I was also fourteen when I “met” Pablo Neruda — it was that same high school literature class that introduced me (and forty-three other teenage girls) to the wonderful world of this man’s poetry, and I don’t think any of us were quite the same again.

I will never forget the first time we watched Il Postino, because that’s the time I found out I needed to wear glasses. We were in the school AVR watching the subtitled movie, and I was the only one not laughing along with everyone else — because I couldn’t read the subtitles! I got my glasses within the week, but I wasn’t able to enjoy the movie until college, when my Great Books Class watched it after taking up Antonio Skarmeta’s Burning Patience (the novel on which Il Postino was based).

Back in February, our second selection for the Flips Flipping Pages monthly book discussion was Pablo Neruda’s Cien Sonetos de Amor.

Cien Sonetos de Amor, or 100 Love Sonnets (translated by Stephen Tapscott), is a poetry anthology by Chilean poet  and Nobel inglaureate Pablo Neruda. The 100 sonnets are dedicated to Neruda’s wife Matilde Urrutia, and are divided into four sections: Morning, Afternoon, Evening, and Night (Mañana, Mediodia, Tarde and Noche).

Now, I don’t read a lot of poetry, not because I don’t like it, but I guess it’s because I normally read (okay, and attempt to write) poetry in moments of extreme emotion (er, that’s gloriously in love, heartbroken, cloud nine happy, or seriously depressed).

But I did grow up reading a lot of it — our school was very big on poetry. We read a lot of poetry, wrote a lot of poetry, heck, we even passed around poems when the teacher wasn’t looking.

Anyway, I’ve had Cien Sonetos de Amor for around three years now, but other than the odd poem or two, I hadn’t really read the book, so I was glad it was up for a book discussion and I finally got to read it.

I’m sharing three poems I love from the book:

XVII

I do not love you as if you were a salt rose, or topaz
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
So I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

And here’s another one:

XLIV

You must know that I do not love you, and that I love you
Because everything alive has its two sides
A word is one wing of the silence
Fire has its cold half.

I love you in order to begin to love you
To start infinity again
And to never stop loving you
That is why I do not love you yet

I love you and I do not love you, as if I held
Keys in my hand, to a future of joy -
A wretched, muddled fate -

My love has two lives, in order to love you
That is why I love you when I do not love you
That is also why I love you when I do

and this one

LXXXI

And now you’re mine. Rest with your dream in my dream.
Love and pain and work should all sleep, now.
The night turns on its invisible wheels,
and you are pure beside me as a sleeping ember.

No one else, Love, will sleep in my dreams. You will go,
we will go together, over the waters of time.
No one else will travel through the shadows with me,
only you, evergreen, ever sun, ever moon.

Your hands have already opened their delicate fists
and let their soft drifting signs drop away;
your eyes closed like two gray wings, and I move

after, following the folding water you carry, that carries
me away. The night, the world, the wind spin out their destiny.
Without you, I am your dream, only that, and that is all.

I’m not one for cheesiness, but sigh, it’s all so romantic, how this guy can express his love in so many different ways.

The Flippers had an afternoon of poetry for the Neruda discussion. We had a poetry workshop facilitated by Honey, where we came up with our own poems:

This was followed by a thoughtful discussion of the book, led by Mika, where we shared our thoughts on the book (and about poetry), and our favorite lines from the poems, with the Il Postino poems wafting in the background.

We should spend more quiet afternoons discussing poetry — it’s good for the soul.

***

Cien Sonetos de Amor, trade paperback, 5/5 stars

Book #16 for 2010