Student Question

Can you interpret this quote and explain the importance of the author's poetry and writing?

“My poetry is becoming a material part of an atmosphere that extends infinitely, that runs under the sea and under the earth both, it begins to enter galleries of startling vegetation, to speak in broad daylight with the specters of the sun, to explore pits of minerals hidden deep in the secretive earth, to establish forgotten links between autumn and man.”

Expert Answers

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Considering that the unfinished Memoirs was published a year after Pablo Neruda’s death in 1973, it is interesting to look at this quote through the lens of Neruda’s later poetry, which heavily reflects his anticipation of death. Because Neruda’s spirituality was infused with profound connections between the body and the earth, his description of his poetry—as existing beyond the page as a force of nature—reinforces his interpretation of immortality.

One of Neruda’s last books, Stones of the Sky (1970), strongly exemplifies the motives described in this quote from Memoirs. In these poems, he depicts what he interprets as the transition into the cosmic realm as “stones of the sky,” moving in tandem with the Earth’s rotation and representing a guiding presence in his spiritual journey. In these poems, he examines the relationship between the material and immaterial by looking to the permanence of nature; in the sky are not just stars, but stones, linking the Earth’s energy with the infinite universe. An example of his spiritual reflection is evident in his poem “XXVI”:

Leave me an underground, a labyrinth
to resort to later when, without eyes,
without touch, in the emptiness,
I might want to come back to life
or to mute rock or the hand of the shadow.

This labyrinth—which perhaps signifies a portal between the Earth and the universe beyond the atmosphere—exemplifies what Neruda describes as “a part of an atmosphere that extends infinitely, that runs under the sea and under the earth both.” Furthermore, this excerpt from Stones of the Sky illustrates how Neruda inspires his readers “to explore pits of minerals hidden deep in the secretive earth” with his poetry. Heavily influenced by the natural beauty of his homeland, Chile, Neruda navigates the transition from life to death by looking to these mystical secrets hidden in the Earth. His poetic legacy therefore lies in his evocative ability to use poetry as a spiritual and immersive process.

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