forgetting is so long.

Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms
my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer
and these the last verses that I write for her.