"Where is the child I was, still inside me or gone?"
Neruda's body of poetry is so rich and varied that it defies
classification or easy summary. It developed along four main directions,
however. His love poetry, such as the youthful Twenty Love Poems and the
mature Los versos del Capitán (1952; The Captain's Verses), is tender,
melancholy, sensuous, and passionate. In "material" poetry, such as
Residencia en la tierra, loneliness and depression immerse the author in
a subterranean world of dark, demonic forces. His epic poetry is best
represented by Canto general, which is a Whitmanesque attempt at
reinterpreting the past and present of Latin America and the struggle of
its oppressed and downtrodden masses toward freedom. And finally there
is Neruda's poetry of common, everyday objects, animals, and plants, as
in Odas elementales.
These four trends correspond to four aspects of Neruda's personality:
his passionate love life; the nightmares and depression he experienced
while serving as a consul in Asia; his commitment to a political cause;
and his ever-present attention to details of daily life, his love of
things made or grown by human hands. Many of his other books, such as
Libro de las preguntas (1974; "Book of Questions"), reflect
philosophical and whimsical questions about the present and future of
humanity. Neruda was one of the most original and prolific poets to
write in Spanish in the 20th century, but despite the variety of his
output as a whole, each of his books has unity of style and purpose.
Neruda, Pablo (1904-73). A Latin American poet with an international
reputation, Pablo Neruda was also committed to politics and social
reform. Often referred to as the "poet of enslaved humanity," he was
awarded the Lenin peace prize in 1953 and the Nobel prize for literature
in 1971 continued...