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PABLO NERUDA

A study of the Chilean poet, "the outstanding figure in the poetic landscape of Latin America
today." A story of literary and political growth. By Samuel Putnam.

him alcohol as a vocal stinlulus." rique Gonzalez Martinez. In other words,

W
HEN Lombardo Toledano and
Pablo Neruda appeared as chief Thus did the "Swan" die, but not be- decadence followed by cerebralism. This
guests of honor on a New York fore he had left his indelible stamp on the is in reality the thesis upon which Mr.
stage at the recent "Night of the Amer- French and Spanish poetry of his age. Fitts has built his anthology; and it is one
icas," it was perhaps the most important In a manner of speaking, he was his age, which possibly accounts for the few flaws
single event to take place in connection and his first volume, Azul (1888), mark- one might pick in an otherwise highly com-
with our inter-American cultural relations ing the beginning of Latin American mendable volume. The editors throughout
program. For the presence of the famous modernismo, will remain a landmark in exhibit a certain preference for the
Latin American labor leader and the great literary history. Despite his tragic personal "sapient Owl" type of production, and this
Chilean poet signified a recognition of both life, reminiscent of our own Poe, and de- is reflected even among the translators,
labor and culture as vital factors in hemi- spite the prevailingly decadent quality of who sometimes give a more cerebralized
sphere solidarity, with particular reference his verse (in the technical sense of the rendering than the original calls for.
to our own national security. word), he was a great poet in that he not Mr. Fitts is none the less intuitively
It is not the purpose of this article to only reflected his time, but, especially to- aware that a new and potent force is
comment on the evening in question; but ward the end, displayed a prescience of stirring in Latin American poetry today.
readers of N E W MASSES may be interested things to- come—things bigger than and "Poetry," he tells us in his preface, "after
in hearing a little more about the cultural beyond both himself and the impressive long absence, has returned to the people,"
"angle" as represented in the person of body of his work. The "Swan" foresaw and he observes that "native themes and
Neruda (in private life Neftali Reyes, not merely his own death, but the life that native rhythms—whether Indian, Afro-
Chilean consul in Mexico City who has must come after, be born of it. Antillean, or Gaucho—have energized it,
also seen diplomatic service in Spain, It is precisely this new life, this new transforming it into something that is pecu-
France, Argentina, India, the Dutch East world that Pablo Neruda represents in liarly American and wholly of our time."
Indies, and elsewhere). Latin American poetry. All this is true enough. The mistake, as I
Many people hold that Neruda is the see it, lies in associating this change with
greatest living Spanish language poet since ' I 'HERE are some, however, who would the cerebral or "sapient Ow*!" school, a
the death of Federico Garcia Lorca and •*• see an interregnum. One'of these is Mr. school of which we might take an Eliot
Antonio Machado. He is the outstanding Fitts, who edited the excellent Anthology or a Pound as correspondent in British-
figure in the poetic landscape of Latin of Contemporary Latin American Poetry, American poetry. And this I do not believe
America today. If one were asked to name just published by New Directions. As suc- is true.
the two foremost poets produced by Span- cessor to Dario's "Swan," we then have the Ruben Dario once wrote a poem quite
ish America, one might reply: Neruda and "sapient Owl" of the Mexican poet, En- different from most of his work. It was
the late Ruben Dario. The latter died in called "El Aguila^' (The Eagle), and was
1916, and the former began his career . addressed to the United States of America.
seven years later, in 1923. The two are While marred by a certain confusion of
very different, as far apart as two tower- political thinking, it contains one of those
ing Himalayan peaks; yet like those peaks presciences of which I have spoken; it
they have the aflJnity of altitude. Dario shows that the poet was conscious of a new
stands for an old and essentially decadent social-political force that lay beyond the
world of poetry, a world, to quote Mr. span of his days and the scope of his art,
Dudley Fitts, that was "sensuous, decora- even if he was not able to name it—the
tive, exquisite," and whose image was the people—the people of this Western Hemi-
graceful-necked swan. When all is said, sphere and of the earth. The graceful Swan
this poet's world which overlapped the foresaw the mighty Eagle; and the latter
turn of the century was but a pale reflec- bird now spreads his wings in the new
tion of the real and agonizing one that was poetry of this new and struggling world.
breathing its last on the battlefields of Eu- It is the Eagle that we meet in the poems
rope, even as Dario, its golden-throated of Pablo Neruda.
canary, was dying of alcoholism in a Nica- Meanwhile, the Owl had had his day—
raguan hospital. or should we say his night, since his lucubra-
As the Mexican novelist and essayist tions were not light-bringing on the whole.
Jose Mancisidor has put it, "The idle hands From the early years of the century (Gon-
of the bourgeoisie had built for him zalez Martinez' first book was published
[Dario] a gilded cage, that he might there in 1903) he had witnessed the death of
go on warbling for the entertainment of decadence, and was highly conscious of
those who had imprisoned him, and in place his own birth, but he failed to observe the
of bird-seed and fresh water, they gave eaglet cradled in his nest. For it was very

NM March 16, 1943 23

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much under the influence of the cerebrat-
In Commemoration of the ing school, along with pronounced stigmata
of symbolism and imagism, that Pablo N e -
60th Anniversary of the ruda began writing, with his Crefusculario
Death of Karl Marx ("Twilight Book") in 1923, one year
"His name will endure through the after the publication^of Eliot's Wasteland.
Cre-pusculario was followed one year
ages, and so will his work."
later by Ve'inte Poemas de Amor y Una
Frederick Engels.
Condon Desesferada ( T w e n t y Love Poems
SPECIAL 2 0 % DISCOUNT SALE ON and a Despairing Song). These two vol-
ALL MARXIST BOOKS STARTS
MAR. 12. ENDS MAR. 26.
umes represent what the poet calls his
"formal period" ( 1 9 2 3 - 2 5 ) . It Was for-
one year of
• KARL MARX, Selected.Works mal in the sense that the Wasteland is a
in two volumes Reg. $4.00
Sale $3.19
formalization of despair in the modern
world, where always there is a Mrs. Porter
NEW MASSES
• CAPITAL, Vol. I, Karl Marx (Reduction made from subscription rate (Regu-
(International Edition) Keg. $2.50 to wash her feet in soda water. Neruda's larly $5 a year), not book list price.)
Sale $1.98 poetry, however, lacked the essential aridity
• HANDBOO OF MARXISM
Edited by Emile Burns Reg. $1.75
— w h a t the French would call the seche-
resse—of Eliot's verse. It was far from plus
Sale $1.39 being so tight and constipated. It was much
• DIALECTICS OP NATURE
Frederick Engels Reg. $2.50
Sale $1.98
more lyrical and intense.
This period was followed by an "in-
HOSTAGES
• MARX-ENGELS-MARXISM formal" one (the poet's terminology still), by
V. I. Lenin Keg. $1.25 from 1925-36 or down to the outbreak of STEFAN HEYM
Sale $.98 the Spanish war. Here the reader may be
• POVERTY OF PHILOSOPHY referred to the tWo volumes of Residencia
List Price $2.50
Karl Marx Reg. $1.25 en la Tierra (Residence on the E a r t h ) ,
Sale $.98 Combination Offer'6.50
Send for Complete Liaf. published in 1931 and 1935, and to El
Handera Entusiasta. ( T h e Enthusiastic
WORKERS BOOK SHOP Slinger), of 1933. T h i s was distinctly a or
Our Sift
5 0 East 1 3 t h Stret period of loosening up in form, and expan- Combination You
sion of theme and content. Neruda had not, Price Save
N e w York City THOMAS PAINE. HIS BASIC
"We Pay the Postage" like Eliot, taken refuge from the desert WRITINGS
by climbing a cactus tree. Complete—"Common Sense"
"Rights of Man," "Age of
But one thing he had done. He had,
Reason," 624 Pages. $6.00 $1.00
unwittingly and unwillingly, founded a VICTORY—AND A R E R by
school of verse. "Nerudisnw" by this time EARL BROWDER

HERE'S was running riot, and the poet was more


than a little dismayed by it all. Perhaps this
The outstand^ing book of and on
the war. $5.00
accounts for his complete silence from BRITAIN A N b THE WORLD
THE AMMUNITION 1935 to 1937. FRONT by R. PALME D U H
A new book by England's
outstanding Marxist. $6.00 $1.00
to: The Editors, NEW MASSES ' I ' H E N came Spain. Neruda was there
WE'RE I N THIS W I T H RUSSIA
104 East 9th Street, Now York, N. Y. at the time as a Chilean diplomatic by WALLACE CARROL $6.50 .50
representative. Together with Ilya Ehren-
LAST TRAIN FROM BERLIN
bourg, his good friend, he watched the by H O W A R D K. SMITH $6.75 $1.00
$ _ is enclosed as: my initial Nazis bomb the city of Almeria, slaughter
TELEGRAM FROM HEAVEN
contribution. the men, women, and children. In 1937, by ARNOLD M A N O F F $6.50 $1.00
one year after the Franco rebellion started,
THE TRUTH ABOUT SOVIET
the poet broke his silence. He did so with RUSSIA by the WEBBS $6,00 .50
a volume entitled Esfana en el Cora%on
IN ADDITION, I want to pledge $ ......._. - THE GREAT OFFENSIVE
(Spain in the H e a r t ) . It was a different •by MAX WERNER $6.75 $1.25
so that NEW MASSES can fully cover its kind of book from any he had published
THE MEN BEHIND THE WAR
planned budget. [Please indicate tlie date or before. T h e soldiers of the Spanish people's by JOHANNES STEEL $7.00 $1.50
army loved it; they set it in type, by hand,
dates of your pledged donation.)
at the front lines. " A Hymn to the Glories NEW MASSES, 104 East 9th St., New York, N. Y.
Gentlemen:
of the People in W a r " was the book's sub- I wish to take advantage of your combination
title. And so began Pablo Neruda's third offer.
Enclosed find %.....
My pledge dates are period, which he calls his "political" one. The book 1 desire is
W h a t had happened to him? Suppose Please send it to:
Name
NAME
we let him describe it, as he did in an in- Address
terview with Maurice Halperin, in Mexico City
City, a couple of years ago: State
STREET & NUMBER " I saw the heroism and the innate de- The pne-year subscription (or renewal) to NEW
MASSES yoQ may send to:
cency of the common people assert them-
Name
CITY selves under the most trying circumstances. Address
My respect for the people, always uncon- City
scious in my thinking and feeling, now be- State ;
STATE
came conscious. Since then I have been con- Adxi^ $1 for Canadian postage
S-M-43
vinced that it is the poet's duty to take his

24 March 16, 1943 NM

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stand along with the people in their strug-
gle to transform society, betrayed into chaos
by its rulers, into an orderly existence based
upon political, social, and economic de-
mocracy."
In this m a n n e r Pablo Neruda became
the true people's poet that he is today. Not
that he has undergone a complete meta-
PRIVATE ART SALE
morphosis of f o r m ; that would be impos-
sible, artificial, and insincere; no honest
writer would attempt it. " O n c e my style
and
has developed into maturity," he says, "it pr
is hard for me to change." But is there
any need for change? "Personally, I should
like to see the people's level of comprehen-
sion raised so that they can penetrate with
NM HOUSEWARMING
tlie poet into all the richness of the modern
world."
This, I believe, is the truth about the Because it was impossible to display the hun-
Pablo Nerada of today. And I believe it is
dreds of many fine contributions from Amer-
definitely not true to say, as H . R. Hays
does in his note on Neruda in the Fitts ica's leading artists at the regular auction
anthology, that he is "as much the poet
of a decaying social system as is T . S. held at the ACA Gallery, it has been decided
Eliot; he sees life as a romantic and gro- to hold a private sale of all unsold works.
tesque nightmare. T h e charnel grimness
which n m s through his poems . . .", etc.
This is to overlook the daily miracle of
Many of America's leading artists will be
growth—of growth or, as with Pound and represented in the sale. A partial list in-
Eliot, retrogression. Morally, politically, or
esthetically, there is no standing still for cludes Max Weber, Raphael Soyer, Nikolai
the poet any more than there is for anyone
Cikovsky, David Burliuk, Margaret Zorach,
else in this world of ours that is rushing
onward. Neruda lost no time in shaking the Elizabeth Olds, Harry Gotlieb, Art Young,
dust of the desert from his feet. Eliot is
still scratching himself with a cactus, which Marion Greenwood, Harriton, Sorriano, F.
he mistakes for a hair-shirt.
Kleinholz, Gropper, Alex Dobkin, Ben Kop-
And there are compensations for the
poet of the people. man, Chaim Gross, Mervin Jules, and others
" I feel very humble in this task," says
Neruda. " T o write for the people is too
too numerous to mention.
great an ambition. Antonio Machado put it
well when he said that only two men in all This sale will be held at the new ofl&ces of
history have succeeded in writing for the
New Masses in conjunction with the official
masses: Shakespeare and Cervantes."
T h e Eagle has been born—out of the housewarming.
people's struggle in blood-drenched Spain
•—and as a result, Latin America has a poet
of the first rank, the greatest perhaps that
she has ever had. SAMUEL PUTNAM.
Saturday, March 13
]i9th Century McCormick 2 P.
THE MAM WHO MADE NEWS: JAMES GORDON
BENNETT, hy Oliver Carlson. Duell, Sloan &
Pearce. $j.$o.
ai 104 East 9tli Street
TLT GRACE G R E E L E Y properly evaluated
what James Gordon Bennett had done
to and for American journalism when
Greeley wrote Bennett's obituary in June
1872: " I t was as a collector of news that
Bennett shone conspicuously. . . . He devel-
Come and Bring Your Friends
oped the capacities of journalism in a most
wonderful manner, but he did it by de-
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grading its character. He made the news-
paper powerful, but he made it odious. . . ."
It is an index to the merits of Oliver Carl-
son's biography that he thoroughly prepares
you for such a judgment.

NM MM-CH 16, 1943 25


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