26 June 2009

las lecturas para el alma

Mr. Bear Cub and I both have a deep appreciation for poetry. When we were getting to know each other three years ago, he chose to learn more about me by looking in my bookcase. I had recently acquired a book of love poems by Pablo Neruda. Amidst our tiny circle of friends in graduate school, Mr. Bear Cub was surprised to find another person who even knew of Neruda!

I'm sure many of you already know of this poet - his words are commonly found in wedding ceremonies these days - but for those who don't, allow me to briefly introduce you to one of the most famous and beloved writers of Chile.

Pablo Neruda was born in 1904 in a small town a few hundred kilometers south of Santiago. His name is actually a pen-name inspired by the Czech poet Jan Neruda, mostly because his father wanted him to follow a more "practical" profession. This later became his legal name when he started publishing his works.

Neruda studied French in college at the Universidad de Chile (one of the most prestigious universities in the country), and began his career as a writer and poet with his book Twenty Poems of Love and a Song of Despair. Most of the poems in this book are highly erotic, but several find their way into wedding ceremonies!

He later became a diplomat to many countries including France, Spain, and several Indonesian countries (where he met his first wife). While in Spain, he witnessed the turmoil of the Spanish Civil War. This time in his life marked the beginning of his political activism. Among many things, he became a close ally with Salvador Allende (the first democratically elected socialist head of state - 1970).

In late 1973, Neruda's health was failing from cancer. Augusto Pinochet led a military coup, immediately instating himself as a dictator (this lasted for several decades). A few weeks after the coup, Neruda died of heart failure. The entire country of Chile mourned his death - the massive amounts of people taking to the streets for his funeral is seen as the first protest against the new regime (and the last for 20 years).

Among all things political, Neruda was a lover of women (but this is obvious from his poetry ;) ). With his third wife, he built three eclectic homes - one in Santiago, one in Valparaíso, and one in Isla Negra.

This past weekend Mr. Bear Cub and I visited his home in Santiago. He named it "La Chascona", and built it in honor of his lover, Matilde Urrutia.

This house is very unique - he was inspired to build it in the famous Barrio Bellavista (the indie/artist neighborhood) because he heard a trickle of water! He later wrote a poem about how the water around his new home flowed like words to him.

My favorite part of his house was in the master bedroom. On the mantle sat two small figurines - a bride and a groom, attached with a ribbon at the neck. Even Matilde and Pablo cherished the cake topper from their wedding! :)

He also had a bar that only he was allowed behind:

We couldn't get over how much Mr. Bear Cub's dad is like Neruda!! We've been thinking recently about what readings to include in our ceremony, and who should read them. Naturally, we want to include a Neruda poem in our ceremony. We will probably ask FIL Bear Cub to read this poem. He's a man who loves reading (and writing) poetry, is enamored with latin culture, and would certainly man his own eclectic bar if given the opportunity!

Even better - FIL Bear Cub loooooves to wax the philosophical only in spanish after he's had a choice wine. We'll likely ask him to read the Neruda poem in spanish, while another person recites the english version.

We're totally digging this nod to our Chilean home, but we don't know which Neruda poem we should include in our ceremony! There are so many wonderful Neruda poems, we don't know where to start!

So, hive, what's your favorite Neruda poem about love? Do you know of any Neruda poems that would be fitting for a wedding ceremony?

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