poem of the week: Pablo Neruda’s “Tonight I Can Write”.

     All my memories of holidays as a teen are framed by one album: Sixpence None The Richer’s selftitled. It was one of my first albums, and it was on tape, cuz my parents refused to have a cd-player in the car :P. But every holiday, on our way from the Netherlands to France, my brothers, sister and I would listen to that album, from the beginning to the end, and turn around the tape to listen to it again. 
       As a result, Leigh Nash’ ethereal voice comes back to me every now and then, singing “hug him like a brother/ kiss her like a sister” (“Sister, Mother”) or “you can’t marry our heaven to your hell/we, Prolific and you the Devourer” (“Waiting Room”). One of my favorite songs on that album was “Puedo Escribir” an odd entrancing song in which Leigh Nash sings in her bright and ice-like voice some lines in Spanish from Pablo Neruda‘s poem of the same title (published in his Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair.) This song, this poem and the power of the both are probably some of the reasons why I (try to) write poetry.

This is the entire poem, from the Penguin translation by W.S. Merwin. The picture is taken from the site of the Dutch weather institute.

Tonight I Can Write

By Pablo Neruda (1904 –1973)

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

Write, for example, “the night is starry

and the stars are blue and shiver in the distance.”

The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines,

I loved her and sometimes she loved me too.

Through nights like this one I held her in my arms.

I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.

She loved me, sometimes I loved her too.

How could one not have loved her great still eyes.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.

To hear the immense night, still more immense without her.

And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.

What does it matter that my love could not keep her.

The night is starry and she is not with me.

That is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance.

My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

My sight tries to find her as though to bring her closer.

My heart looks for her and she is not with me.

The same night whitening the same trees.

We, of that time, are no longer the same.

I no longer love her, that’s certain, but how I loved her.

My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.

Another’s. She will be another’s. As she was before my kisses.

Her voice, her bright body. Her infinite eyes.

I no longer love her, that’s certain, but maybe I love her.

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.

Though this be the last pain she makes me suffer

and these the last verses that I write for her.

Recommended Reading, or, the stuff that’s usually in my school bag

Yesterday I only had one class, but having to sit in the train for four hours, I always bring along far more books than neccesary, simply to be able to read some good books in the train. As a result, I always have three to four books in my schoolbag that have nothing to do with psychology (my main course at university.) , and -on top of that-  a journal and a notebook for short stories. It used to be worse, i used to have a larger bag and dragged along five to six non-psychology books. of course, my bag consequently is way too heavy so that i get shoulderaches and backaches, but I don’t mind :). 
In the picture you can see what I drag along to Amsterdam on a regular day :). I’d recommend all six of these books to you, they’re great:

       1) my notebook for my short fantasy stories (I called it “The Fantastic Tales/ Fantastiska Berättelser/ Fantastische verhalen). A friend of mine used a similar moleskine notebook, and that inspired me to write my short fantasy stories in such a notebook. All you need as a writer is a good notebook and a great fountain pen.

      2) even though this “the popular ballads of Lucky Fonz III” looks like a book, this is actually my organizer. I made its cover resemble an old book cover, using an online version of the English and Scottish Popular Ballads (a.k.a. the Child Ballads) as a template. One day a university librarian mistook it for a library book, that made me very happy. Lucky Fonz III , who you can see on the cover, is an amazing Amsterdam singer-songwriter.
       3) my journal. I used to keep my journal in the same notepad which I also used for keeping notes and writing short stories, but that made me need a new notepad every week, and i think writing your thoughts in a beautiful journal gives you a greater awareness of the fact that your thoughts are worthwhile.
     4) Sylvia Plath’s poetry collection Crossing the Water , from my university library.Though I don’t think that the quality of a university depends entirely on its library, but I do think that a large library is a great asset for a university.
       5) Ingmar Bergman’s Scener ur ett Äktenskap (also from the university library)  Bergman is my hero, and I think he single-handedly lifted dialogue writing for films to a whole new level, because his film dialogues are profound, powerful and yet very cinematic and direct.  It’s in Swedish of course 🙂 such amazing works should be read in the original language 🙂
       6) St. Augustine’s Confessions, my dad found this lovely old copy in the library of a pastor friend of his, who was giving away all of his books. It has both the latin text and a dutch translation, so reading it also improves my latin, and I love the old-fashioned dutch it uses. Saint Augustine says a lot of very true and insightful things and there is a tremendous amount of wisdom and gorgeous poetry in this book, though I do not agree with everything he says, such as his very platonic mindset as well as his misanthropy.   (hums Kevin Max with “Angel with no wings” “So come on  back when you can make some tea/ and read St. Augustine”. yep. that’s me. )

      These I dragged along to Amsterdam yesterday morning,  along with  two notepads and this little booklet about writing psychology papers (number 10 and 11).

         But after class I visited my best friend, we had a great time and walked around in the city where she lives a little, and we ended up in our favorite second-hand bookstore, and I found some real treasures there :). That’s why I came home with 6 non-psychology books, instead of the 3 I’d left home with :).

      7) E.T.A. Hoffmann’s Märchen : wonderfully weird fairytales.
      8  ) Bulfinch’s Mythology.
      9) George MacDonald’s Lilith : Finding this book made me go “sqeee!”, cuz I’ve been looking for this dutch translation everywhere for a few years now, since I found this dutch version of Phantastes. The title Phantastes is translated as “Droomwereld”, literally “dream world”. These dutch translations were published in 1974 and 1975 (though they were written in the 19th century) so they’re wonderfully hippie-esque, and you can tell that their covers are inspired by Harry Clarke‘s art. They’re so pretty !! Like all of George MacDonald’s books, they’re quite unique, unusual and enchanting.

In addition to its sense of history, one of the things I like best about this copy is that it apparently was a present given to someone in 1976 , cuz on the third page the following is written:

How cool is it that it says “Voor Guusje, van Ab”? ( FYI: that means “To Guusje, from Ab”; Guusje is a girl’s name.)  That tiny inscription is just an entire story in itself. It makes you wonder “who were those people? What happened to them? He must have liked her, you can tell by the little flower doodle.” A second-hand book with its inscriptions, dedications, scribbles in the margins and stains often is a text in itself, and that’s why you can’t help liking second-hand books a  lot.

So, though I dont recommend carrying way too many books around as well,  I highly recommend you try browsing through your local second-hand bookstore every now and then 🙂

take care.

…this is why the Bodleian must be the best library on earth.

…this is why I think the Bodleian library must be the best library on earth: as Bibliodyssey pointed out today, this wonderful Oxford library has made a proportion of its manuscript images available to the general public : http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/medievalimages/. If you love medieval and renaissance manuscripts, this is a must-see. As you may have noticed,  I’m extremely fond of anything medieval, and especially of miniatures and bestiaries, and I think it’s wonderful that the Bodleian allows the general public all over the world to see some of the treasures it has aquired throughout the ages. There is a lot of history, beauty and wonder to be discovered on that site.    

(the library stamp was found in this google-books version of Crofton-Croker’s Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland. The inscription reads “Dominus Illuminatio Mea” which means “The Lord is my light”, the motto of the university of Oxford.)