Thursday, January 31, 2013

Pablo Neruda, on Food and Water

Ode to Water 
by Pablo Neruda

Everything on earth bristled, the bramble
pricked and the green thread 
bit, the petal fell
until the only flower was falling.
Water is different,
has no direction but beauty,
runs through all dreams of color,
takes bright lessons 
from the rock
and in those occupations works out 
the unbroken duties of the foam.

That we should all have the artist's lens of the late Chilean poet, who found beauty in the simplest things. In his Memoirs, he said he left his native Chile "to go singing through the world." Certainly his odes to various foods (excerpted below) have the power to pique anyone's interest, whether you have an appetite for poetry or not. 

Ode to the Lemon
...In the lemon
knives cut
a small cathedral,
the hidden aspe
opened acid windows
to the light
and drops poured out
the topazes,
the altars,
the cool architecture...
so when your hand 
grasps the hemisphere
of the cut 
lemon above your plate
you spill a universe of gold,
a goblet yellow
with miracles...

Ode to the Tomato
...The tomato
luminary of the earth,
and fertile
shows us 
its convolutions,
its canals,
the illustrious plentitude
and the abundance
without pit,
without husk,
without scales or thorns,
the gift of its fiery color
and the totality of its coolness.

Ode to the Artichoke

...and the gentle artichoke 
stood there in the garden
dressed as a warrior

Do read the full length versions of these poems and also Neruda's other odes: to watermelon, salt, onion, and the like.

Unfortunately, I think the pieces are too long to include in a single post. Read and/or listen to them in Neruda's native Spanish. Here's a challenge: find a decent Spanish-language version of these poems on You Tube. I, for one, didn't like what my search produced.

(I did, however, come across a video of my beloved Ralph Fiennes reading Neruda's Ode to the Sea. You may have heard this poem in the 1994 Italian film Il Postino, which features a fictitious Pablo Neruda. I'm still deciding what's more beautiful: Neruda's Ode to the Sea, the Italian language, or the gods and goddesses who act in the film.)


The text from which I've quoted includes both the Spanish and English versions of the poems.

It is Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon. Selected Poems of Pablo Neruda. Translated by Stephen Mitchell. 

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