Rough words from Neruda

I have been lucky enough to wander around Pablo Neruda’s house in Valparaiso, Chile. My host gave me “I Explain a Few Things” which is a translated selection of some of Neruda’s poems. I came across the poem “Verb”. It’s all about the rawness of the words which resonate in your guts, positively or negatively.  I blogged about ideophonetic language recently and this poem seemed to sum up the ideas in this post.

Take the poem any way you want. For me it could be about words or phrases. for example if the word(s) were ‘splitting headache’, a metaphorical term which seems to have lost some its power due to overuse, the poem could be about seeking deeper and  different ways of expression, ultimately  an increasingly powerful DIM. Equally perhaps the poem is a call to alter old embedded language and to find new SIM like language in more ideophonetic and textural words which may well embrace wider and newer brain areas.

Pablo Neruda, Chilean poet-diplomat, politician, and Nobel laureate for literature

VERB

I’m going to wrinkle this word,

twist it,

yes,

it’s too smooth,

as if the tongue

of a big dog or a big river’s water

had washed it

for years and years.

 

I want to see

roughness in the word,

ironlike salt,

earth’s

toothless strength,

the blood

of those who spoke out and those who didn’t.

 

I want to see thirst

Deep in its syllables.

I want to touch fire

In the sound.

I want to feel

The darkness of a scream.

I want rough words

Like virginal stones.

Pablo Neruda (2007) I Explain a Few Things. Stavans I (ed). Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York.

-David Butler

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