(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

“Walking Around” opens casually: “It happens that I am tired of being a man.” The poem’s visionary experience starts with a painful awareness of alienation.

In the first eleven lines, bracketed by the phrase “It happens that I am tired,” the first-person speaker sees himself as “withered” and “impenetrable” like a swan made of felt on a sea of “origins and ashes” when he goes to tailor shops or to cinemas. Both establishments concern appearances instead of realities. The swan afloat on an ocean of ashes implies the rejection of conventional poetic attitudes. The speaker also rejects the pleasant aromas of barbershops, gardens, merchandise, eyeglasses, and elevators, an almost random assortment of nouns associated with various aspects of being human. The speaker even turns against his own feet, fingernails, hair, and shadow.

In the next fourteen lines the speaker pivots: “Yet,” it would be “delightful” to “scare a notary with a cut lily” or to “kill a nun with a jab to the ear.” That is, he could still get some joy from shaking up the bureaucracy (by threatening it with a flower, something antithetical) or by taking on the church (a more demanding task). It would be nice, he says, to “walk down the street with a green knife/ and whooping it up till I die of the shakes.” He insists he does not want to live “like a root in the dark,” as an underground man in a “cellar of corpses,” cold and...

(The entire section is 420 words.)


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Agosín, Marjorie. Pablo Neruda. Translated by Lorraine Roses. Boston: Twayne, 1986.

Dawes, Greg. Verses Against the Darkness: Pablo Neruda’s Poetry and Politics. Lewisburg, Pa.: Bucknell University Press, 2006.

De Costa, Rene. The Poetry of Pablo Neruda. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1979.

Duran, Manuel, and Margery Safir. Earth Tones. Bloomington: Indiana University, 1980.

Feinstein, Adam. Pablo Neruda: A Passion for Life. New York: Bloomsbury, 2004.

Felstiner, John. Translating Neruda. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1980.

Handley, George B. New World Poetics: Nature and the Adamic Imagination of Whitman, Neruda, and Walcott. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2007.

Longo, Teresa, ed. Pablo Neruda and the U.S. Culture Industry. New York: Routledge, 2002.

Santi, Enrico Maria. Pablo Neruda: The Poetics of Prophecy. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1982.

Teitelboim, Volodia. Neruda: An Intimate Biography. Translated by Beverly J. DeLong-Tonelli. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1991.