You probably have been asked that familiar question before: if you were given the chance to have a dinner date with someone, dead or alive, who would that be?
Mine would be Pablo Neruda, the Nobel Prize-winning Chilean poet. Not because I would want to peek into his brilliant mind, find out where he drew his inspirations from and learn where he got his fiery passion. My reason would be too self-indulgent, out of whim and pure selfishness. I would just want to sit in front of him, listen to his voice while he recites one of his poems..or two…three would be better.
I was introduced to Neruda through the film Il Postino, about the postman who delivers letters to Neruda when he was in exile in Italy. The two men forged an unlikely friendship when the postman asked the poet for an autograph and later for advice on how to win a woman’s affection. The movie made references to some of his poems like Ode to an Onion and Sonnet 27. With the beautiful musical composition by Luis Bacalov, a soundtrack was released with celebrities reading Neruda’s poems.
Who wouldn’t fall in love with And Now You’re Mine, when it was read exquisitely by Andy Garcia and Julia Roberts?
Indeed it is true, what is said in the movie - Neruda “appeals to the female sensibilities”.
Born Ricardo Eliezer Neftali Reyes y Basoalto on 12 July 1904 in Chile, he already showed interest in poetry at an early age. When he was thirteen, writing under his real name, his poem, “Entusiasmo y Perseverancia” (Enthusiasm and Perseverance) was published in local paper, La Mañana where he became a contributor. In 1920 he took the name Pablo Neruda in honor of the Czech poet Jan Neruda and at the age of twenty, his book “Veinte poemas de amor y una cancion desesperada” (Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair) was published and he instantly became famous.
During his lifetime, Neruda led a very illustrious life as a diplomat and a poet. His life was not without any controversies - he joined the Communist Party of Chile in 1945, which led him to leave Chile and live in exile, and was an admirer of Joseph Stalin and Fidel Castro. He was allowed to come back in 1952 and had continued to published works for the next 21 years, building his status as one of the most important poet in the 20th century. By 1968, the collection of his works amounted to 3,237 pages
Before his death on 23 September 1973, he was awarded the International Peace Prize, Lenin Peace Prize, Stalin Peace Prize and the Nobel Prize in Literature.
To celebrate his birthday on 12 July, Christchuch City Libraries will hold a Pablo Neruda Poetry reading in collaboration with Daniel Toledo from South Media Entertainment. Five love poems will be read in both Spanish and English with Chilean musical interludes to be provided by Chilean guitarist, Eduardo Conejeros. This will be held on Wednesday 15 July 6-7pm in Ngā Purapura/Activity Room, Hapori | Community, Level 1, Tūranga.
Let us all have a collective date with Pablo Neruda and fall in love with his poems all over again.