Reviewed by Robin Goodfellow for Readers' Favorite
Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda is a collection of poems that detail the sensual glamor of humanity, ranging from love to eroticism to grief. The collection begins with a brief description of the poet, and how important his poetry was in the aftermath of World War I, especially when people began understanding the carnage left behind. Each poem illustrates different facets of a romantic relationship, including infatuation, love, lust, and grief. The collection ends with the titular Song of Despair, showing the poet contemplating the ashes left behind after pursuing his burning love. Alongside the stunning translations of J. Simon Harris, Neruda portrays human romance in all its cruel intimacy.
Neruda’s artful rhetoric is absolutely beautiful in this collection. And with the advent of World War I, one can see why people flocked to Neruda’s work. While Neruda adds a sort of escapist sensualism to the reader’s world, such as with Poem 1 and Poem 8, the collection also reminds the reader that they will have to return to their grim reality, the one filled with death and heartbreak, as seen with Poem 2. Perhaps the poem I enjoyed most was the Song of Despair since the poet describes how, in spite of his grief, he will love again. Because of the collection’s portrayal of human relationships, as well as its enchanting exploration of the correlation between love and grief, I would recommend this collection to individuals who enjoy literary fiction, poetry, and romance.