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I stopped at the bookstore today to pick up David Levithan's latest book, The Lover's Dictionary, which was stocked on a table of Valentine's Day-related books. Which is how I came to notice this lovely little book sitting nearby - it's a collection of Neruda poems entitled Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, which I bought as a gift for myself. It's a small book with an artisanal feel to it because of the really nice paper that forms its cover (with French flaps, for those of you who understand the term - or with big folded-in flaps for those who don't) and rough-cut edges on the pages inside. Each poem is presented in the original Spanish text facing a translation by W.S. Merwin, and the book is interspersed with illustrations by Pablo Picasso.

I am looking forward to savoring Neruda's lovely poems, which were written when he was a very young man and published in 1924, when he was only 19. The two that I read in the store were astonishing in their imagery and sensuality. Here is just a snippet of the translation of number fourteen, "Every Day You Play":

Every day you play with the light of the universe.
Subtle visitor, you arrive in the flower and the water.
You are more that this white head that I hold tightly
as a cluster of fruit, every day, between my hands.

You are like nobody since I love you.
Let me spread you out among the yellow garlands.
Who writes your name in letters of smoke among the stars of the south?
Oh let me remember you as you were before you existed.

You can read the rest here, but the poem closes with "I want to do with you/what spring does with the cherry trees." *swoon*

A lovely gift, whether for yourself or someone else.

Kiva - loans that change lives

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( 26 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 7th, 2011 10:33 pm (UTC)
That is a lovely poem--one of my students read another as her favorite piece of food writing. I'll have to look for this book because I love well-made, beautiful books--when the content and presentation match, it's bliss.

You've redeemed my disgust with the appearance of all the Valentine's Day merch.
Jan. 7th, 2011 10:35 pm (UTC)
Target was actually putting out Valentine's Day stuff a few days BEFORE Christmas. So, so wrong.
Jan. 7th, 2011 10:59 pm (UTC)
I love him. This is a beautiful book--thanks for alerting me to it.
Jan. 7th, 2011 11:02 pm (UTC)
where did you find that image of the book with the open pages? I can't find the link to it on google...
Jan. 7th, 2011 11:11 pm (UTC)
found it!
Jan. 8th, 2011 02:32 am (UTC)
It is indeed a gorgeous little book. I like it just as much as I like my little copy of Dylan Thomas's A Child's Christmas in Wales.
Jan. 8th, 2011 06:00 am (UTC)
I bought it tonight when we were out (I got my husband's university prof discount!)

I love love love it. But it is so tiny! I do wish it were hard back--that would have been nice. And for some reason I thought certain poems were included that weren't, but that was my fault. But I really like it. Thanks, Kelly!
Jan. 8th, 2011 02:42 pm (UTC)
I did say it was a "lovely little book". I have a penchant for small books. I would still love a REALLY small, leather-bound edition of Shakespeare's sonnets, like the one Willoughby gives Marianne in the Emma Thompson version of Sense & Sensibility.

I found myself reading and re-reading #13 last night - it begins "I have gone marking the atlas of your body/with crosses of fire." Yowsa!
Jan. 8th, 2011 06:53 pm (UTC)
Yes, leather bound would have been really sweet on such a lovely little book as this.

When I visited Shakespeare's birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon, they had tiny books of his poetry for sale there. Maybe they have them available online...
Jan. 8th, 2011 08:17 pm (UTC)
I tried checking, but their shop seems not to be online - all efforts to go there end up redirecting to a general "welcome" page for the organization. I'll try again another time!
Jan. 7th, 2011 11:51 pm (UTC)
I do so love Pablo Neruda.
Jan. 8th, 2011 02:32 am (UTC)
Me too. I wish I'd studied him in school!
Jan. 8th, 2011 03:13 am (UTC)
*fans self and swoons*

That's what I call love poetry. Gorgeous images. Thanks for sharing your lovely little book. I would have found it impossible to resist, too, if I had stumbled upon it in a bookstore. :)
Jan. 8th, 2011 04:45 am (UTC)
Full price, it's only $13.

You need this one, I think. Also, you may need these if you don't already have them - I thought of you when I saw them at B&N. I may go back and get a set for myself!
Jan. 8th, 2011 04:10 am (UTC)
Kelly, I cannot think of a better gift to give oneself! I have treasured this volume. So yay for kismet!! :)
Jan. 8th, 2011 04:46 am (UTC)
I put my post up before I clicked through to your page - then laughed when I saw the Neruda theme. How marvelous that you also have this wonderful little book!
Jan. 8th, 2011 04:58 am (UTC)
i have this already but in not so lovely a package as you describe- still, it is neruda- he was my first love...
Jan. 8th, 2011 05:07 am (UTC)
Such lovely, lovely poems, both in Spanish and English.
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Jan. 8th, 2011 02:45 pm (UTC)
It is beautiful (the poetry and the book package design) and wonderful and not especially expensive at $13 (full price - less if you have a sale, coupon, or purchase online).
Jan. 8th, 2011 11:42 am (UTC)
Oh, yeah! What you and everyone else said about that last line. Wow.
Jan. 8th, 2011 02:49 pm (UTC)
It's even racier/headier/lovelier in context. Here's the last stanza in full, which makes me melt:

My words rained over you, stroking you.
A long time I have loved the sunned mother-of-pearl of your body.
I go so far as to think you own the universe.
I will bring you happy flowers from the mountains, bluebells,
dark hazels, and rustic baskets of kisses.
I want to do with you
what spring does with the cherry trees.
Jan. 8th, 2011 12:52 pm (UTC)
When I was in high school and I finally got a job and started making my own money, I joined a book of the month club because even then I was a sucker for beautifully-bound books. I still have those. Love Merwin, Love Neruda. Love Picasso, too, for that matter!
Jan. 8th, 2011 02:50 pm (UTC)
It's a gorgeous little book, Tabatha. Perhaps not incredibly well-bound, but incredibly well-packaged nevertheless.
Jan. 8th, 2011 01:44 pm (UTC)
Yes LORD!!
Jan. 8th, 2011 02:50 pm (UTC)
It's a lovely little volume, Andi!
( 26 comments — Leave a comment )

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