Thursday, July 1, 2010

las uvas y el viento

I was reminded that I needed to read Neruda ( thank you Joe!) and what I have sitting on my shelf at home is the collection the poet wrote during his exile in Italy, early 1950's, Las uvas y el viento, and since I like games I decided to open the book with my eyes shut and read whatever poem I would blindly choose.
And this is how I came to read, La Policia:
we are
la policia
-and you? Who are you?
where do you come from, where
do you want to go?
your father? your brother in law?
whom did you sleep with in the last seven nights?
-I have slept with my love, I belong perhaps,
I belong to Poetry.
And it is so that a gondola
blacker than the others
behind me brought them to Venezia
to Bologna at night,
on the train: i am a wondering shadow
followed by shadows.
I saw in Venezia, the church tower standing
elevating among the pigeons of San Marco
its police-like triple horn.
And Paolina, naked, in the museum,
when I kissed her beautiful cold mouth
asked me: are your legal papers in order?
in Dante's house
under the ancient florentine roofs
interrogations are happening, and David
with his marble eyes,without eye-balls
forgot his father,Buonarroti,
because every day they force him to say
what he saw with his blind eyes.
however that day
when they were taking me to the Swiss border
la policia suddenly encountered,
coming toward them,
the militant poetry.
I won't forget the roman moltitude
that at the station,during the night,
seized me away from the hands
of the persecuting police.

How could I forget Guttuso's fighting gesture
and Giuliano's face
The wave of rage, the hounds' hit on the nose
how to forget Mario,
from whom, exiled, I learned how to love Italy' freedom,
and then outraged the white head
I saw confused
in the rough sea
of my friends and enemies?
I won't forget Elsa Morante's little umbrella
falling on a police's chest
like the heavy petal of blooming strenght.
And so in Italy
by the people's will
with poetry's weight,
solidarity's firmness,
the action of tenderness,
an halt was put to my destiny.
and so it happened
that this book was being born
surrounded by the sea and lemon trees,
listening in silence,
behind the police wall,
how the valorous people
fought and is fighting,
sang and is singing
winning the battle so that I could
rest in the island that was waiting for me
with a blooming jasmine branch in its mouth
and in its small hands the source of my song.

Pablo Neruda

Forgive the rough and poor translation, but I could not find one anywhere on line, so I had to do it myself.
My question is: would we still be capable of defending Poetry with such conviction these days?


  1. Fino a quando continueremo ad avvertire il bisogno di leggerla, la Poesia, vedrai che resterĂ  in vita anche lo slancio e la partecipazione per difenderla.
    Tu fai questo, come stai facendo.
    E i tuoi figli capiranno.

  2. Neruda was and always will be poetry's greatest defender. He carried his poetry on his back in the dead of night over mountain ranges with soldiers in close pursuit; carried it across continents and oceans and decades. Near the end of his life, when he was too weak to flee as Pinochet's soldiers ransacked his house at Isal Negra, he famously said 'Look around - there's only one thing of danger for you here - poetry.'

    Are we still be capable of defending poetry with such conviction these days? I would say the answer is no. In Neruda's time poetry was a much more powerful medium capable of affecting change; of challenging authority and spreading popular or unpopular ideas or sentiments to a large segment of the population. People actually READ poetry back then which made it dangerous; people defended it with passion because they had to which in my opinion is not the case today.

    In the end I think that if the need were to arise poetry is quite capable of defending itself and will long outlive any such attackers. As Neruda says in the intro to one of his more political books: 'History has proven the annihilating capacity of poetry. I take refuge in that and that alone.'