In a country where, for decades, history was buried, it is fitting for Chileans to dig up Neruda to find out the truth of what happened to him…
Chile now has a chance to do the right thing by its poet. Neruda’s beach home, at Isla Negra, some miles from Santiago on the coast, is a lovely, modest villa on a rocky beach, with windows that look out to sea and the poet’s lyrical collection of old ship mermaids as decorations. He and his widow, Matilde Urrutia, were buried there, and that is where the investigators went to look for the truth of what happened. In the end, even if Neruda died of cancer, as was said at the time, his exhumation is an opportunity to reinforce the message to authoritarians everywhere that a poet’s words will always outlast theirs, and the blind praise of their powerful friends.
somehow i missed the news that Pablo Neruda’s body is being exhumed—it turns out his untimely death may have been hurried along not (just) by poetic heartbreak at his country’s fall to fascism but something far more simple and sinister.
Neruda knew death was coming for him, one way or another, and wrote his way through his late years trying to make sense of what his life had meant, what was left undone. even when I first started obsessing over his work, it was his autumnal poems I was most struck by. (i recommend starting with the yellow heart and working your way backwards through his collections.)
on t’ang poetry by june jordan: no personal subject, no pronouns, no subject/object, or fixed/fluid syntax, no subject acting on object, no subject distinct from a predicate, no poet apart from his/her/their environment & therefore - no acceptable english translation of a t’ang poem.
fluid interrelationships, equality in value among all elements (words), humility, the poet as part of all of this, collective cultural allusion, precision in multiplicity of meanings versus either/or formation, or surmise, and eminently musical composition.
We’ve been hard at work on an app that we’ve called Poems by Heart. It’s a fun memorization game that will challenge you with classic poems from the greats: Shakespeare, Poe, Dickinson, Whitman, Keats, Carroll…. You’ll rank, you’ll improve, and you can share your newly perfected recitations online with friends. Oh, and it’s free to download.
Happy Poetry Month!
Love, Penguin Classics
P.S. Jen Wang, the wonderful illustrator for the app, talks about the process of creating all the art on a blog post here!
Dear Pengiun Classics,
I appreciate your efforts, and am looking forward to this so very much.
(An app-game I can get behind!)
Perfect for hitting on that cute chick at the downtown bookstore, yeah?
girl is so good at loving everybody (but herself). girl is so good at hating no one (but herself). of course you want to be loved. everyone does. but if your body is a home that even you refuse to live in, why would anyone else ask to move in? (just temporary tenants where your thighs touch under your summer dress) sweetheart, whatever you are running away from, we can all smell.
Beware the autumn people.
For some, autumn comes early, stays late, through life, where October follows September and November touches October and then instead of December and Christ’s birth there is no Bethlehem Star, no rejoicing, but September comes again and old October and so on down the years, with no winter, spring or revivifying summer.
For these beings, fall is the only normal season, the only weather, there be no choice beyond.
Where do they come from? The dust.
Where do they go? The grave.
Does blood stir their veins? No, the night wind.
What ticks in their head? The worm.
What speaks through their mouth? The toad.
What sees from their eye? The snake.
What hears with their ear? The abyss between the stars.
They sift the human storm for souls, eat flesh of reason, fill tombs with sinners. They frenzy forth. In gusts they beetle-scurry, creep, thread, filter, motion, make all moons sullen, and surely cloud all clear-run waters. The spider-web hears them, trembles—breaks.
Such are the autumn people.
― Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962) (via amber-and-ice)
I began to get enormously interested in how everybody said the same thing over and over again with infinite variations but over and over again until finally if you listened with great intensity you could hear it rise and fall and tell all that there was inside them, not so much by the actual words they said or the thoughts they had but the movement of their thoughts and words endlessly the same and endlessly different.
The women who hate me hate
their insistent desires, their fat lusts
swallowed and hidden, disciplined to nothing
narrowed to bone and dry hot dreams.
The women who hate me deny
hunger and appetite,
the cream delight
of a scream
that arches the thighs and fills
the mouth with singing.
their high school principal
told me I couldn’t teach
poetry with profanity
so I asked my students,
“Raise your hand if you’ve heard of the Holocaust.”
in unison, their arms rose up like poisonous gas
then straightened out like an SS infantry
“Okay. Please put your hands down.
Now raise your hand if you’ve heard of the Rwandan genocide.”
blank stares mixed with curious ignorance
a quivering hand out of the crowd
half-way raised, like a lone survivor
struggling to stand up in Kigali
“Luz, are you sure about that?”
“That’s what I thought.”
they won’t let you hear the truth at school
if that person says “fuck”
can’t even talk about “fuck”
even though a third of your senior class
I can’t teach an 18-year-old girl in a public school
how to use a condom that will save her life
and that of the orphan she will be forced
to give to the foster care system—
“Carlos, how many 13-year-olds do you know that are HIV-positive?”
“Honestly, none. But I do visit a shelter every Monday and talk with
six 12-year-old girls with diagnosed AIDS.”
while 4th graders three blocks away give little boys blowjobs during recess
I met an 11-year-old gang member in the Bronx who carries
a semi-automatic weapon to study hall so he can make it home
and you want me to censor my language
“Carlos, what’s genocide?”
your books leave out Emmett Till and Medgar Evers
call themselves “World History” and don’t mention
King Leopold or diamond mines
call themselves “Politics in the Modern World”
and don’t mention Apartheid
“Carlos, what’s genocide?”
you wonder why children hide in adult bodies
lie under light-color-eyed contact lenses
learn to fetishize the size of their asses
and simultaneously hate their lips
my students thought Che Guevara was a rapper
from East Harlem
still think my Mumia t-shirt is of Bob Marley
how can literacy not include Phyllis Wheatley?
schools were built in the shadows of ghosts
filtered through incest and grinding teeth
molded under veils of extravagant ritual
“Carlos, what’s genocide?”
“Roselyn, how old was she? Cuántos años tuvo tu madre cuando se murió?”
“My mother had 32 years when she died. Ella era bellísima.”
they’ve moved from sterilizing “Boriqua” women
injecting indigenous sisters with Hepatitis B,
now they just kill mothers with silent poison
stain their loyalty and love into veins and suffocate them
Ridwan’s father hung himself
in the box because he thought his son
was ashamed of him
Maureen’s mother gave her
skin lightening cream
the day before she started the 6th grade
she carves straight lines into her
beautiful brown thighs so she can remember
what it feels like to heal
One reason people’s aversion to poetry sometimes passes over into strong annoyance, or even resentment, is that poems steal our very language out from under us and return it malformed, misshapen, hardly recognizable…