The Poets’ Birds: Flight

White-faced ibis (Plegadis chihi) ~ Brazoria County, Texas
(Click image for more detail)

Despite his prolific output and the award of a Nobel Prize in 1971, I’ve only recently come to appreciate the work of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. Despite decades of acclaim for his poetry, publications in English represent only a small portion of his oeuvre, apparently due in part to the difficulties of translation;  I simply hadn’t come across them until I found them on the internet.

The details of Neruda’s life are fascinating. A committed Communist and political activist, he returned to Chile in 1953, following some years in exile. Eventually, he began producing less ideologically influenced love poetry, as well as nature poetry celebrating every aspect of the world in which we live.

 In their book Earth Tones: The Poetry of Pablo Neruda, Manuel Duran and Margery Safir note that Neruda began trying to speak to everyday people simply and clearly, on a level that anyone could understand.  In his examination of quite common, everyday things, they say, “Neruda gives us time to examine a particular plant, a stone, a flower, a bird, an aspect of modern life, at leisure. We look at the object, handle it, turn it around, all the sides are examined with love, care, attention. This is, in many ways, Neruda at his best.”

In his poem “Bird,” he offers his attention to their flight in a remarkable and wholly memorable way.

It was passed from one bird to another,
the whole gift of the day.
The day went from flute to flute,
went dressed in vegetation,
in flights which opened a tunnel
through which the wind would pass
to where birds were breaking open
the dense blue air –
and there, night came in.
When I returned from so many journeys,
I stayed suspended and green
between sun and geography –
I saw how wings worked,
how perfumes are transmitted
by feathery telegraph,
and from above I saw the path,
the springs and the roof tiles,
the fishermen at their trades,
the trousers of the foam;
I saw it all from my green sky.
I had no more alphabet
than the swallows in their courses,
the tiny, shining water
of the small bird on fire
which dances out of the pollen.

“Caía de un pájaro a otro
todo lo que el día trae,
iba de flauta en flauta el día,
iba vestido de verdura
con vuelos que abrían un túnel,
y por allí pasaba el viento
por donde las aves abrían
el aire compacto y azul:
por allí entraba la noche.
Cuando volví de tantos viajes
me quedé suspendido y verde
entre el sol y la geografía:
vi còmo trabajan las alas,
còmo se transmite el perfume
por un telégrafo emplumado
y desde arriba vi el camino,
los manantiales, las tejas,
los pescadores a pescar,
los pantalones de la espuma,
todo desde mi cielo verde.
No tenía más alfabeto
que el viaje de las golondrinas,
el agua pura y pequeñita
del pequeño pájero ardiendo
que baila saliendo del polen.”


Comments always are welcome.
For more biographical details of Neruda’s life and politics, the Wikipedia page is useful.
For a history of his development as a poet and critique of his work, see the entry at The Poetry Foundation website.


122 thoughts on “The Poets’ Birds: Flight

    1. It sounds more poetic in the original, doesn’t it? It’s always fun to compare a translation with the original; even someone who doesn’t speak the original language, or isn’t proficient in it, can find internal rhymes or unusual phrasings that give the original a little extra flair.

  1. What a sparkling prism of a photograph you have shared with us this sunny morning!
    I became aware of Neruda’s poetry some years ago. I’m not a poet like you nor an expert on poetry but when the words flow and surprise in their pairings, I am tickled. Thank you for sharing the photo and the poem.

    1. When the sun catches these birds’ wings in just the right way, they’re a marvel to behold. They’re attractive even when they’re wading and foraging, but in flight they really catch the eye.

      I’ll be posting another of Neruda’s poems from the collection published as The Sea and the Bells. It’s one of his last poems; like many written near the end of his life, they never were titled. I can’t judge the quality of the translation (William O’Daly has six other volumes of Neruda’s poetry to his credit) but I’m constantly finding that flow and those surprises in O’Daly’s translations, and that’s all to the good.

    1. I think he would be pleased to hear you say that, Peter. As the years passed, he became committed to what he called a ‘public language’ — clear and simple images that would be accessible to everyone. It seems as though that’s how you experienced this poem; it’s one reason I liked it, and chose to share it.

  2. It’s hard enough to get a good picture of one bird in flight, much less two. Well done.

    Your sources about Neruda seem to have suggested a reversed timeline to you: “Eventually, he began producing less ideologically influenced love poetry.” Neruda was born in 1904, and his now-famous book of love poetry, Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada [Twenty love poems and one desperate song], appeared in 1924. According to an article on the website: “Upon returning to Chile in 1943, he was elected to the Senate and joined the Communist Party.”

    On a personal note, when I first got exposed to Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada, I was only a year or so older than Neruda was when the book got published.

    1. I think the problem is that I inadvertently conflated two things: his political commitments and changes over the years in his approach to poetry. “Ideologically” certainly isn’t the right word, since it suggests political content in the poems themselves. A couple of extra sentences and a paragraph division probably would have helped.

      Primarily, I was thinking about the differences between Twenty love poems and one desperate song and his later works. During the last years of his life, his relationship with Matilde was central to the poems and his language had changed. In the (awkwardly phrased) words of one of his translators, “he strove for and achieved a voice in which a declaration of love for Matilde in the same breath as his love for the earth is a natural articulation.”

      It’s interesting that some commenters never had heard of Neruda, while others, like you, were introduced to him relatively early. I wonder if I would have encountered him sooner if I’d taken Spanish in high school or college, rather than French. It seems likely.

      1. Yeah, you’ve got to watch out for the unnatural articulations of people who would even think of using an inarticulate phrase like “natural articulations.”

        Curiously, it was studying Portuguese that led me to Neruda. In my introductory class in the summer of 1965 I was one of only two students who didn’t already know Spanish. I became friends with one of them, who introduced me to Neruda, among other Spanish-language writers. I think you’re right that you’d have encountered Neruda if you’d studied Spanish in college, and maybe even in high school.

  3. I have a friend in Ecuador, whose daughter lives in Chile. When she visits she reads the poems of Pablo Neruda to her grandchildren, that’s how important she thinks it is that they should know the greatest Chilean of all. I suspect that the children roll their eyes a little, but maybe later in life they will appreciate the example she set.

    1. Every child deserves to be read to, and children in every culture need to be introduced to the best that their culture has produced: writers, artists, artisans, scientists. It’s wonderful that your friend reads Neruda to her grandchildren, and I suspect they will remember, and appreciate the experience.

      I was lucky enough to have parents who read to me and with me, and who encouraged me to read widely. Beyond that, memorization was a large part of my early education, and while I did my own eye-rolling at the time, it’s quite amazing how many of those poems are with me still: popping into consciousness at the most unpredictable times.

      1. I have come upon this page in my quest to find a poem that my mother and I used to read. She is 95 and I am somewhat younger – but probably not as sharp witted – and between us we can piece together one line of the verse that we seek: ” … I hasten to describe this danger to the infant ibis…”. We have consulted many books of verse and cautionary tales, and I have nagged Google, to no avail thus far. I wonder if you or your readers might have an inkling.

        1. Hi, Catherine ~

          I did a little snooping too. You might want to try to find a poem called “The Ibis” by Marie De LaVeaga Welch. (Her name is spelled several ways online.) There’s a little about her here. I found her by searching your line in Google Books, although I never found the line itself, or a complete text of her “Ibis” poem. Still, it might give you a place to start. Good luck!


  4. I’ve never heard of the white-faced ibis. What beautiful birds! Never heard of Pablo Neruda either and that’s what I love about coming to your blog. You always share something interesting and often new to me.

    1. Well, don’t feel bad. The white-faced ibis doesn’t live in your part of the country, so it’s not a bird you’d come across in your travels. I’m always excited to see them; the white ibis is much more common here, but it’s not quite as flashy as this one. On the other hand, you have loons, which I’ve seen down here only two or three times in thirty years.

      The more I read Neruda, the more I find to like. I have another two or three of his poems to share in coming weeks. If you enjoy those, it might be worth taking out a book at the library, or even reading a biography.

  5. Your post issued an invitation to go visit more Neruda. My favorite so far was that poem to his dog. With that I identify. Really I do like your birds. Picture is gorgeous, but why “white faced?” When I made the picture bigger, I could see some white, but not much.

    1. That’s a good question, Oneta. Here’s the answer: the bird gets its name from its appearance during the breeding season. You can see some photos on this page. See how much more noticeable the white facial markings are on the breeding adult?

      When it comes to that kind of change, goldfinches came to mind. We have flocks of them here in winter, but they’re rather drab. By the time they start putting on their fancy gold feathers for mating season, they’re out of here, and headed in your direction.

      I hadn’t come across that poem about the dog — thanks for bringing it to my attention. Of course my first thought was, “Could Neruda also have written about the cats?” Why, yes — he did, and the poem is a fun one.

  6. The poetry is beautiful but how it pales in comparison to this splendid image. Did you gasp when you saw this or did you not realize till you downloaded the photos how beautiful it would be? It is truly exquisite.

    1. Sometimes I suspect a photo is going to be what I’d hoped, and occasionally I’m pretty sure it will be, but most of the time it takes downloading the images to see what I have. For example, with this pair, one of the images was a bit sharper than this one, but the top bird’s wing was just covering the bottom one’s head. Whoops! Better to use a slightly less sharp image with a little separation between the birds. That’s the kind of detail I never can see in the camera.

      Here’s a little treat for you from the poet of the day. Pablo Neruda actually wrote an “Ode to the Cat”.

  7. I’ve heard of Neruda, but this poem is a new one to me, and it’s lovely. Though not one bit more spectacular than this stunning photo, Linda — beautifully captured!

    1. There’s nothing like birds in flight, and these can be especially beautiful. I’m glad you like the photo. Have you ever read Neruda’s poem about a dog? It’s actually about the death of a dog, but it’s perfect in so many ways. His lines about the dog’s tail made me think of Dallas.

    1. Well, then — I’m glad to have introduced you to the poet. And who doesn’t like the sight of some birds soaring overhead? These are some of our prettiest: no question about that.

  8. Beautiful picture and lovely poem.
    Couldn’t wait to show you this – I went shopping this morning, put the grocery cart in the drop-off area and turned to see this guy staring at me from in front of my car. I stood and had a conversation with all 3-foot of him. When I got back in the car, he must have known the conversation was over and he left! LOL

    1. That’s one of the most bizzare encounters I’ve heard of. Coming across gulls or grackles in a parking lot is one thing — but a wood stork? I just can’t even imagine it. The more I think about it, the funnier it becomes! It was your lucky day, for sure. Now I can’t wait to tell one of my friends who lives in Florida and who spends a good bit of time tracking down these birds to photograph them. I’ll tell her she needs to spend more time in parking lots!

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it, John. A little variety is good, especially when that variety includes things like Neruda’s poetry. While I was trying to sort out some of the details of his life, I came across a novel that you might enjoy: The Neruda Case. The article made me want to read the book, and the genre certainly is one that I suspect would appeal to you.

  9. Oh, both the poem and the photo are lovely. My son read some of Neruda’s work when he was in high school. I think he first was introduced in a class, but sometimes cat sat for a neighbor who is an English professor who had some Neruda books which he borrowed. I assume he returned it as a) I’ve never found a copy here at our house, and b) She probably would have asked for it!

    1. It’s interesting that some people (like me) had to wait decades before discovering Neruda, while others, like your son, were introduced in high school. I mentioned to Steve S. that I probably would have ‘met’ him sooner if I’d studied the Spanish language rather than French, but the more I’ve thought about it, the less certain I am that Spanish even was offered in my midwestern school. Latin was required, and we could enroll in French or German classes, but Idon’t remember Spanish as an option.

      I suspect the cultural context had something to do with it. I don’t remember meeting any Hispanic people until after leaving my home town after high school. We were such a homogeneous community that the phrase “deep cultural divide” applied to groups like the Swedes and Norwegians!

  10. If you like Pablo Neruda, I suggest you see the movie “Il Postino” (The Postman) 1995 filmed in Italy. You may like it. You can find it in You Tube.

    1. I just read about it, and agree that it seems worth watching. I’ve added it to my list of “to be read/watched.” Thanks for the recommendation!

      This little detail caught my attention, too: “Writer/star Massimo Troisi postponed heart surgery so that he could complete the film. The day after filming was completed, he suffered a fatal heart attack.”

  11. I didn’t know any of Pablo Neruda’s poetry until just now, Linda, thank you for remedying my ignorance. I particularly liked the notion of “how perfumes are transmitted by feathery telegraphs.”
    Did you take the featured photo of the ibis? The iridescence of their wings is astounding!

    1. I did take the photo of the ibis. Unless I specifically note otherwise, all of the photos in my blogs are mine. That’s one reason these ‘poets’ birds’ posts tend to be sporadic. I have to wait until I’ve photographed a new species to share, and as time’s gone on, that’s become a little harder. Both the white-faced and glossy ibis have those iridescent feathers, and they’re just marvelous.

      I’m glad there have been at least a few people who didn’t know Neruda’s poetry. It would have been disconcerting to have every single commenter say, “Oh, well, of course. Where have you been?” Discovering and exploring his works was such a treat, I knew I wanted to share them.

      1. I assumed the photo was taken by you, Linda. I am not good at capturing birds in flight. You did it marvelously well.
        And I’m sure we are not the only ones who had only heard of Neruda, but not immersed ourselves in his words.

    1. You’re another of the lucky ones. Since you’ve known his work for a time, I’m glad to have highlighted a poem that’s new to you. He certainly produced a wealth of poetry and other writings, as well as living an interesting and complicated life.

  12. Thanks for including the original. It was interesting to compare the original to the translation. The Spanish language has quite a different rhythm from English. That is one of the (many) things that makes translating poetry problematic. The green of those feathers me encanta.

    1. I discovered this article about the difficulties of translating a novel titled The Neruda Case, and enjoyed it immensely. It considers some of the difficulties of translation — not only of poetry, but of any literary work — and I think you’d enjoy reading it, too. I have the novel itself on my to-be-read list now.

      I liked the way the green feathers recall the lines
      “I stayed suspended and green
      between sun and geography –”

  13. That photo of the Ibis is just stunning, Linda. And the colour… truly beautiful.

    Reminds me a bit of our Glossy Ibis which needs to catch the sunlight to be truly attractive.

    (sorry to say I’m stressed and have brain fog tonight, so the poem was beyond my comprehension. Some software/printer problems have sent my brain/stress levels into overdrive)

    1. We have a glossy ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) as well, and it can be difficult to tell the two species apart. I’m not even certain I’ve seen the glossy — I may have, and not realized it. They are beautiful birds on a sunny day, when their feathers shine and glisten even when they’re simply foraging. They can look a rather plain brown until they turn, and the colors emerge.

      Software and printer problems can drive any of us to distraction; I hope they’re easily resolved. I was thinking of you tonight when our cold front arrived. We’re going to have our own day or two of windy weather, and real cold. I sheltered the plants from the wind for tonight, but tomorrow night a few may come indoors.

      1. My printer/copier/scanner (3 in 1) is well and truly dead, but I got my old Scanner out of it’s box and the old Laser printer out of it’s box (which has a very expensive toner cartridge and I really can’t afford to use it).

        So, yesterday, I scanned the documents I had to fill out, sign and return to social services, saved them to my Photo library and then printed the scan docs on the old laser printer. I needed to keep a hardcopy for myself.

        The photo software section of my newish desktop and Apple software is driving me crazy (still). The screen freezes after a few minutes and the only way to get it unstuck is to log off and back on again. 6 months since I bought this iMac and it’s still driving me crazy, especially when I’m scrolling through the archives looking for something to post about. I can’t tell you how many times I have to log off and then back on each day. Since nothing else is wrong, it can’t be just the software…..or even the computer. It’s almost like the iMac is doing it just to taunt me.

        I’m waiting for all the bugs to be found & rectified before I update to Catalina (released on the 29th Oct).

        The wind is really quite extraordinary on the east cost of Australia and with 70 bushfires still burning, the wind has turned this early bushfire season into a catastrophy. The other day there were 600 schools closed. Apparently, the smoke has drifted across the ocean and covered part of New Zealand.

        I deleted my last post about the wind as it seems a bit trivial and insensitive to all those folks who have lost their homes in the fires.

  14. Dear Linda,
    I was introduced to Pablo Neruda when I was a student in the 70s. Later I wrote my thesis about Bert Brecht and pointed out the parallels of the late poems of Brecht and Neruda’s lyrics. Brecht, a communist without being a party member, wrote in his last years in the 50s love and nature poetry as well. One could read it as a highly symbolized political statement – or not. For me, that’s the magnitude of both authors that their lyrics can be decoded in quite different ways. And isn’t this what `good´ lyrics is about?
    Thanks for sharing this poem.
    Wishing you a happy week

    1. The parallels between Brecht and Neruda are very interesting. In a sense, it doesn’t surprise me that both tended to enlarge their focus in their latter years. As the decades pass, gained experience — and the sense that soon enough all experience will end — turns most of us reflective; when reflection is joined with the literary skills of someone like Neruda, the results can be compelling.

      Another interesting thing about William O’Daly’s introduction to his translations of Neruda is his emphasis on the ways that the poet makes use of two ‘voices’ in his latter poems: a public language and an understated, sometimes ‘unspoken’ language, especially in the love poems to Matilde.. I was intrigued by O’Daly’s observation that Neruda’s private language resonates only when woven into the public language. It may be that an individual’s reading of the poems is influenced, however unconsciously, by which of those voices is heard most clearly.

      O’Daly’s statements reminded me of the introduction to John Ciardi’s very old and quite marvelous book titled How Does a Poem Mean?. Ciardi says, “Nothing will direct a reader to the experience of a poem until he sees that the ghosts of a poem talk to one another.” Now that I’ve dragged out Ciardi’s book, I need to read it again, to refresh my understanding of those ghosts. Thank you for your observations, Klausbernd — stimulating as always.

      1. Thank you very much for your interesting reply.
        I know neither William O’Daly`s introduction into Neruda nor John Ciari’s book but I find it worth reflecting different languages and different voices in Neruda’s as well as in other poems. In Brecht’s lyrics you find these two levels also: His late poetry (Buckower Elegien) can be read as nice poems about nature and everyday experiences and at the same time as sophisticatedly coded critique on the system in East Germany. Every interesting poetry needs that tension, otherwise it becomes onedimensional – at least that’s my feeling.
        Thank you very much for mentioning John Ciardi’s book, I will have a look at it.

  15. Glossy Ibis came to mind here as well. The iridescent ibis pair you captured is quite wonderful. The flight positions and color contrasts with the blue sky is great. You get a feel of soaring in that image; it has a sense of fluid motion. Great shot.

    1. There was another shot that was a bit more detailed and crisper, but unfortunately the birds overlapped, just a bit. I thought it was more important to have the separation, so that’s what I chose. We’ve had so many ibis flying recently. Most are the white, but every now and then I ‘ll see some of these — although rarely so close. There’s still too much water around, and most of the wading birds are far out in the fields, where the sheet water’s more to their liking.

      Yesterday, I saw the first large group of white pelicans circling. They’ve been north of Houston, in the lakes, but they’re on the move now, and soon will be back in their accustomed spots — or so I hope.

  16. I remember I had a yoga teacher who adored Neruda and would recite some of his poems as inspiration and intention when we started our class. I haven’t thought of his works in years, so thanks for this reminder of how powerful his words can be.

    1. Another of his poems I enjoy and probably will use one day is called “Keeping Quiet”. It seems like a poem a yoga instructor might draw on, although I also enjoyed the sly references to the child’s game of Hide and Seek.

      It’s amazing, really, how often we forget writers/artists/people in general who’ve been so influential for us in the past. I’m glad to have surfaced Neruda for you.

  17. I studied Spanish literature in school, but it was heavily focused on traditional old style Spain – very much madrileño rather than even southern Spain, so the work of South Americans had no chance being included. Nevertheless, I’ve heard of Neruda, if not being familiar with his work. What a beautiful poem this is and I’m delighted you included both the translation & the original work. My Spanish has long faded, but reading it aloud in the original allows us to appreciate the intended rhythm and cadence of the language. Beautiful, thank you. Lovely photo too.

    1. Thank you so much for visiting. I’m glad you enjoyed the poem, and were able to appreciate both the original and the translation.

      It certainly is a beautiful poem. Another that caught me immediately is titled “La Poesía.” It was a special treat to find a recording of Neruda himself reading it. What you say about the rhythm and cadence of the language shines through, even for someone who doesn’t speak the language.

  18. What beautiful ibis! The only ones I’ve ever seen are the American Whites.

    The photo is a perfect complement to Neruda’s poem.

    1. The white ibis is our most common species, and the one I most often see. Have you come across the juveniles? They’re a mixture of brown and white until they reach maturity and become completely white. They’re really quite attractive while they’re in that in-between stage. It’s not unusual to find mixed flocks of adults and juveniles, and they’re great fun to watch. The white ones show up occasionally at the yacht club where I work, probing the lawns after a good rain for grasshoppers or whatever’s living in the area.

  19. A perfect match of poem and image. You must be delighted to have captured this beautiful photo. I was aware of Neruda’s work, but not this period of nature poetry. Thank you for calling attention to it. I look forward to reading more.

    1. I certainly was delighted, although that part of the experience came later, once I was home and looking at the photos on the computer. I’ve learned something about how best to take this sort of photo, but the execution can be, shall we say, variable. Luck still plays a role, beginning with the presence of the birds themselves.

      I’ve found that exploring Neruda’s poetry is akin to a walk in the woods. There’s just no telling which sort of delightful find will lie around the next turn or under the next log. It’s been great fun, and I look forward to even more exploring, myself.

  20. How did you take that amazing photo? What details and colors. I will never see the ibis if not from you. Thanks for the colorful poem as well.

    1. I just looked at the details: shutter priority and burst mode helped, and for once my 70-300mm lens was good enough. The settings were f/10, 1/1000 second, and ISO 400. I clearly changed the settings in the middle of taking the photos, since some were underexposed, but the good news is that I’m at least able to find the right buttons while shooting now.

      We may have the more common white ibis, but you have the snowy owl. I hope you’re able to see a few of those during the upcoming winter!

      1. I’ve never seen the snowy owl. Even went looking for it once, driving to rural and remote area that a sighting was reported. I’m afraid here at the Pond, it’s quite barren this time of the year. Below 30F, snow.

        Thanks for the camera details. I have a 70-300 mm lens too. But I admit I usually just set it at auto sport.

        1. I used to use auto sport more than I do now, but that’s also a good option. I suspect one thing that handicaps us both is our cameras’ slower frames per second speed.

          I first became aware of differences when I was shooting around pros with far more camera than I have. This may be dated information by now, but I found this: “Canon’s top-of-the-line pro bodies are capable of capturing up to 14 photos in a single second (14 fps). Consumer point and shoots tend to be much slower at around the 2-3 fps level. Mid-range DSLRs shoot in the 3-5fps range.”

          Sure enough, when I looked at the specs for my camera, it’s 5 frames per second. That slower speed certainly would make a difference when shooting birds in flight!

  21. I think your photo of the white faced ibis is magnificent. Really it is and I have no idea if this was a lucky shot or not or if you had been trying for a long time to get an image such as this one. The colors of the feathers with the light hitting just right makes this a shot of a life time- at least for me it does.

    Of course I read some of the other comments and I saw where you had inserted a link. I think I like the cat poem the best followed by the one about the dog.

    1. I thought of you when I came across both the cat and dog poems. Like you, I’m most fond of the poem dedicated to the cat, but it tickled me to read them both. He also wrote an “Ode to Socks”, and I really like that one.

      I occasionally go out looking for something specific, but most of the time I just go out to see what I can see. This time, I saw ibis in flight rather than standing around in the marsh, and I did my best to take advantage of the opportunity. There was luck involved, no question — but who’s going to refuse a little luck?

  22. You caught the iridescent colors of the white-faced ibis so well. What’s also so nice is that both Ibis are on focus and diagonally composed, as well as filling the frame.

    I didn’t read Neruda, as much as I had to read Gabriel García Márquez, another Nobel laureate. Gabriel García Márquez was a compulsory requisite in my younger days. He’s not known for poetry but for short fiction. Gabriel García Márquez is so different in style and would not be as inspiring as Neruda. Neruda could rejoice in nature, yet García Márquez was concerned with ‘magic realism’ and mirroring society’s harsher realities. I didn’t quite enjoy García Márquez, as much as Neruda and Machado, who for me revered nature and were sublime.

    1. It took me a bit of time to realize that one bird was above the other, rather than one being in the foreground and one farther back. That helped to keep them both more-or-less in focus.

      I’ve tried reading Márquez, but it didn’t go so well. On the other hand, I’ve been enjoying Machado for some time. One of my favorites of his poems is Caminante no hay camino, from Proverbios y cantares. In fact, I used that poem just about a year ago on Lagniappe.

    1. The ibis are graceful, and I’m always glad to see them. Of course, their role in myth probably appeals to you, too.

      Though I don’t speak Spanish, I’ve found several recordings and videos of Neruda reading his poems posted on the internet. Combining his readings with Spanish texts of the poems is quite a nice experience, especially after reading the poems in translation to get a sense of their direction.

    1. Never mind how I got there, but your remark about Neruda being a fixture in your college reading sent me off in another direction, and the next thing I knew, I was in the middle of articles like this one.The thought that CIA funding was an underpinning for the Iowa Writers’ Workshop is as new to me as Neruda’s poems, but it seems to be well enough documented. Actually, the comparison of Iowa to a content farm is pretty darned funny.

      Anyway: I’m glad you enjoyed meeting Neruda here again — and I’m glad that I finally found him.

      1. That article pretty much blew me away! I am so laughably naive. I would have never imagined or suspected or believed there could be a connection between the CIA and a writer’s workshop – even a very famous and influential one. But when I just typed that word “influential,” I sort of got it. As much as I don’t want to believe it, there are so many people and institutions out there who want to control things that don’t need controlling (in my very uninformed and humble opinion). The very idea of shaping something like creativity on a mass scale just seems impossible and wrong, but I guess it’s not the former! Ugh. Thanks for the unexpected response, though!

        1. And think of all the attempts at shaping expression that are taking place today — beginning, but certainly not ending, with demands that certain words not be spoken, and certain thoughts not be expressed.

          I rarely get truly angry, let alone enraged, but when I read that the Oxford Junior Dictionary was removing a substantial list of words related to nature (e.g., fern, moss, and acorn) and adding such gems as MP3 player and celebrity — well, you can imagine. I have no objection to adding modern terms to a dictionary, but I find it deliciously ironic that in a time when people are being asked to consider nature and the environment in new ways, words that would help them describe their experience to the natural world are being removed.

          OK. I’m done!

          1. But dont be. Don’t stop pushing back against the word changers and speech monitors. Forced changes from political or economic pressure points are not conducive to good social health.

            Stunning photograph. Stunning birds!

            1. Oh! I meant I’m done with the current grumblegrumble — not with the pushing back. It’s only going to get worse, I fear, but more people are paying attention.

              I’m glad you like the photo! They are beautiful birds, no doubt, and it was sheer grace that I caught this pair soaring together.

    1. Poetry’s not for everyone. I suppose that’s true of every genre. I’ve never developed a taste for science fiction or fantasy novels — I’m happy enough for others to read them, but I’ll look elsewhere.

      I thought about you when I was watching the progress of the front yesterday. When it finally arrived here, we certainly knew it. The mallards finally have emerged from hiding, but I’ve not seen another bird all day. They’re either hunkered down or they got blown off the coast.

    1. “Jewel-like” is exactly right. It hadn’t occurred to me, but they have a lot in common with peacocks: in iridescence, if not in color. Some of Neruda’s later poetry is devoted to the sea; it’s exquisite, and I think you’d like it. I’m eager to explore more of his work myself.

  23. Thanks for this! I’ve worked through a couple of volumes, and find him so intoxicating. This poem demonstrates him to be a poet-as-seer, imagining (too weak a word!) a world that the rest of us long to see.

    1. Isn’t it wonderful to find a poet or writer whose words resonate in a special way? I’ve been working my way through The Sea and the Bells, and found another poem there that I’ll be posting in the near future; it’s wonderful beyond words. I’m glad to have found another Neruda appreciator!

    1. As with all poets, there are some of his poems I enjoy, some that puzzle me, and some that I just can’t find a way to connect with. Still, every one of the collections I’ve dipped into have held more than the usual amount of treasure. If you liked this poem, you might do a little more exploring online, or get a collection from the library. He’s well worth the time.

  24. I have never read his poetry so thanks for sharing this. There’s a movie I saw about how Neruda escaped into exile. You might enjoy it, though I can’t remember the name. Gorgeous photos.

    1. There’s one from 2016 that’s titled Neruda that looks interesting. I’ll look into it — thanks for the tip. Another film that’s been mentioned several times is Il Postino, an Italian film with subtitles that can be found here.. It chronicles the relationship between Neruda and the postman who brings his mail — the premise is really quite interesting.

      Being able to catch a bird in flight is wonderful — discovering I had an image of this pair was even better. It doubled my photographic pleasure and fun, so to speak (remember Doublemint?).

    1. That’s so true — for every sort of writer: lyricists as well as poets and novelists. Usually, what isn’t said is as important as what is said. Leaving the reader or listener a few spaces to fill in on their own is part of the art.

  25. For some reason I have a vague memory of reading something of his in college (I took a Latin American literature class). Or maybe I’ve just heard of him elsewhere. Who knows at this late date! In any case, I love the imagery in this poem!

    1. Isn’t it funny how that happens? Often enough, something will trigger a memory in the deep, dark recesses of my mind and I’ll wonder where in the world it came from. I suspect if we could explore those recesses it would be akin to going through all the bookmarks we’ve piled up over the years Every now and then I’ll skim through them and think, “Why in the world did I think it was important to save that?”

      But Neruda — there’s no question why he’s worth saving!

  26. I’ve heard folks speak so highly of Neruda’s poetry for years, yet until I read your post I had not read any. You picked a fine one to share and it has encouraged me to read more. I think I will order his “The Sea and the Bells” as a further introduction. Using simple words works for me.:)
    This is a fantastic capture of these two White-faced Ibises. What wonderfully colorful birds and it’s a great flight shot against a beautiful backdrop of light clouds and blue sky.

    1. The Sea and the Bells would be a good choice, I think. I’m going to be posting another poem from that collection soon, so that will give you another taste of what he’s up to.

      I was more than pleased with the photo. I mentioned to someone else that another image was sharper, but the two birds overlapped one another, and that wouldn’t do. I finally figured out the obvious: the birds were in essentially the same plane, since it was the wing of the top bird that covered the head of the other. That was pure luck.

  27. I really love this photo. Just look at the graceful curve that follows the line of their bills right through their bodies, and then reinforced by there being two birds.

    1. I’m glad you like it, Melissa. There’s something about the pair of birds that adds a sense of movement to the photo. It’s quite rare for me to be able to capture such an image, since it depends on the birds being relatively low-flying. These had taken off from a pond, and that made things easier.

      1. I’ve tried and tried to capture birds in flight, and fail miserably every time no matter how low they are. So I am filled with admiration for yours!

          1. That is a good point that I tend to forget.
            Incidentally, last night I attended a critique of a show my daughter and I were in. It was like the fire you had to pass through to get your painting back. The guy clearly preferred human-built scapes to natural ones, and he said my painting would be alright if it didn’t have the bird in it. I’m still seething! He liked my daughter’s painting, though so that is good.

            1. Don’t waste your energy seething over someone’s comment. It’s your painting — if you want a bird, then a bird it is. If you decide it doesn’t need a bird, then no bird is needed. Easy-peasy. (Well, sort of. We all respond to evaluations, both negative and positive. But they aren’t the final word.)

    1. The white-faced ibis is a beautiful bird. I’m not certain whether I’ve seen the glossy, since it’s quite similar, and there have been times when I’ve confused juvenile white-faced with the glossy.

      When I first began posting translated poetry, I always compared translations, and it didn’t take long to recognize great differences among some versions, or to discover the limitations of Google’s ‘translation’ service. Translation’s clearly an art as well as a science, and finding the best translators can take some research. The really bad ones usually are easy to spot.

      1. I never connected with Beowulf until I read Seamus Heaney’s translation. There’s something about understanding the spirit while getting the words and the poetry of it right that makes translation an amazing gift when it’s good.

        1. Lawrence Durrell’s translations of Cavafy did that for me. There’s been some nose-twitching over Durrell’s version by those who say they aren’t accurate enough, but I’ve read other translations that seemed remarkably stilted, and closed. Durrell’s made me want to read more Cavafy, and more.

  28. The photograph of the ibises is excellent – quite a capture.
    My introduction to Neruda came one week ago, at a poetry night sponsored by the art coop that I belong to. Until then, Neruda was just a familiar name. One of the readers spoke two poems by Neruda, one was “The word” and the other from the early book of 20 love poems. Both were remarkable. The Spanish-speaking person who read the poems had heard Neruda read in the early 50s (!). That was the same night you posted this – I’m late to stop in, as usual.

    1. As I often say, there is no ‘late’ around here. I never close comments (well, almost never — I did close them on one post for a variety of reasons) and I often find myself replying to comments made on posts that are as much as a decade old.

      It’s interesting that you ‘met’ Neruda at the same time that I was posting this. In the next couple of weeks, I’ll be posting another marvelous selection from The Sea and the Bells over at Lagniappe — I found the most perfect poem for a very old photo. I hadn’t read “The Word,” so thanks for mentioning that one. Clearly, there’s enough in Neruda’s works to keep us all reading for a very long time — and to keep us surprised by his visions, as well.

  29. I have read very few poems by Neruda; I think my son had a collection of them when he was a teenager and I couldn’t “get into” them — or maybe he gave me that collection… hmmm. Well, anyway, I love this poem!! I will try to find more that are beautiful like this to me.

    I also saw “El Postino” and liked it very much. I haven’t read if the character of Neruda is thought to be a good representation of the real man, even if the historical details are made-up.

    1. I think Neruda’s later poems would appeal to you. Of course, from my limited reading, there are poems and bits of poems throughout his works that are deeply appealing.

      I’ve not yet watched El Postino, but I intend to. This article is one of the best I’ve found for the details of his life, although it touches only lightly on his relationships with various women. As we like to say today, “it’s complicated.” Back in the day, we might have said, “He was a bit of a cad.”

  30. Lots to enjoy in this post, as usual, Linda. The white-faced ibis photo is astounding. It is rare that these colors come out so vividly, as the light plays tricks that are difficult to record photographically. The Neruda poem is a high tribute to the beauty of birds, and very beautiful. Whenever I have traveled in or near South America, the poems of Pablo Neruda and his courageous life are a highlight to be found in many places. Thank you, Linda.

    1. I usually see these ibis feeding, and although their feathers show iridescence then, too, it’s generally more coppery, and it was a great surprise to see all these colors during their flight. Like the white ibis, they’ll congregate into larger groups when they’re around, and I’m hoping to see more of them this winter.

      Of course you would have encountered Neruda’s work during your travels. I’m so glad to have encountered him at last. One of his last volumes, The Sea and the Bells has completely entranced me, and I’ll be posting a selection of that volume in the near future — together with a bell that no doubt was familiar to both Faulkner and Tennessee Williams. What a literary trinity that is!

      Thanks for stopping by, Jet, and for the kind words about my photo. It’s been quite a pleasure to find that patience can make up for limitations in equipement like lenses!

    1. Sometimes I forget that you were posting about South America when I ‘met’ you; it makes sense that you’d know Neruda, and appreciate his poetry. From what I’ve learned, his influence there is significant, and extends far beyond Chile. I wish I’d met him sooner, but I’m glad to have found his work now. I’ve especially enjoyed listening to him read his own poems — I always wish I spoken Spanish when I hear them in the original language, but it’s wonderful to hear, anyway.

      I love the shot of the ibis. I was lucky to catch them shortly after take-off, which meant they were lower to the ground and within the reach of my lens.

      1. I visited his house in Valparaiso (he had several over the years), which was strange but very likeable, full of stuff, and had great views. Poetry can be particularly beautiful when spoken in Spanish

    1. The ibis are beautiful. The white ones are attractive, and I see them much more often, but the glossiness of these is so nice when the sun lights up their feathers. I was pleased to find a poem that seemed to capture a bit of their beauty, too.

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