Sigh. I still remember the first time I came across those words back in middle school. Miss Toranzos (I think she’s on Facebook now!) made each one of us learn Neruda’s “Poema 20″ in its entirety and then recite it in front of the whole class. Of course the boys all made fun of the girls because, well, little did they know they too would be vulnerable one day.
Then, by chance, or perhaps fate, one of my college professors ended up being Chilean (R.I.P. Lucia Berlin). An extraordinarily brave woman who relied on a walker and an oxygen tank to survive her last few years on earth, she basically made me want to be a writer. With her, I talked about Pablo Neruda. And missing home. And love. And heartbreak. Or at least what I thought I knew about those things at the time.
With the recent release of the bilingual coffee table book Intimacies: Poems of Love (Harper, $28) showcasing some of the Nobel Laureate’s best verses and the earthy artwork of Mary Heebner, I was reminded of how much I love the man born Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto (1904-1973).