The love poems of Pablo Neruda, world renowned Chilean poet and diplomat, have been used over and over again in many different languages to express the passion and longing of lovers. The Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to him in 1971 for his work, but who translated all those poems into all those many languages?
Neruda wrote in Spanish, his native language. Here is one of his sonnets translated into English:
“I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep your eyes close.” (100 Love Sonnets)
Translating poetry is more difficult than other types of documents. Not only must the literal meaning be expressed, but the poetic qualities must be kept intact. As a result, it generally takes longer for translated poetry to gain the recognition it deserves. In the United States it took until the 1960’s for Neruda’s poetry to be recognized.
William Meredith, Willis Barnstone, Anne Sexton are all American poets and translators who were heavily influenced by translating Neruda’s poetry into English. It helped shape and change their own style of poetry as well. Ben Belitt, an English professor and poet, was the first, when he published Selected Poems of Pablo Neruda in 1961. Later that year came the translations of Carlos Lozano with his texts, The Elementary Odes of Pablo Neruda. Then came the VietNam War and poets started translating Neruda’s political poems.
Robert Bly, himself a poet translator, was an outspoken critic of some of the contemporary translators, claiming that they were too loose with their translations, distorting them to fit their own, less exuberant temperaments. Bly became Neruda’s biggest champion, calling his poetry “wildly romantic” and sophisticated.
Neruda’s romantic poems have since been used to express the feelings of lovers all over the world and justifiably so. Translators are more careful with how they translate his works now, because of the widely publicized controversy in the U.S. The experts in our firm are careful too, so if you need a translator for any of your “wildly romantic” works, be sure to contact us here at Dialog One.