Discovering Neruda

In the bookstore with endless possibilities, I found a gorgeous, old copy of Neruda’s poems, complete with a lovely note from ’76 inside. What strikes me most about his poetry is the blend of emotions and the marvellous imagery. The introduction is also pretty spectacular in this edition.

“On the edge of the final silence, Neruda writes his own best epitaph, the epitaph of an ‘animal of light’ who has exhausted all that can be said in words:

And today in the depth of the lost forest
He hears the sound of the enemy and runs away
Not from the others but from himself
From that interminable conversation
From the chorus which always accompanied us
And from the meaning of life

Because this once, because just once, because
A syllable or an interval of silence
Or the unstifled noise of a wave
Leave me face to face with the truth
And there is nothing more to interpret,
Nothing more to say; this was everything.
Closed were the forest doors.
The sun goes round opening up the leaves
The moon appears like a white fruit
And man bows to his destiny.”

I have been struggling with a lot lately. I went to the store with a mission to find poetry. Poetry comforts and heals. It is a balm for the pain and a medicine for the wounds. Neruda moves so swiftly between the personal, political and for some reason the sea.

Pact (Sonata)

Pablo Neruda

By now sometimes it is not possible
To win except by falling
By now it is bit possible to tremble between
Two beings, to touch the flower of the river:
Fibres of man come like needles
Procedures, fragments,
Families of repulsive coral, torments
And hard steps for winter

Between lips and lips there are cities
Of great ash and moist summit,
Drops of when and how, vague
Comings and goings:
Between lips and lips as along a shore
Of sand and glass the wind passes.

Therefore you are endless; gather me as though you were
All solemnity, all made of night
Like a zone, until you are indistinguishable
From the lines of time.

Advance into sweetness
Come to my side until the fingery
Leaves of the violin
Have gone silent, until the mosses
Take root in the thunder, until from the pulse
Of hand and hand the roots descend.

Some of the poems even have small notes from him. My favourite one has to be:

This poem was written in 1934. How much has happened since then! Spain, where I wrote it, is a belt of ruins. Ah! if we could only placate the world’s rage with a drop of poetry or of love – but only the struggle and the daring heart are capable of that.

The world and my poetry have both changed. A drop of blood fallen on these lines will remain alive within them, as indelible as love.

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Growing up, I was more attached to my comic books than people in the real world. As an adult, things only got better. I lived in libraries for the beautiful smell and endless stories. I drifted along with my characters, always rooting for one. I found genres I liked, loved and hated. I found friends in the authors that spoke to me and inspirations in the authors that stood out. I lived, thus, in two worlds. As Munro puts it: “A story is more like a house. Everybody knows what a house does, how it encloses space and makes connections between one enclosed space and another and presents what is outside in a new way. This is the nearest I can come to explaining what a story does for me, and what I want my stories to do for other people.” I couldn’t agree more.

Recently, I found a space that reminded me of a house. Only that it housed more than one story. More than one possibility. A place where endlessly talking about books would not be snubbed. On the contrary, it would be encouraged. Where fellow humans would huddle to discuss how much they liked or disliked a book. I felt instantly at home. Book clubs are wonderful places to discover new authors, meet new people and discuss books and the worlds they create.

I believe in serendipity and many of my favourite authors and books were discovered when I was lost in a second hand book store hunting for a book to feel a connection to. But as a reader and writer, I favour some genres and authors. A club would break this monotony for me. Plus, I would get to see what others felt about the book. As much as the book, any book, and I have an intimate relationship, it is a sensational experience to listen to what others thought of the book. To open my mind to new ideas, thoughts and people. There will always be a side to the story I did not see.

Book-ends, the book club in Hyderabad, was a lot more than just good books and bad books or good movies and bad movies. It was about engaging on issues that these books and movies bring up. I am thoroughly looking forward to the next intimate meeting of a bunch of book lovers.

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I have been reading a range of books lately: Graphic novels (Embroideries by Satrapi), Poetry (Lots of Emily Dickinson), Fiction (Kundera) and non-fiction (Irom Sharmila, Khairlanji, Fundamentalism, Ethics in Journalism). I have also been writing quite a bit. Both on this blog and in my books. I enjoy reading a range of books. It is calming, liberating and opens my world view. It also shows me good writing. When I asked around for suggestions on ‘How to improve my writing’, I was always told, write, write, write and read better. For I do think there is no right way to write. I feel writing everyday like this and reading consistently on the side is helping me develop my writing. Of course, I do know there is a long way to go. But I couldn’t be happier that the process has been started. If each day I cannot sleep without writing in this tiny space that I call my own, I feel it is a good place to be. After all, engaging in your passions can never be bad. And I am truly passionate about both reading and writing.