is Neruda ennobling everything around him, that is, every thing, so in giving every thing his attention, Neruda gives them utility and significance (“The House of Odes”). The ode is the poet’s tribute to the people and the ode belongs to the people, the host of the program said as she introduced the readers of Neruda’s poetry at the Los Angeles Central Library’s ALOUD program, “The Odes of Pablo Neruda: A Bilingual Reading“.
With 32 students from Whittier High School, Alicia Lara-Wright, AP Spanish Lit teacher, and I took a day trip out first to Olvera Street for lunch and a free guided tour, and then, after a brisk walk, to the reading at the LA Central Library. If Neruda’s odes were for the people, the gazebo plaza by Olvera Street certainly shared the spirit: docent tour of El Pueblo, musicians, dancers, weddings, etc.
After the reading, we briefly discussed how a good comparison reveals a new way of seeing a commonplace image, like fire as “tail”, “hair”, “beef of wood”, or “bush of undying roses.” We also discussed how the odes gave common things a “handle” and elevated their significance by the attention that the poet paid them.
“The world/is a table/engulfed in honey and smoke,/smothered by apples and blood.”