Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Astute Hunter

I don't know if I've mentioned this before, or if it's not already glaringly obvious, but I love Pablo Neruda. I love him too much to gush, or to joke about being his wife, which is what I do with most of my literary crushes.

I recently snagged a free copy of "The Book of Questions," and it's mind-blowing: bizarre, snarky, funny, gorgeous, sort of Surrealist (although perhaps not intentionally) but presented with almost childlike innocence. There's something inherently childlike about a question, I think. At least, there's something very vulnerable about a question (i.e.: Pablo, will you marry me?) and vulnerability, to me, is something most adults are too afraid to own.



Why don't the immense airplanes

fly around with their children?

Which yellow bird

fills its nest with lemons?

Why don't they train helicopters

to suck honey from the sunlight?

Where did the full moon leave

its sack of flour tonight?



From which river do fish come?
From the word


Who was she who made love to you
in your dream, while you slept?

Where do the things in dreams go?
Do they pass to the dreams of others?

And does the father who lives in your dreams
die again when you awaken?

In dreams, do plants blossom
and their solomn fruit ripen?

(Actually, I think I spoke too soon. I don't think these poems are surreal at all. I think they are very honest, and have a lovely worn quality. That's something I like about Latin American writers--they age so gracefully and so richly. [Neruda finished The Book of Questions months before his death.] There's no avoidance, no embarrassing struggle, no meekness. There's a fullness there, and a sort of noble patrician confusion and acceptance and willingness and maybe even curiosity. I don't exactly know how to put it into words, but I think it's very obvious in Gabriel Garcia Marquez' Love in the Time of Cholera. That book is richly fictional, but you can still see the writer dealing with the onset of his own old age: the physicality, the mortality, the colors and scents and aftermath and future of a long life under a hot sun. I don't want to say that the author is "struggling"--it's not a struggle. I keep returning to the word "rich." It's very rich sensibility. Very full. That's what I see in these question poems--this rich, full sort of balance between curiosity and wisdom. WHAT AM I SAYING? I don't understand these things. I can't even express them. If anyone has any thoughts on these poems, I'd love to hear them. The introduction to my book mentions the "purity of heart that Neruda's work is known for." Is that it? Pablo, marry me and explain all this.)

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You are truly great.