ByÂ Devanshi Tyagi:
Empathetic and genuine are the best words with which one can describe the two poets who inspire me immensely. Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) was from Chile and Margaret Atwood (1939) is a Canadian.
Pablo Neruda had a career spanning 52 years, during which he received numerous prizes, including the highest accolade a writer can hope to get- The Nobel Prize. But this man was wise enough to realize that “No great writer gains luster from a Nobel Prize. It is the Nobel Prize which gains luster from the recipient”.
This remarkably down to earth nature of his was what led to him gaining the informal title of “Poet of the People”. This title was apt for Neruda as he did not see the receiving of Nobel Prize as a momentous occasion but for him the momentous occasion was when from the depths of the Lota coal mine, a coal miner came up to him and said —“I have known you for a long time, my brother”.
This according to Pablo Neruda was the laurel crown of his poetry. Neruda personally put in efforts to achieve this love, this oneness. He said- “I have literally gone into every corner of Chile, scattering my poetry like seeds amongst the people of my country.” He wrote versatile poetry. He wrote his first love poem at 20. But later went on to writing much more serious poetry. He went on to write about the marginalized, the oppressors and the oppressed. He lived through difficult times. For instance the year of 1947, this was the year when Francisco Franco was made head of state. Franco went on to become the longest ruling dictator in European history. 1947 was also, the time when President Gonzaldez Videla agreed to violent attacks on striking coal miners and also banned the communist party. Neruda personally too at this time was going through a low phase as this was time (1933-1947) when he lived in great loneliness as Consul in the Far East. During this year he brought out ‘The way Spain was’, one of his most remarkable poems. The poem cherishes Spain with it “barren soil” and “rough bread” and “stricken people”. He presents the blemishes of Spain in a glorious manner so as to instil the people with a sense of pride. This is what is commendable about Pablo. He might be facing the direst of times but had the ability to express the sorrow in a hopeful manner.
He also grew over the years. His poetry was not consistent. It matured with age. He started with love poetry, then political issues he dealt with and then around 1953, his poetry showed a major concern for the masses. He started writing in a very simple manner as he believed that being esoteric is the first world’s way. He evolved and his readers evolved along with him. Even today a reader is compelled to ponder on a range of issues. So being a 20 year old, I can relate to the love poems, also his political poems and also the poems for the masses. And it all makes me think about diverse topics. So the reader has a poem available for lonely times, for tough times and so on. Neruda’s poetry never disappoints.
Atwood has the same ability. She has the inclination towards a magical mode of writing. Atwood was born at the time of the Second World War. She was born into a generation which was pre-occupied with questions of identity of their nation state. Thus, she is from her dissenting point of view forever questioning civilization. She reveals how “the White man’s burden” is a faÃ§ade and they have ruined the natural and pristine civilizations around the world. She is not one to accept prosperity and progress at face value, but one who will question it.
Her poem’s setup is such that the reader gets pulled into her make belief world and she has the ability to get him him/her out of misery. And once the reader is out of the make belief world he has enough strength to face the obstacles he/she might be facing.
Atwood explains “Our first stories come to us through the air. We hear voices”. So she notes the values of religious stories, fairy tales and childhood books. The tricks of language make the unbelievable, believable and the invisible, visible.
So the brilliant aspect about both of them is that they can deal with the problems and also at times provide solutions to them. And at all times hope is present in their poetry. I feel they should be in an inspiration for the youth. Both these poets of the third world have seen the toughest time possible, yet they remained hopeful. They did not turn their poetry into a medium of escape. They fly off to mysterious places and yet land firmly in reality in the end. So, today when the youth of India face a terrible political scenario, where we have a presidential candidate choice which is as a choice between the devil and the deep sea, we should not give up. Neruda and Atwood teach us that we may be down at times, but never out.