Critical Analysis: On “poetry” by Pablo Neruda
By Myranda Grecinger
In his 1964 poem entitled “Poetry”, Pablo Neruda vividly captured the very essence of what it is to be so intently captivated by something and inspired that it almost becomes your very soul. Unlike many well known poems this was not a tragic account of unrequited or lost love or a joyous verse regarding the beauty of nature, yet its’ theme is one that any living person should experience at least once in their lives. The theme of this poem is simple, yet extravagantly described; the experience of embracing and being embraced, by creativity, moreover it is about finding ones passion and calling.
I found this poem to be such a perfect account of my own experiences, Neruda’s description of the moment he began to write brings to mind a picture of a man who is just taking his first breath of life. His use of literary tools truly makes his experience come alive and when reading it, I felt as if I were experiencing this new world with him for the first time.
In this piece the author speaks not only as if he has found his calling and his passion, but more so as though it found him. Neruda’s use of personification in the first two lines of the first stanza truly does a magnificent job in setting the tone. “And it was at that age . . .Poetry arrived in search of me” Neruda (1964). With this simple statement the reader is thrust into the middle of this poet’s age of awakening and begins to get the idea that the author does not intend for the reader to get the impression that writing poetry is simply and action that he performs but rather that poetry is a living thing that overtook him.
The rhythm and form of this poem seems to vary a bit from stanza to stanza, however this variation seems to be intentional and serves a purpose. When reading this poem out loud I came to the realization that I was emphasizing the words that probably meant the most to the author, certainly the words that carried the most meaning and carried the clearest picture for me. When I read the words in the first verse there were certain words and phrases that really stood out to me.
“And it was at that age . . . Poetry arrived
in search of me. I don't know, I don't know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don't know how or when,” Neruda (1964).
It is easy from the rhythm and form of these lines to realize that he did not go looking for a way to express himself, it came to him. He does not know where or how or when, just that suddenly, it was there. The meaning of these lines is clear by the way that the lines are punctuated and by which words finish each one.
The poem is quite formal in dictation, using words that invoke strong images and emotions, such as “deciphering” rather than just saying figuring it out. I believe that this more elegant and formal manner of speaking is part of what gives it such a clear and noticeable tone. The formal style of writing also gives the reader a sense that this poet is writing of something of such great importance to him that he did not want his words over looked or ignored. This poem clearly carries a very passionate and inspiring tone throughout it’s’ entirety.
This persona represented in this poem is the author himself speaking in first person point of view, and I personally believe that was the best choice, because in doing so he allowed the poem to in a sense belong to whoever may be reading it which allowed it to represent something personal to the reader. Neruda’s use of alliteration in lines such as “something started in my soul, fever or forgotten wings,” and “planets, palpitating plantations, shadow perforated,” Neruda (1964) heavily impact the reader, only adding to the intensity of their meaning and keeping ones attention focused on the depths to which this experience touched him. Assonance is also prominent in this piece, found in lines such as the long “I” in the lines “deciphering that fire and I wrote the first faint line,” Neruda (1964). These literary tools among many others create such an alluring flow, the rhythm is smooth but the tone is so intense that the contrast creates the perfect image of what he is feeling and invoked those very same emotions with me as I read this poem.
I began writing when I was ten years old and my father would require me to sit for an hour each evening practicing my penmanship and spelling. That hour often seemed to last an eternity and one day I grew tired of practicing the same words and letters over and over again and became so overwhelmed with boredom that I began to daydream. I stared out my window at what a beautiful day it was and thought to myself how I would have liked to be out there enjoying it. I thought of all of the things that I would do if I were out there and how sweet the air would smell with the honeysuckle in bloom and how musty and stagnated I felt in my small upstairs bedroom.
I imagined my room as a long forgotten tower in a castle where the sun always shined surrounded by a majestic forest and a mighty king forbade his daughter from ever going outside. The father feared the sun would love her so intensely that it would steal her away. As my imagination began to take off I realized that I was writing all of this down in verse with every third line rhyming and poured out all of the emotions that I was experiencing into a poem. So invigorating was this experience that the time flew by and I felt somehow victorious against my father, believing that somehow by enjoying the writing time that I had gotten back at him for forcing me to do it.
The opportunity each day to express how I was feeling and turn it into a story and better even still that this story could represent something else and sound so pretty in a way that I could never have spoken in regular conversation, became the highlight of my day. I wrote for several years daily and still do when the mood hits me, it got me through some of the most difficult moments in my life and became at times became my very my motivation for life, a reason to cherish every experience, so that I could write about it. So when I read Poetry” by Pablo Neruda I knew just how he felt and all of those memories came flooding back. There has never been anything that brought me as much peace and satisfaction or opened my eyes to the world as much as expressing myself through poetry.
There is nothing so fulfilling as creating something beautiful and finding that one thing which reaches so deeply into your soul that you realize it has a hold of you and will never let go. That ideal is strongly represented throughout this piece. The passion that burns within the author urging him into expressing himself and writing poetry, that creative element that grabs you at just the right time in your life and stays with you through the rest of it, the experience of those first moments, as far as I am aware there is no word in the English language to describe it, but there should be, for no human life seems complete without it.
© 2011 Myranda Grecinger