Nonetheless, I respect the man’s expertise and genius -- his command of verbiage and indisputably brilliant mind. Eric Bockstael: Those who have read your poems note immediately the presence of the world of work, and some consider you a political poet. Poets who have not, who have never, made contact with the feelings of their people, or who have continued to be indifferent, or who have promoted or preached a poetry far removed from a certain pressing reality, can be qualified as the most political poets of our era. For me, writing about the workers, writing about the masses, is a consequence of my emotions. But in the 19th century we have the enriching of the oligarchs, the exploitation of our continent by capitalism, that allowed an aristocratic stratum to come out of the great exploitation of our people, and that made fashionable only the European style of life.
That means we have also the great heritage of European culture, which we appreciate and we admire, and without which we would neither be able to live nor to develop as writers, as thinkers. EB: There are those who would speak of that poetry, qualifying it as materialistic or even as historical materialism. EB: I have a sense here that you consider these discussions about mankind a rather facile evasion in the face of real life.
EB: I would like to go back to what you were saying about the contradictions of poetic language, between practical and impractical poetries. PN: First it would be necessary to consider that there is a place for simple and direct poetry and there is a place for the experimental, for experimental poetry, for the changes in language, and that poets and writers in general feel as if the measures of language or expression at a given moment are not sufficient to their thought at the frontiers of their thought. I don’t set myself apart from this problem, because my poems have been especially very difficult to understand. We're a human development centered cooperative, producing in part through the generous and faithful contributions of our North Star members. But what I readily and eagerly bow down to is the clarity of his vision about the juxtaposition of his work and his life. I detest that classification which insists on designating me as the representative of an ideologically committed poetry. Because of that abstention of their poetry from the general movement of civilization, the development of the world, they have contributed to the holding back of that development.
It’s not a dictatum, and has nothing to do with an ideologically committed direction in my poetry. The duty of the Latin American poet is to name, meaning to complete the creation of the world. And we even had writers, very gifted writers moreover, who hadn’t written except in French. I did not invent, nor did those who began writing at the same time, that which motivated our determination to concern ourselves with our countries, with our peoples. And pliant to this influence -- and that influence persists into our own day in a conscious or unconscious fashion -- many poets have wanted only to be cosmopolitan figures and to merge themselves through European culture with the universal culture. That’s to say that historical materialism is a scientific and philosophical possibility which includes all sorts of phenomena. I have theories on the shoes I am going to buy when mine are worn out or that my clothes are already getting threadbare.
With the development of the bourgeoisie, with the formation of the great metropolises, writers and painters have become far removed from the understanding of the people, the common people, everybody.
How are we going to lead ourselves, to lead ourselves back into a new state of things by changing economic history and class relations? Choose your membership: Annual ($36), Monthly ($3), ($5), ($10), ($15), ($30), ($70), ($200), ($500), ($1000). Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to 37prime and content author with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. From time to time, I encounter a poem that just bowls me over with its richness and lushness, leaving me hopeful that I am finally ready to receive the gift of this prodigy’s work.


My ambition as a writer, if there is an ambition, is to write about all the things that I see, that I touch, that I know, that I love, or that I hate. Which means the real ones -- the poets who are the political poets -- are the reactionary poets and writers.
I became aware of the social order of Latin America and of the world as I became aware of the ocean, or of flowers, or of life.
Since the name, the word, is the first thing that existed without the knowledge or the name of the fundamental things.
Ecuadorians who so much despised their continent, which they didn’t know, that they not only changed direction, but they changed their language as well. But we have followed the example of our great predecessors, and we have cast our view on life, on the misery and the suffering of our peoples, and on the grand geography and the grand spaces, the grand historical events and the grand natural phenomena of our America.
We have to create our own culture, meaning to pay attention to our continent, to be ourselves, and that is a more difficult path.
If someone finds historical materialism in my poetry, it’s a thing completely external to me. Since the beginning of this century of the great industrial bourgeoisie that phenomenon has existed. How are we going to lead ourselves back to that which has traveled so far away, making use of all the methods of propaganda like abstract painting, etc., which has produced great works, but works which are very far removed from popular sentiment?
However, a trip to the library and a few minutes spent thumbing through an entire volume of the political activist and poet’s work -- one of over forty that he produced in his lifetime -- confirms my initial reaction and rejection, leaving me sorely disappointed.
He was unabashed in his resistance of well-defined and reductive boundaries vis-a-vis categories, preferring instead to mark -- and plow and tend to -- his own self-selected, self-demarcated territory. Naturally, that spectacle being more moving, and more developed, and grander -- which engages all humanity -- that has constituted a committed part in my poetry. As a reaction to this aesthetic position, which was moreover a class position, the great oligarchs of Latin America always presented themselves as representing high culture and wanted to align themselves with the latest of European society and its people. It existed from the very beginning, even with the first poet to come out of the conquistadores, the conquerors: we have the example of the poet Ercilla. This wasn’t new, but given that we belonged to a new generation where class conflicts were surging more and more pressingly, we also took on the personal struggle, isolated or collective, of the workers.
I’m not looking for anything in my work, neither materialism, nor materialistic, nor historic spiritualism. But then, in responding to a student, I would say that even if it’s a little bit of a negative reaction, a nihilistic and destructive reaction, there is a certain ethos which goes not only to the limits of poetry, but to all the arts, and especially to painting. But as a school of painting, of theater, of films, of poetry, of prose, or of music separates itself entirely from the people, I find that it’s on a mistaken path, I find that it is in a blind alley that does not lead very far.
I tell myself that perhaps there is something lost in the translation of his poetry from Spanish to English. I am only the echo in a certain part of my poetry of the anxieties of the contemporary world, of the anxieties of the Latin American world.
But in general if you take the political part of my works, the part of my work that one can call political or social, it doesn’t make up a fourth or a fifth part of that work. And this knowledge of our own continent posed itself as a duty especially in the last years of the era in which I began to write, after the twenties, when I was a young university student, a young poet.
The founder of poetry in my country was a Spaniard, a page of Charles the Fifth, who came with the first wave of the conquerors. And in doing that we broke the ties that bound us to that layer of the oligarchy and definitively with that Europeanist mode which is not dead evidently, and which moreover it’s necessary to save, because one must not put in the same basket the good and the bad of that situation.
Well, we are afraid neither of vulgarity nor of reality, but we accept also the possibility of cultural relations with all the countries of the world, naturally while recognizing something indispensable in European culture.
But on the other hand, I do not refuse myself -- it would be absolutely absurd to refuse oneself -- the constant investigation, the enlargement of our possibilities of expression.


You see, I want -- rather desperately, in fact -- to be moved to tears by the man’s grandiose use of words.
Neruda wrote as he lived -- fiercely and freely -- and therefore, he was, in fact, his work.
And it was he who wrote the most dramatic and the most interesting things about Chile, about its Indian peoples who defended their liberty for three hundred years.
But this interminable debate on what is man is so much talk that it doesn’t interest me.
But the role of the romantic poet, of Goethe, or of Schiller, or of Keats, or of Byron, or of Victor Hugo, was lost with the beginning of the century, with the great development of the industrial bourgeoisie. So these are problems that can’t be reached by criticism, not even by our observations, and not even by our production, but by the correlation of social forces.
Yet despite all my best efforts, I still find many of his romance poems entirely too saccharine for my personal taste. This classification that they want to give me is an antagonistic classification, a hostile classification.
I want to sing about the stars, the moon, the flowers, about love, exactly like Sully Prudhomme, like Victor Hugo, or like, before all else, all the poets of all time. The poets transformed themselves, the poets and the painters transformed themselves into specialists.
When the class struggle, when the human condition will universally take on a new sense not only in certain countries -- and let’s speak clearly, when the West will be socialist -- then perhaps we are going to see a different formulation, or an orientation where a popular literature will be able to come to light without populism, and artistic investigation and experimentation without egotism and extreme individuality, but will be able to give the human community the essential contribution of art, of contemporary art and of the art of the future. For an array of readers, much of this poetry encapsulates deep yearning, serving as a collective ode to love and loss, and a much needed ointment for aching or mending hearts.
The knowledge and the emotions which are channeled across written or figurative expression, represented in painting, escaped.
Meaning I have a very old conception of poetry, which does not contradict the possibility that I have written, and that I continue to write, poems that are dedicated to the development of society and to the power of progress and of peace. I leave the door open for all that, but in general I could say that I am materialist in the sense of visible poetry, which is to say I can’t speak or sing or write except about things that are extremely visible and touchable. At the time, they had already made a place for art as a specialized thing for a certain cultivated layer of the grand and the petty bourgeoisie. It is perhaps a realization of what is most distinguished about philosophical idealism: to discuss eternally things that have no solution. The petty bourgeoisie in its own way wanted to assimilate the lesson from the grand bourgeoisie through the spirit of class abstention. No, the philological is rather an external matter, but I detest the extra-philosophic interpretation of poetry in general, not only my own.
The petty bourgeoisie didn’t align itself with the workers but with the great financiers.
I believe that it is enough that poets only exist -- it’s good that poets exist -- but if to forty books by poets one adds forty thousand books of poetic interpretation, where are the poets going to live, I ask you? I am a poet in this absolutely elemental sense: I go no further in the interpretation of my poetry than my need to sing, to express myself, to regard the wonder of the world. And in the marvelousness of the world I find also cataloged the struggle of mankind for a future. But we are so busy in this world that if we show that an investigation is useless across many centuries, then why continue it in a form of torture for others?



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