Reading Resolution: “Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon” by Pablo Neruda

3. A book written in South America: Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon: Selected Poems of Pablo Neruda by Pablo Neruda, translated by Stephen Mitchell

List Progress: 21/30

I often feel like I’m not reading poetry correctly, at least when I read collections. My instincts are to keep turning the page like with a novel, and I end up not giving each poem enough room to breathe. I decided to try a different tact with this book, a collection of poems by Chilean writer and politician Pablo Neruda, where I would read one individual poem before bed while reading a novel during the day. And to my delight, Neruda turned out to be an excellent poet for this type of reading. So many of the poems in Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon are small, quiet meditations on innocuous items or locations, and I am glad I took the time to languish in them along with Neruda.

Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon is a selection of Neruda’s poems from across his career, translated into English by Stephen Mitchell, though the original Spanish is also presented in the volume. I only read a bare scattering of Spanish, so I can’t speak to the quality or faithfulness of the translation, but the images feel simple yet rich, not something that would necessarily need absolute accuracy in order to have the same impact. 

Given what I knew of Neruda going in, I was surprised to find that the love poems did the least for me (including the one the Full Woman title is from). Poets have written about every possible aspect of love, even if Neruda was one of the first to write about it in this way, so the impact fell flat. But poems like “Ode to the Onion” and “Ode to My Socks”, that dive deep into something so everyday and domestic, finding awe in the everyday, feel bold and new, even decades after Neruda’s death.

It might be a while before I can call myself a poetry fan, but after Full Woman, I can certainly call myself a Neruda fan.

Would I Recommend It: Yes.

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