An Excerpt from "Ode To Typography"

By Pablo Neruda

Amor,

My love,

amo

I love

las letras

the letters

de tu pelo

of your hair,

la

the

U

U

de tu mirada

of your gaze,

las

the

S

S

de tu talle.

of your figure.

En las hojas

In the leaves

de la joven primavera

of youthful spring

relumbra alfabeto

the diamond alphabet

diamantino

sparkles,

las esmeraldas

emeralds

escriben tu nombre

write your name

con iniciales frescas de rocĂ­o.

with the fresh initials of dew.

Mi amor,

My love,

tu cabellera

your head of hair

profunda

deep

como selva o diccionario

as the jungle or the dictionary

me cubre

covers me

con su totalidad

with its totality

de idioma

of red

rojo.

language.


Neruda, Pablo. "Ode to Typography." Fifty Odes. Trans. George Schade. Austin: Host Publications, Inc., 1996. pp 252-277.


In an excerpt from one of my favorite poems by Pablo Neruda, the author mixes random letters of the alphabet with vivid, detailed descriptions of his love. This piece certainly pertains to love, as Neruda is considered one of the "love poets" and whose topics generally revolve around love.

Mechanically, it is not practical to look at aspects of poetry such as alliteration, consonance, assonance, or onomatopoeia, as Pablo Neruda is a Chilean poet and his work has been translated into English from its original tongue. Many of its devices that would be heard in the oral presentation of a poem are lost in translation.

As it is, however, Neruda's rich descriptions and thoroughly pleasing mental imagery, invoked with ample adjectives, far make up for the losses in auditory mechanical devices. The author describes the form of a woman, using the alphabet. Her hair, twisting and turning is like letters, present is the "the/U/of [her] gaze," (lines 5-7), and the curves of the female form like the letter "S," (line 9). Neruda uses personification to describe spring as "youthful" in line 12. "My love" is repeated several times throughout the piece, as Neruda uses his writing to praise his beloved. There is an example of simile in "Ode To Typography," as the author compares the thick head of his love's hair to "the jungle or the dictionary," (line 22).

In my personal description of Neruda's poem, when he writes, "the diamond alphabet/sparkles,/emeralds/write your name," lines 13-16) the phrase almost seems to convey that words can paint beautiful and priceless pictures, just as setting "typography" with gemstones would be. I believe that this is the whole point behind Neruda's seemingly confused adjectives and 'random' mental imagery. It matters not that his work does not have a conventional semblance of scheme, rhythm, or rhyme; it matters that vivid and clear mental pictures can be derived in exactly the way the poet intended.