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The Essential Neruda: Selected Poems

4.46  ·  Rating details ·  5,564 ratings  ·  242 reviews

This collection of Neruda’s most essential poems will prove indispensable. Selected by a team of poets and prominent Neruda scholars in both Chile and the United States, this is a definitive selection that draws from the entire breadth and width of Neruda’s various styles and themes. An impressive group of translators that includes Alaistair Reid, Stephen Mitchell, Robe

Paperback, Bilingual English and Spanish, 200 pages
Published April 1st 2004 by City Lights Publishers (first published January 1st 1979)
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Mark Eisner The line in the book is "“I love you as certain dark (obscure) things are loved, secretly, between the shadow and the soul" which is an from Neruda's …moreThe line in the book is "“I love you as certain dark (obscure) things are loved, secretly, between the shadow and the soul" which is an from Neruda's Sonnet XVII, which is in The Essential Neruda. Actually, City Lights, the publisher made a beautiful poster of it which you can see/get at
Robin Williams quotes the same line in the movie Patch Adams-- the actress Amber Heard has a tattoo of them...(less)

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Sep 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: lovers and revolutionaries
The Chilean Pablo Neruda is officially the sexiest poet ever, which, like, do you think that worked out well for him? It sounds good, but remember - he's still a poet. Being the sexiest of all poets is like being the kindest of all cats, right?

I know what you're thinking, you're like what, are you crazy, people love poets, they get all kinds of horny for poets, read a girl/boy a poem and it's like guaranteed sploosh/sproing. But do they really? Ask yourself this: the situations you're thinking
Jun 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall a
Pradnya K.
Nov 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015, poems
Awesome, inspiring, picturesque, soothing, thought provoking, challenging, mystified, saddening - Neruda takes his reader through a plethora of the feelings, all the while never leaving his hand. And the reader would cling to it like a kid, fascinated to explore this new world full of wonders. Sometimes he makes you chuckle on the trivial detail looked from such an angel you'd never ever have imagined. Sometimes he leaves us in a mystified fog in heart or a rising smoke of craters of lava. The o ...more
Jul 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Someone asked me why I had so many different copies of Neruda and I answered because no one book ever has all the poems or the translations that I want. That's the tricky thing about Neruda. It's also the reason I like dual translation editions, so I can see the original right next to the English. ...more
William West
Feb 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I'll say that this, my first dip into the Neruda universe, affected me more than any encounter with 20th century poetry I've yet had. But I also haven't had many. I'm still at a "greatest hits" level when it comes to poetry, especially modern poetry. Before Neruda, I would have said Yates was my fave 20th century poet, much more than Eliot, but Neruda eclipsed them by a lot.

There's a line in the editor's introduction that compares Neruda's style to red wine. The comparison really stuck with me
Steven Godin
Oct 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, latin-america

I see your dry currents moving,
broken-off hands I see growing,
I hear your oceanic plants
creaking, shaken by night and fury,
and I feel leaves drying inwards,
amassing green materials
to your desolate stillness.

- - -

I leaned my head into the deepest waves,
I sank through the sulfuric peace,
and, like a blind man, returned to the jasmine
of the exhausted human springtime.

- - -

Your petals pound the surface of the world,
your underwater grains are always trembling,
the smooth green algae dangle their menac
Krista Claudine Baetiong
Who wouldn’t love Pablo Neruda?

My long-standing love affair with him started during Humanities class in college, when my professor made us read and interpret “Tonight I Can Write”. I found it to be the saddest poem, but it was also hauntingly beautiful and enthralling, and held deeper connection with my own juvenile heartache. Since then I never stopped getting moved by his poetry.
Jan 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
So glad I read this in both English and Spanish.
Nov 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I can write the saddest verses tonight

Write, for example, "The night is full of stars,
twinkling blue, in the distance."

The night wind spins in the sky and sings.

I can write the saddest verses tonight.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

On nights like this I held her in my arms.
I kissed her so many times beneath the infinite sky.

She loved me, at times I loved her too.
How not to have loved her great still eyes.

I can write the saddest verses tonight.
To think that I don't have her.
Aug 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Fable of the Mermaid and the Drunks

All those men were there inside,
when she came in totally naked.
They had been drinking: they began to spit.
Newly come from the river, she knew nothing.
She was a mermaid who had lost her way.
The insults flowed down her gleaming flesh.
Obscenities drowned her golden breasts.
Not knowing tears, she did not weep tears.
Not knowing clothes, she did not have clothes.
They blackened her with burnt corks and cigarette stubs,
and rolled around laughing on the tavern floor.
Connie G
Nov 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
This bilingual book of poems was published in 2004, the centennial celebration of Pablo Neruda's birth. The collection gives an overview of his writing over the lifetime of this great Latin American poet. The editor chose eight poets to do the translations. The poems presented include some sensual love poems, and some political poems about both Chile and the Spanish Civil War. He wrote earthy poems about vineyards, gardens, the sea, and the ruins of Macchu Picchu. Death was prominent in some of ...more
Jan 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Some books are so good that they deserve to be given a place of prominence in a library, or book store. The Essential Neruda: Selected Poems was so beautiful, so haunting and so breathtakingly well written that it should be displayed only in the most prestigious of art galleries. Every word in this collections of poems, that covers a wide array of topics such as death, love, the Spanish Civil War, and worker's rights, feels as if it is a gift. This is why I love poetry!
Feb 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
To enter Neruda's world is to enter a place where words speak the unspeakable, words of power, class, and love. Neruda strips his world down to the essentials, and then cooks a feast of words on top of that, creating a sense of luxury, magic, and sometimes despair. His perspective is an essential one for the twentieth century. ...more
May 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Pablo Neruda is one of the most influential poets of the twentieth century and in this particular collection of his work, he showcases that through and through. Neruda’s usage of metaphors throughout his work is awe inspiring but it ranges from simple basic concepts to more advanced usages that require advance knowledge over the symbolism that he is attempting to enact in the reader's emotions. You see the simplistic metaphor usage in “I Can Write The Saddest Verses” where the meaning of the pie ...more
Aug 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Any lover of poetry/gorgeous writing in general
Neruda is perhaps most famous for his One Hundred Love Sonnets, especially XVII. He is also perhaps the greatest poet writing/having written in the Spanish language. Certainly his poetry transcends time - and this edition offers both the original Spanish and beautifully translated English versions. It's a great learning experience for people taking Spanish classes (like I am now). What more could you ask for?

Allow me to offer the following as an example:

Oda Al Libro (II): Ode to the Book (II)

Miroku Nemeth
Jan 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful and broad collection of his poems, from love to workers' rights....

"On our earth, before writing was invented, before the printing press was invented, poetry flourished. That is why we know that poetry is like bread; it should be shared by all, by scholars and by peasants, by all our vast, incredible, extraordinary family of humanity." Pablo Neruda

I Like You When You're Quiet

I like it when you're quiet. It's as if you weren't here now,
and you heard me from a distance, and my voice
Joan Colby
Sep 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
There is no one like Neruda, particularly in the stunning imagery of the early poems. Nine translators are featured in this selection of Neruda’s work, Mark Eisner, John Felstiner, Forrest Gander, Robert Hass, Jack Hirschman, Stephen Kessler, Stephen Mitchell and Alastair Reid. Rather than quote poems in their entirety (as they deserve to be read) I’ll note just a few of the images that resonated for me. “death’s arrival on the ox’s tongue” “come near with an apple and a horse,/because there in ...more
Dec 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The translations in this edition are wonderful! They seem to me to do justice to Neruda's beautiful, dark, heartrending poems. ...more
Rachel Asselta
Jun 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really, really don’t like audiobooks. But hey, character development, I guess? Also, I hope to one day go back and read his poems in the original language.

My favorites were “tonight I can write the saddest lines,” “walking around,” and “october fullness.”
Aug 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
I don't have this book, but I've read most of the poems online. And let me tell you, they are gorgeous poems. Very descriptive and raw. Love. Love. Love. ...more
Jul 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-ya, poems
Some were beautiful (I especially loved 'I Can Write The Saddest Verses Tonight'), some I couldn't even begin to understand (Which totally saddens me) but the poem that got me reading this book was 'I Do Not Love You.... Sonnet XVII' because of Anna and the French Kiss. I chanced upon a line in Anna and the French Kiss and that COMPLETELY made me certain I had to get my hands on a Neruda piece, no matter what. The line, if any of you are wondering, happens to be a very famous line (sorta, I thin ...more
I believe that death's song is the colour of wet violets,
violets accustomed to the earth,
because the face of death is green,
and the gaze of death is green,
with the sharp wetness of the leaf of a violet,
and its serious colour of wintry impatience.

I'm not sure I can say much more. I brought this on a whim and keep picking it up, delving through it and spending so long just going over and over the same poems. Each time I read them I find something different, something beautiful and sad and min
Tracy Gaughan
Aug 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, poetry
If you enjoy poetry, if you're prone to being knocked sideways by a simple group of words perfectly formed, expressing a thought or feeling - then you've got to stop what you're doing and get your hands on a copy of this book! This was a no-brainer for me, I LOVE Neruda, his twenty love poems rendered me speechless. But the poems in this collection are sublime. I guess so much is lost in translation (I'd nearly learn Spanish just to read Neruda's words exactly as he wrote them) but Mark Eisner, ...more
Mara Shaw
Jul 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Genius. Every word perfect, but more importantly, his poetry has a flow that leaves me gasping at the end of each poem, raised up by each conclusion. He seems as much a composer as a poet with the swell of each poetic melody creating tears, joy, an unexpected hitch in the throat.

He captures fundamental insights with brilliance. Goodread readers will enjoy Ode to the Book (II) which starts:

miniscule forest,
after leaf
your paper
of the elements,

Il Pueblo had me in t
Sep 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: pablo-neruda, poetry
Leaning into the evenings I throw my sad nets
to your ocean eyes.

There my loneliness stretches and burns in the tallest bonfire,
arms twisting like a drowning man's.

I cast red signals over your absent eyes
which lap like the sea at the lighthouse shore.

You guard only darkness, my distant female,
sometimes the coast of dread emerges from your stare.

Leaning into the evenings I toss my sad nets
to that sea which stirs your ocean eyes.

The night birds peck at the first stars
that twinkle like my soul as I
Mark Brown
Apr 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is the first book of poetry I´ve ever read from cover to cover in my life. I´ve always felt drawn to Pablo Neruda´s poetry. Probably because I´ve lived in Chile. But there was some good stuff in this collection!

Neruda is a master at capturing feelings of nostalgia and remembrance of times gone-by. I want this particular ditty on my gravestone/urn:

It's the hour
when leaves fall, triturated
across the ground, when
out of being and unbeing they return to their source,
their gold and green stripped
Apr 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Forget his politics, they are irrelevant in the context of the literary value of this incredible poet. Neruda's poems are like no other. Nobody is capable of such sensuality through poetry, everything he writes evokes a visceral reaction whilst maintaining a sort of unattainable beauty. Nature, women and love are interchangeable throughout. Unfortunately the poem translations into English lose some of the 'Neruda' about them. Read in Spanish if you can. ...more
Jun 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016, poetry
In the end, everyone is aware of this:
nobody keeps any of what he has,
and life is only a borrowing of bones.
The best thing was learning not to have too much
either of sorrow or of joy,
to hope for the chance of a last drop,
to ask more from honey and from twilight.

- Neruda, 'October Fullness'
This is my first reading of Neruda and I was a little underwhelmed. I know that reading translated poetry is often an unsatisfactory experience, but I don't read Spanish. Some of the poems were a bit "clunky" and I don't know if the rhythms and word choices of the translators are to blame, or if Neruda had his clunky moments.

Anyway, a less than transcendent reading experience for me.
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Pablo Neruda was the pen name and, later, legal name of the Chilean writer and politician Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto. Neruda assumed his pen name as a teenager, partly because it was in vogue, partly to hide his poetry from his father, a rigid man who wanted his son to have a "practical" occupation. Neruda's pen name was derived from Czech writer and poet Jan Neruda; Pablo is thought to be fro ...more

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“Te amo sin saber cómo, ni cuándo, ni de dónde,
te amo directamente sin problemas ni orgullo:
así te amo porque no sé amar de otra manera,

sino así de este modo en que no soy ni eres,
tan cerca que tu mano sobre mi pecho es mía,
tan cerca que se cierran tus ojos con mi sueño.”
“October Fullness”

Little by little, and also in great leaps,
life happened to me,
and how insignificant this business is.
These veins carried
my blood, which I scarcely ever saw,
I breathed the air of so many places
without keeping a sample of any.
In the end, everyone is aware of this:
nobody keeps any of what he has,
and life is only a borrowing of bones.
The best thing was learning not to have too much
either of sorrow or of joy,
to hope for the chance of a last drop,
to ask more from honey and from twilight.

Perhaps it was my punishment.
Perhaps I was condemned to be happy.
Let it be known that nobody
crossed my path without sharing my being.
I plunged up to the neck
into adversities that were not mine,
into all the sufferings of others.
It wasn’t a question of applause or profit.
Much less. It was not being able
to live or breathe in this shadow,
the shadow of others like towers,
like bitter trees that bury you,
like cobblestones on the knees.

Our own wounds heal with weeping,
our own wounds heal with singing,
but in our own doorway lie bleeding
widows, Indians, poor men, fishermen.
The miner’s child doesn’t know his father
amidst all that suffering.

So be it, but my business
the fullness of the spirit:
a cry of pleasure choking you,
a sigh from an uprooted plant,
the sum of all action.

It pleased me to grow with the morning,
to bathe in the sun, in the great joy
of sun, salt, sea-light and wave,
and in that unwinding of the foam
my heart began to move,
growing in that essential spasm,
and dying away as it seeped into the sand.”
More quotes…