Above: Pablo Neruda ~M-Behroozi (image reblog-I like it)
An Interview with Pablo Neruda
Parts of this interview were first used in a 1-hour radio program entitled, “Neruda, poète des Amériques,” broadcast by Radio-Canada in the fall of 1971. The interview was conducted in French, a language Neruda knew well, having studied it first at the University of Santiago in the early 1920’s. It is published here for the first time in its entirety. memorious.org
Eric Bockstael: Those who have read your poems note immediately the presence of the world of work, and some consider you a political poet.
Pablo Neruda: I insist on telling you that I am not a political poet. I detest that classification which insists on designating me as the representative of an ideologically committed poetry. My ambition as a writer, if there is an ambition, is to write about all the things that I see, that I touch, that I know, that I love, or that I hate. But in pointing out to me “the world of the workers” you make me, in an unconscious and generous way, the spokesman for the anxieties of the masses or of the legions of organized workers, and that’s not the case. I am only the echo in a certain part of my poetry of the anxieties of the contemporary world, of the anxieties of the Latin American world. But I refuse to be classified as a political poet.
Poets who have not, who have never, made contact with the feelings of their people, or who have continued to be indifferent, or who have promoted or preached a poetry far removed from a certain pressing reality, can be qualified as the most political poets of our era. Because of that abstention of their poetry from the general movement of civilization, the development of the world, they have contributed to the holding back of that development. Which means the real ones—the poets who are the political poets—are the reactionary poets and writers.
For me, writing about the workers, writing about the masses, is a consequence of my emotions. It’s not a dictatum, and has nothing to do with an ideologically committed direction in my poetry. I became aware of the social order of Latin America and of the world as I became aware of the ocean, or of flowers, or of life. Naturally, that spectacle being more moving, and more developed, and grander—which engages all humanity—that has constituted a committed part in my poetry. But in general if you take the political part of my works, the part of my work that one can call political or social, it doesn’t make up a fourth or a fifth part of that work. So I always refuse to be classified. This classification that they want to give me is an antagonistic classification, a hostile classification. I am the poet of the moon, I am the poet of the flowers, I am the poet of love. Meaning I have a very old conception of poetry, which does not contradict the possibility that I have written, and that I continue to write, poems that are dedicated to the development of society and to the power of progress and of peace.
EB: You have just said that you are the poet of the stars, of flowers, and of love. One could add: of the stones, the trees, the rivers, the mountains of this new continent. I often think of the first Europeans trying to describe this world: Hernando Cortez writing from Mexico to Charles the Fifth that he could hardly continue to describe what he was seeing because he didn’t know the words. How important a problem has it been to name this “new” world?
PN: Let me say it was not a problem; it was our duty. The duty of the Latin American poet is to name, meaning to complete the creation of the world. Since the name, the word, is the first thing that existed without the knowledge or the name of the fundamental things. So we have at our disposal a material extremely obscure and mysterious. And this knowledge of our own continent posed itself as a duty especially in the last years of the era in which I began to write, after the twenties, when I was a young university student, a young poet…