Pablo Neruda and Walt Whitman
Pablo Neruda was one of the most influential poets of all time in both the English and Spanish languages. His poetry has inspired many poets of todays age to begin writing. However one must wonder where a man like this was able to find such inspiration. Well that can be traced back to one of the fathers of modern day poetry, Walt Whitman. Whitman played a massive role in Neruda’s poetry and his life outside of poetry. In fact Whitman so heavily influenced Neruda, that he had numerous paintings of him around his house and referenced him his “father”. This influential figure wasn’t hindered by society and helped sculpt poetry, as we know it.
Pablo Neruda was born in Chile, and his real name was Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto. He eventually changed his legal name to Pablo Neruda after the Czech poet, Jan Neruda. Neruda first starting writing poetry when he was a teenager and was actually well recognized at the time. He began writing his first volumes in 1923 titled “Book of Twilights”. The Next year he published “Twenty Love poems and a Song of despair”. These collections of poems were highly criticized for there eroticism that was portrayed, but this later became his best-known piece of work. He was seventeen at the time he wrote these collections and it was very controversial because he was so young and the amount of eroticism within the work was astounding to most readers. Now Walt Whitman as well was highly criticized for his use of love poems. He was very well known to be having affairs with men and would oft write about them in his poems. These were also a highly criticized aspect of Whitman’s poetry, but these views defied the time period and even went on to become some of his greatest works. More specifically his poem “We Two Boys Together Clinging” was about just that. Writing about his affairs with men of the time was very taboo and unheard of for his time. Many people of his time considered him to be a heretic and mad. Specifically in this poem he talks about “Miser, menials, priests alarming, air breathing, water drinking, on the turf or the sea-beach dancing, Cities wrenching, ease scorning, statues mocking, feebleness chasing, Fulfilling our foray” (Whitman 9-13) These few lines from that poem, go to show that he doesn’t care what others think such as a “priest alarming” or “Cities wrenching” goes to show he doesn’t care if a priest is alarmed by his affairs or what these other people think. It is this freedom of expression during this tumultuous time period that lead Neruda to draw such great inspiration from a man like Whitman.
It is this freedom of expression that has lead Neruda to adorn Whitman. Neruda embodies this freedom of expression in most of his works. Especially one of his most famous works “Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair” as I stated earlier, these were especially controversial and unconventional poems that Neruda chose to share, that were unlike anything people in South America and North America had seen before. Whitman was much the same during his time, showcasing works that were well ahead of his time and also reflected his unorthodox lifestyle. Whitman’s works “Leaves of Grass” was the equivalent of Neruda’s most famous collection. His poetry collections were considered obscene by many for there overt sexuality that it displayed. However this just showcased how far ahead of his time and open minded Whitman was. Neruda sculpted his poems around Whitman’s freedom of expression. In fact Neruda owned dozens of copies of “Leaves of Grass” buying copies whenever he could, no matter what the quality or price, because it had such a bearing on his work. Neruda in fact considered Whitman as “the poet who opened the door for American poetry” (Rumeau) Neruda specifically focuses on “Whitman’s vital lesson” (Neruda), which was his acceptance and embrace of the entire world. This was Whitman’s idea of diffusing