Tonight I Can Write by Pablo Neruda

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Critical Overview

(Poetry for Students)

“Tonight I Can Write” was published in 1924 in a collection of Pablo Neruda’s poetry, Veinte poemas de amor y una cancion desesperada and translated into English in 1969 by Merwin as Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair. Although Chile’s leading publisher turned down the collection, arguing that the poems were too erotic, the public response was overwhelmingly positive. Over the years, the collection has been translated into several languages. Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair established his reputation as a promising new poet. In his article “Pablo Neruda: Overview,” de Costa notes that the book was a “succès de scandale” when it first appeared in 1924. Judged to be shamelessly erotic and faulted for its bold departure in form and style from the genteel tradition of Hispanic lyricism the book went on to become something of a bestseller, and remains so today.” Robert Clemens remarks in the Saturday Review that the collection “established [Neruda] at the outset as a frank, sensuous spokesman for love.” George D. Schade in his article on Neruda praises the author’s prodigious literary achievements and notes that none of his work has compared “in immediate popularity and continuing success with his first significant book, Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair.