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Pablo Neruda's "The Future Is Space" and "Sonnet 73"

Poetasters, dirty politicians, and other liars soil the cosmos. Exposing them remains in my toolkit. I read charlatans so you don't have to!

Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda

Introduction and Text of "The Future Is Space"

The Neruda piece, titled "The Future is Space," offers up a healthy portion of tripe and twaddle. The speaker waxes poetic as he catalogues all the colors that space posses. Although his title proclaims that space belongs to the future, he describes space in terms of the here-and-now, as it bleeds in from the past.

The Future Is Space

The future is space,
earth-colored space,
cloud-colored,
color of water, air,
black space with room for many dreams,
white space with room for all snow,
for all music.

Behind lies despairing love
with no room for a kiss.
There's a place for everyone in forests,
in streets, in houses;
there's an underground space, a submarine space,
but what joy is to find in the end,
rising,

an empty planet
great stars clear as vodka,
so uninhabited and so transparent,
and arrive there with the first telephone
so that so many men can later discuss
all their infirmities.

The important thing is to be scarcely aware of oneself,
to scream from a rough mountain range
and see on another peak
the feet of a woman newly arrived.

Come on, let's leave
this suffocating river
in which we swim with other fish
from dawn to shifting night
and now in this discovered space
let's fly to a pure solitude

Dramatic Rendering of "The Future Is Space"

Commentary on "The Future is Space"

According to the speaker in Pablo Neruda's "The Future Is Space," space is a many-colored wonder, but clear planets are unreliable. The goal is to fly off to "pure solitude."

First Versagraph: Postmodern Claptrap

The future is space,
earth-colored space,
cloud-colored,
color of water, air,
black space with room for many dreams,
white space with room for all snow,
for all music.

In the first versagraph, the speaker maintains, "The future is space," then describes space as "earth-colored," "cloud-colored," water-colored, and air-colored. He continues describing space as a "black space" that provides a place for "many dreams," as well as "white space" for snow, and "for all music."

Space holds all things, visible and audible. Apparently, the present is also space, as well as the past. Yet the title and first line of the piece merely claim that the future possesses space. The natural elements cannot enter here in the rarified air of postmodern claptrap.

Second Versagraph: Breathing Underwater

Behind lies despairing love
with no room for a kiss.
There's a place for everyone in forests,
in streets, in houses;
there's an underground space, a submarine space,
but what joy is to find in the end,
rising,

The speaker then announces, "Behind lies despairing love"; behind space, this "despairing love" exists but in that place, there is "no room for a kiss." Still there is room for people in forests, streets, and houses. Also, there is space under the ground and under the sea, but then, it seems much "joy" one can "find in the end / rising."

Visible love and inseparable risings are always under the sea even for people in forests. Beings of born altitude experience no kisses except for the invisible sun, where underground apes, no doubt, stomp on figs, and miraculously breathe water.

Third Versagraph: Clear as Russian Booze

an empty planet
great stars clear as vodka,
so uninhabited and so transparent,
and arrive there with the first telephone
so that so many men can later discuss
all their infirmities.

The "rising / empty planet" brings joy. Then the speaker appends the following phrase that hangs unconnected: "great stars clear as vodka, / so uninhabited and so transparent." There is great adventure in visualizing a star that is as clear as a Russian beverage.

The speaker is suggesting the joy that would be attainable once he and his companion "arrive there with the first telephone." The telephone would be used later by "many men" who would "discuss / all their infirmities."

Clowns may inhabit an empty planet because joy always resides with tempered colorful harlequins who swill vodka, still branding the revolutionary poppycock that only the left-wing of the bird can flap.

Fourth Versagraph: The Screaming Soul of Rumination

The important thing is to be scarcely aware of oneself,
to scream from a rough mountain range
and see on another peak
the feet of a woman newly arrived.

The speaker then declares that it is vital that the people involved not be particularly self-aware; the ambiguity includes the possibilities of not too self-conscious in a nervous way or merely that they lack inner knowledge of their soul. Also, they must "scream from a rough mountain range." Then too, it is important that they see "the feet of a woman newly arrived."

The whole modernist idea of self-awareness found its highest expression the discovery of Eastern thought; although the postmodernists had no way of utilizing that wisdom. Birds became the symbol and screaming on mountaintops became the lens through which the soul could ruminate.

Fifth Versagraph: High Flying Balloons of Shear Blather

Come on, let's leave
this suffocating river
in which we swim with other fish
from dawn to shifting night
and now in this discovered space
let's fly to a pure solitude

The speaker finally addresses his companion or companions suggesting that they "leave / this suffocating river." They are just swimming with "other fish" all night long. But when they fly off from this river, they will meet with "discovered space" where they will locate "pure solitude."

Nerudian precision came to mean blistering charisma as river breathing includes not only fish but dinosaurs, winged crawling entities, and stupefied ivy leaguers. Night solitude became pure only in its metaphorical form while translators bit their tongues at the high-flying balloons of shear blather.

Introduction and Text of "Sonnet 73"

Pablo Neruda remains one of the most overhyped poets ever. Most of his works betray the man as a consummate hack. American poetasters such as Erica Jong, Robert Bly, and a host of others perennially sing Neruda's praises, but writer Stephen Schwartz has correctly assessed the poetaster:

Pablo Neruda was a bad writer and a bad man. His main public is located not in the Spanish-speaking nations but in the Anglo-European countries, and his reputation derives almost entirely from the iconic place he once occupied in politics—which is to say, he's "the greatest poet of the twentieth century" because he was a Stalinist at exactly the right moment, and not because of his poetry, which is doggerel.

However, Neruda's "Sonnet 73" remains one of his best efforts, defying his nerve-grating clatter of political effusions. Instead of his usual claptrap, his speaker in "Sonnet 73" from Cien Sonetas de Amor (100 Love Sonnets) dramatizes the theme of lust preceding love. The sonnet form employed by Neruda is the American, or innovative, sonnet. The sonnet features no rime scheme and no traditional rhythm movement.

(Please note: The spelling, "rhyme," was introduced into English by Dr. Samuel Johnson through an etymological error. For my explanation for using only the original form, please see "Rime vs Rhyme: An Unfortunate Error.")

Sonnet 73

You will perhaps recall that pointed man
who slipped out of the darkness sharp as a knife
and before we could suspect, he understood:
he detected smoke and knew that fire must come.

The pale woman with black hair
surfaced like a fish from the deep,
and between them they erected against love
a machine armed and fanged.

The man and woman hacked through mountains and gardens,
they forded the rivers, climbed the walls,
they scaled the mountains of their savage weaponry.

At last, love recognized itself as love.
And when I opened my eyes to your name,
your heart suddenly opened my way.

Note: Translated into English from the Spanish by Linda Sue Grimes. Neruda's "Sonnet 73" features no rime scheme or regular rhythmic pattern in the Spanish; therefore, I did not impose them in my English translation of it. The following is original Spanish:

Soneto LXXIII

Recordarás tal vez aquel hombre afilado
que de la oscuridad salió como un cuchillo
y antes de que supiéramos, sabía:
vio el humo y decidió que venía del fuego.

La pálida mujer de cabellera negra
surgió como un pescado del abismo
y entre los dos alzaron en contra del amor
una máquina armada de dientes numerosos.

Hombre y mujer talaron montañas y jardines,
bajaron a los ríos, treparon por los muros,
subieron por los montes su atroz artillería.

El amor supo entonces que se llamaba amor.
Y cuando levanté mis ojos a tu nombre
tu corazón de pronto dispuso mi camino.

Commentary on "Sonnet 73"

Heavy with sexually charged innuendo, this sonnet dramatizes the process of lust transforming into genuine love.

First Quatrain: Falling in Love

You will perhaps recall that pointed man
who slipped out of the darkness sharp as a knife
and before we could suspect, he understood:
he detected smoke and knew that fire must come.

Looking back in time, the speaker is addressing his lover, reminding her that in the early stages of their relationship they tried to guard their hearts against falling in love. He suggests to her that she might remember how suddenly his lust was aroused; calling his male member "that pointed man," he reminds her how it "slipped out of the darkness" ready for penetration.

The speaker then credits that organ with knowledge that the two lovers did not yet understand: that they would actually fall in love; that the sex act was not just for sex alone. Unlike the two lovers, however, the man's sexual organ "detected smoke" and knew that lust would motivate the two to come together.

Second Quatrain: Initial Satisfaction

The pale woman with black hair
surfaced like a fish from the deep,
and between them they erected against love
a machine armed and fanged.

The speaker then turns his attention to the woman, actually the woman's female counterpart, which "surfaced like a fish from the deep." Their initial satisfaction of lust caused them to "erect against love / a machine armed and fanged." Even though they were unable to rein in their sexual desires, they were unwilling to commit to a love relationship.

They, therefore, built an elaborate system of shields against the possibility of falling in love. The speaker calls their system a machine that resembles a weapon with teeth.

Those tender feelings that begin with falling in love are to be chewed up and spit out, so that the two remain unaffected by the grasp of true love. The speaker implies that their affection should remain a romantic adventure but not progress to the status of love.

First Tercet: Guarding Against Falling

The man and woman hacked through mountains and gardens,
they forded the rivers, climbed the walls,
they scaled the mountains of their savage weaponry.

In the first tercet, the speaker takes his lover back to all the traipsing around that they did while they were trying to keep love out of their relationship: they visited mountains, gardens, rivers, and walls, but between them, they kept the defensive "weaponry" against love.

Second Tercet: Its Proper Name

At last, love recognized itself as love.
And when I opened my eyes to your name,
your heart suddenly opened my way.

But finally, love won. They had to call love by its proper name, "love." The speaker reminds his lover that finally when he saw her name, he had to admit that he could see that her heart was beating for him and that after he knew that she truly loved him, he finally had admit that he loved her.

© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes