I Explain a Few Things: Selected Poems

Pablo Neruda, Author, Ilan Stavans, Editor , edited by Ilan Stavans,. Farrar, Straus & Giroux $16 (359p) ISBN 978-0-374-26079-8

Perhaps the most popular modern poet in the world, the Chilean-born Neruda (1904–1973) won the Nobel Prize for an enormous body of verse that includes introspective lyrics of love and lust; sinuously enthusiastic “elemental odes” to artichokes, watermelon, salt, Walt Whitman and the human eye; declamations in favor of the labor movement, the Communist Party and the working people of any nation; and involuted late poems of self-doubt. Perhaps no serious writer of verse since Whitman has combined so much scholarly attention with so much enthusiasm in a broad international public: unlike some Latin American peers to whom he paid homage, Neruda even at his most ambitious remained clear in his passions. Memoirist, critic and translator Stavans has culled this useful portable volume, with its facing-page English and Spanish from his far larger (1,040 pages) Poetry of Pablo Neruda (2003), while adding a few translations not included there: translators include Robert Bly, W.S. Merwin and Stavans himself. A particular attraction is Scottish poet Alastair Reid's version of “Autumn Testament,” Neruda's mid-career retrospect: “I've been a great flowing river,” the poet asserts, “with hard ringing stones, with clear night-noises,/ with dark day-songs.” (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 07/30/2007
Release date: 10/01/2007
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