Saturday, March 15, 2008

Reader response

I took a group of students on a little after-school field trip yesterday to an art opening downtown. On the bus ride there I took out some photocopied poems by Pablo Neruda. After some hesitation, the kids read the poems and loved them. Well, at least the girls did.

"Can you imagine a guy writing a poem like this for you?" I asked, and they were like, "Oh, wow." And I asked, "Which would you prefer, a guy that wrote something like this for you? Or some really hot guy?" Unanimously, they said, "The poet!" and I looked at a couple of guys and said, "Hear that?" They hadn't.

I usually teach Neruda, but this year I changed the works a little and missed out on the poetry. So I wanted to share some of his work with them at least once. And it's weird how differently they reacted.

One girl sat there saying things like, "Oh my God, I bet this one's about Esteban talking to Clara after she leaves him." I had told her that Neruda was "The Poet" in Isabel Allende's The House of the Spirits, so she was talking about the characters in the novel.

The girl sitting right next to her read a poem and gave me an evil look. "Are you making me read this because of the reason I think you are?"

"I have no idea what you're talking about," I smiled, knowing well that she and her boyfriend had just broken up and she was sad about it. "I want you guys to read some amazing poetry. But ... if a poem means different things to different people, that's great. Plus, if you're feeling a certain way, maybe nothing will make you feel better, but maybe it will be comforting to know that others have been in similar situations. And they've survived."

Her evil look changed slightly. She turned back to the page in her hand and continued reading. And now, while I'm at it, I'd like to share one of those Neruda poems with you:

I Do Not Love You Except Because I Love You

I do not love you except because I love you;
I go from loving to not loving you,
From waiting to not waiting for you
My heart moves from cold to fire.

I love you only because it's you the one I love;
I hate you deeply, and hating you
Bend to you, and the measure of my changing love for you
Is that I do not see you but love you blindly.

Maybe January light will consume
My heart with its cruel
Ray, stealing my key to true calm.

In this part of the story I am the one who
Dies, the only one, and I will die of love because I love you,
Because I love you, Love, in fire and blood.


SKO said...

i love the house of the spirits!

one poem i really like by neruda is The Word

Anonymous said...

Oh, but the love poems!

....Love is so short, forgetting is so long.Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms
my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.....

Bill said...

That's weird. I have neruda coming up in a few weeks.

Recently handed out some Villon. They seem to like poets who were criminals. Who would have guessed?