Pablo Neruda

P ablo Neruda is one of the best-loved poets of the 20th century. Throughout his life, he worked as a senator, diplomat, and won the Nobel Prize. He is often considered to be the single most important Latin American poet of the century.

Pablo Neruda


Life Facts

  • Pablo Neruda was born in Parral, Maule, Region, Chile in July of 1904.
  • Neruda’s first poems were composed when he was ten years old.
  • Neruda was quite well known by the time he was twenty but he was still living in poverty.
  • He was nominated as a candidate for president in 1970.
  • Neruda died in 1973 from heart failure.

Interesting Facts

  • Pablo Neruda’s full birth name was Ricardo Eliécer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto.
  • His first piece of writing was an essay published when he was thirteen. titled “Entusiasmo y perseverancia,” or “Enthusiasm and Perseverance”.
  • Around 1920 he took on “Pablo Neruda” as his penname.
  • During the years of the Spanish Civil War Neruda was assigned to diplomatic posts in Buenos Aires and Barcelona, Spain.
  • Many believe that Neruda was murdered via poisoning.


Famous Poems by Pablo Neruda

‘I Don’t Love You’ is certainly one of Neruda’s most famous poems. It is also considered one of the best love poems ever written. The poem also goes by its sonnet number–17. The fourteen lines speak on the poet’s complex and yet perfectly simple, love for his wife. He tells the reader that he doesn’t love his wife like one loves beautiful objects. She is so much more than that. 

 

‘Don’t Go Far Off’  is another one of Neruda’s best love poems. IN it, the speaker plea with his lover, asking her not to abandon him to live out the rest of his life alone on earth. He hopes that she won’t “go far off” as he has no idea how to live without her. His desperation grows as the poem progresses until, in the end, he tells her that he’ll wander the earth looking for her if she leaves him.

 

Sonnet XI’ is a deeply sensuous love poem that compares a speaker’s desire to the hunger of a prowling puma. This sexual poem describes all the things that the speaker is missing about his lover. His desire is at the forefront of his mind as he uses symbols, metaphors, and similes to describe her. 

 

‘Every Day You Play’ describes the all-consuming love a speaker has for his lover. He also spends time discussing the ways that his life has been improved by their relationship. The love he’s surrounded by has made it seem as though his lover is far beyond anything anyone else could ever aspire to be. any “shadow” has disappeared from their love and now he’s determined to spend the rest of his life with her. 

 

‘The Poet’s Obligation’ is an interesting poem in which the speaker describes the obligations he feels ease the internal suffering of others. He addresses someone who is stuck in a “house or office” and then spends time considering what his role is, as a poet or writer, in bringing joy or at least peace to others. 


Early Life

Pablo Neruda was born in Parral, Maule, Region, Chile in July of 1904. His full birth name was Ricardo Eliécer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto but he would later take on “Pablo Neruda” as his pen name. Neruda’s parents were José del Carmen Reyes Morales who worked on the railway and Rosa Basoalto, who was a schoolteacher. His mother, Rosa, died when Neruda was only two months old.

 

It was soon after this that Morales moved his son to Temuco where he married a woman with whom he had had another child nine years earlier. This boy was named Rodolfo and he was raised alongside Neruda and Laura, another half-sibling from another woman.


First Poems and Essays

It is known that Neruda’s first poems were composed in 1914 when he was only ten years old. It was without his father’s consent or understanding that Neruda pursued a career in writing. The young writer would not be without support though. He found encouragement from the head of the local school, Gabriela Mistral, who would later win a Nobel Prize. 

 

When Neruda was thirteen years old he published his first piece of writing.“Entusiasmo y perseverancia,” or “Enthusiasm and Perseverance” was an essay that appeared in the local newspaper, La Mañana. At this time he was writing under the name, Neftalí Reyes. The next four years of his life saw Neruda publish a number of poems in local magazines under the same name. In 1919, he won the first prize in a literary contest for his poem ‘Comunión ideal’ or ‘Nocturno ideal.’ It was around this time period that the writer adopted his permanent pseudonym, “Pablo Neruda.”


Early Career

When Neruda was sixteen he moved to Santiago to study French at the Universidad de Chile. It was his initial goal to become a teacher but he soon began spending more of his time writing poetry alongside the well-known writer Eduardo Barrios. It was in 1923 that he published his first book of poetry, Crepusculario, or Book of Twilights. It was followed by Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada, or Twenty Love Poems and A Desperate Song.

 

Neruda had established an international reputation for himself at the age of twenty. Unfortunately, the sales did not translate into an economic gain for the writer, he continued to live in poverty. In 1926 he published the collection, Tentativa del hombre infinit, or The Attempt of the Infinite Man and the novel El habitante y su esperanza, or The Inhabitant and His Hope. His economic situation forced him to take on honorary consulship in Rangoon, the capital of the British colony of Burma. He would soon meet and marry his first wife, Marijke Antonieta Hagenaar Vogelzang. 

 

During the years of the Spanish Civil War Neruda was assigned to diplomatic posts in Buenos Aires and Barcelona, Spain. He eventually became the consul in Madrid. Neruda also had a daughter during this time, Malva Marina Reyes. He was becoming more and more political as the years of the war progressed and turned him towards communism. He supported the Spanish Republic and in 1938 published España en el corazón, or Spain in Our Hearts. As a result of his new politics, he lost his position as consul. 


Later Career

He moved to Delia del Carril in France where he was appointed special consul for Spanish emigrants in Paris. His next posting took him to Mexico where he married again. Three years later he returned to Chile and wrote a long poem titled, Alturas de Macchu Picchu and the epic poem, Canto General, a work which has been hailed as a masterpiece. In March of 1945, he was elected Communist Senator for the northern provinces of Antofagasta and Tarapacá. In the later years of the 1940s, Neruda was threatened with arrest and went into hiding alongside his wife. He was removed from office and the Communist Party was banned. 

 

He eventually left Chile for Europe where Pablo Picasso helped him enter Paris. This marked a period of travel for the poet in which he continued to write, give speeches, and attend conferences, such as the International PEN conference in New York City. The poet returned to Chile wherein 1970 he was nominated as a candidate for president. The following years saw him win the Nobel Prize and then later the Golden Wreath Award. 


Illness and Death

Neruda was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1973 during the days of the coup d’état. At the end of September in 1973, it was reported that Neruda died of heart failure but evidence later surfaced that he may have been murdered. In 2013 an investigation was launched on the supposition that doctors working at the hospital at the time of his death poisoned the writer. It is still unclear at this point what the results of that investigation will be. 


Influence from other Poets

Pablo Neruda was notably influenced by writers such as Alexander Pushkin, Rabindranath Tagore, and Federico García Lorca.


Poems by Pablo Neruda

Explore poetry by Pablo Neruda below, analyzed by the team at Poem Analysis.

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