Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair was written in 1924, when Chilean poet Pablo Neruda was only 19. It went on to sell millions of copies over the years and was translated into multiple languages. Neruda won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971 and died two years later in 1973.
Neruda’s poems definitely have a sensuousness about them, and they also evoke the poet’s passion and pain. I only wish I knew Spanish so I could understand the poems in their original. Poetry must be one of the most difficult of writings to translate, but this dual language edition was penned by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet W.S. Mervin.
An interesting note — the cover of the book is Heart by Andy Warhol.
A portion of “Every Day You Play”:
Mis palabras llovieron sobre ti acariciándote.
Amé desde hace tiempo tu cuerpo de nácar soleado.
Hasta te creo dueña del universo.
Te traeré de las montañas flores alegres, copihues,
avellanas oscuras, y cestas silvestres de besos.
Quiero hacer contigo
lo que la primavera hace con los cerezos.
My words rained over you, stroking you.
A long time I have loved the sunned mother-of-pearl of your body.
I go so far as to think that you own the universe.
I will bring you happy flowers from the mountains, bluebells,
dark hazels, and rustic baskets of kisses.
I want to do with you
what spring does with the cherry trees.
1924, 80 pp.