Pablo Neruda, Valentine

By Adrian MatejkaFebruary 14, 2013

Pablo Neruda, Valentine

LAST VALENTINE’S DAY while I was digging around for a non-jewelry gift for my wife, I found a recording of Pablo Neruda reading his collection, XX poemas de amor y una canción desesperada. For me, the name “Neruda” is an eponym for romance because his poems say all of the things I would say if I had more imagination and less self-consciousness. If that isn’t enough, Neruda is a magician with imagery. The images in his poems seem as impossible as doves pulled from a scarf. At the same time, his cadences — especially in the original Spanish — are as debonairly waist grabbing as any slow jam.  

The recording begins with “Poema I,” and hearing Neruda read the first line, “Cuerpo de mujer, blancas colinas, muslos blancos / te pareces al mundo […]” accentuates the romance in the assonance, the bit of Marvin Gaye in the consonance. The music is there even before the meaning of the verse settles in: “Body of a woman, white hills, white thighs / you look like a world […].” Neruda is all in from the moment the recording starts. His reading is absent of irony, fully lusty, and completely in love: everything a good Valentine's Day gift is supposed to represent.

— Adrian Matejka

Pablo Neruda, “Poema I” from XX poemas de amor y una canción desesperada

[more Valentine's Day poems]

LARB Contributor

Adrian Matejka is an American poet. His most recent book, Mixology, was a winner of the 2008 National Poetry Series. He graduated from Southern Illinois University Carbondale with an MFA in Creative Writing.


Did you know LARB is a reader-supported nonprofit?

LARB publishes daily without a paywall as part of our mission to make rigorous, incisive, and engaging writing on every aspect of literature, culture, and the arts freely accessible to the public. Help us continue this work with your tax-deductible donation today!