Introduction

In a very compelling and impeccable language, Pablo Neruda recalls his inspiration for writing poetry.

About the Poet

Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto (1904 – 1973), who is popularly known by his pen name Pablo Neruda was a Chiliean poet, diplomat and politician. He wrote in a variety of styles and his works include surrealist poems, historical epics, political manifestos and a prose autobiography. He often wrote in green ink, which was his personal symbol for desire and hope. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971.

Theme

The poem’s theme revolves around the force that inspires one to find and embrace their true passion.

Stanza I

And it was at that age ... Poetry arrived
in search of me. I don’t know, I don’t know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don’t know how or when,
no they were not voices, they were not
words, nor silence,
but from a street I was summoned, summoned,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among violent fires
or returning alone,
there I was without a face
and it touched me

The poet begins by saying that he does not know where poetry arrived from, but it came to him, searching for him. It was not a call or a song nor was it silence, but he was summoned. The use of winter, river and branches indicates that it is nature that inspires him to write poetry. Before poetry, the poet was missing a piece of himself and when it touched him, he was complete. Poetry gave him an identity, it gave meaning to his life.

Stanza II

I did not know what to say, my mouth
had no way
with names,
my eyes were blind,
and something started in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
deciphering
that fire,
and I wrote the first faint line,
faint, without substance, pure
nonsense,
pure wisdom
of someone who knows nothing,
and suddenly I saw
the heavens
unfastened and open,
planets,
palpitating plantations,
shadow perforated,
riddled
with arrows, fire and flowers,
the winding night, the universe.

When the poet was first struck with the inspiration, he was left speechless and the fire ignited with passion blinded him. It was as if something inside of him awakened. He then construed the force and summon and began on his journey to write. He wrote whatever came to him, sense and nonsense and when he wrote, it unfolded a new world for him, a world of endless possibilities and meanings, a galaxy of opportunities. 

Stanza III

And I, infinitesimal being,
drunk with the great starry
void,
likeness, image of
mystery,
felt myself a pure part
of the abyss,
I wheeled with the stars,
my heart broke loose on the wind.

He describes himself as a tiny being who is drunk with the starry void and immersed in mystery, he has now become a part of the abyss. The poet is revolving with the stars and his heart is finally free.