“Entrance to Wood” is a lyric poem of seven stanzas written in free verse. It is the first and best known of Pablo Neruda’s Tres cantos materiales, which were included in book 2 of his Residencia series, Residencia en la tierra (1935). The poem that immediately precedes “Entrance to Wood” is “Agua sexual” (“Sexual Water”), which ends with a vision beyond the grave. “Entrance to Wood” can be viewed as a response to that particular experience.
That response begins with the poem’s title, which not only reveals a symbolic shift from water to the more substantial wood but also makes a revealing pun. The Spanish “Entrada a la madera” (entrance to wood) echoes the phrase entrar en materia, which means to get into a subject or to get down to business. This poem becomes the first “material” of the “Three Material Cantos” (the other two cantos are entitled “Hymn to Celery” and “Statute of Wine.”)
As in “Hymn to Celery,” the action of the poem begins with a fall. Somewhat like Alice in Wonderland, the “I” or speaker in the first two stanzas of the poem falls into an enchanted forest, toward a physical union with earthly things that is initially ominous. The speaker does not fall intellectually but bodily, with his senses, into the “forgotten decayed room” of the forest. The forest of “secret inconclusive woods,” however, becomes gradually familiar, as the speaker wanders in his new surroundings.
As the topic of the apostrophe (a manner of speech in which someone, some abstract quality, or a nonexistent person is directly addressed as though present) in the first line of the third stanza, “matter” comes to replace the “wood” of...
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