June 20, 2014
Unpublished Pablo Neruda poems discovered in Chile
by Kirsten Reach
Researchers have discovered twenty unpublished poems among Pablo Neruda‘s papers. The Spanish publisher says (an unbiased proclamation, I’m sure) that this is “the greatest discovery in Spanish letters in recent years, a literary achievement of universal importance.”
Ranging from a few lines to nine pages in length, the six of the poems are focused on love, and the others are “different themes from the Nerudian universe.” (What a turn of phrase!)
The poems were were tucked in a box of manuscripts, or in a drawer at the Neruda Foundation Library, depending on the source. Maybe it was a box in a drawer? Regardless, they’re found.
Archivists have not yet confirmed the date of the poems, though they’re from an adult Neruda, not a young one. The poems appear to have been written during his most productive decade (after Canto General was published in 1950), and they were scrawled on modest yellow paper. Spanish publisher Seix Barral will publish these poems at the beginning of 2015, and they will be published in Latin America even sooner, by the end of 2014
Publication will align with Neruda’s 110th birthday and the 90th anniversary of the publication of 20 Love Poems and a Song of Despair. Only two volumes of Neruda’s work have been published post-posthumously, and they were both written early in his life.
In case it doesn’t go without saying, Neruda’s biographer, Adam Feinstein, is really psyched. He told the Guardian the poems “are full of Neruda’s richly imaginative use of language and imagery,” and some of them are “apparently passionate love poems while others are songs to simple objects, along the lines of Neruda’s Odes.”
“In his lifetime, Neruda used to joke that one day they would go as far as to publish his socks. Now they have uncovered a whole new batch of his poems which lay unsuspected in a drawer,” he added. We can only imagine the headlines if they’d been tucked in the back of Neruda’s sock drawer.
Winston Manrique Sabogal reports in El Pais that there could be other unpublished materials, including prose, speeches, or lectures from 1956-1969.
Neruda’s exhumation has been dramatic and sad, as we’ve mentioned before, and his body is still going through additional tests. In the middle of a drawn-out murder investigation, it’s nice to have a little good news.
Kirsten Reach was an editor at Melville House.