Monday, February 15, 2010

Alma y Sueños

Last year, for various reasons (mostly because I lived in a neighborhood with a lot of Dominicans, and because I was completely useless helping even 1st graders with their bilingual homework at the tutoring center), I decided that I wanted to learn Spanish. So--obviously--I went to the public library, and instead of checking out something like Spanish for Dummies, I brought home a copy of Pablo Neruda's Cien Sonetos de amor.

Neruda is known for his plain/airy language, so I figured reading him would be a good way to pick up some basic vocabulary using the facing-page translations (Spanish on the left, English on the right). Plus, Spanish love poems are hot, right? (Especially when whispered into the ear of Twilight's Robert Pattinson playing young Salvador Dali!!)

Anyway, as with other library books, I began reading it on the train each day during my 30-minute commute. And almost immediately, it became my favorite commuting book ever: because jammed into a dingy car packed tight with half-asleep strangers, occupying my crumb-laden, repulsively-upholstered seat, all I had to do was begin to read and I'd be immersed in this crazy, luxuriant passion, completely unbeknownst to anyone else on the train. "Kiss by kiss I travel your little infinity,/your borders, your rivers, your tiny villages"--oh la la if only that lady with the bad perm knew what I was reading, hoooo boy! Or else I'd imagine leaning over slightly toward the bearded dude next to me, whispering
Perhaps you did not know
that before I loved you I forgot your kisses
my heart was left remembering your mouth
and I went through the streets like one who is wounded
until I understood that I had found,
love, my territory of kisses and volcanoes.

Yeah, he'd probably stop looking up the stats from last night's Red Sox game on his iPhone for that one.

So while I admit that I learned remarkably little Spanish from this venture (though there's no way I'll ever forget two of Neruda's favorite nouns, "alma" and "sueños"--both obviously useful when making small talk at the bodega), it was still way more than well worth it.

And if you'd like--because it is Valentine's Day, after all--I am now offering up a DIY version of the experience that you can recreate in the comfort of your own home (or train car, should you be lucky enough to have a smartphone)! First, look up (or print off) this poem--one of Neruda's best-known, and one of my favorites. Next, should you not currently be in the act of commuting, you can then play this video and pretend that you're on the Orange Line, somewhere between Green Street and State Street, and it's February, and gray, but inside the heart of Neruda it's a tropical hothouse that's bursting with the beauty of the body and el lenguaje español....


sammyp said...

i didn't play the video yet cause im in the library but ooh la la am i looking forward to it when i get home. also this might be useful, if you ever actually want to learn spanish instead of just pretend learn....[frustrated annoyance] ugh why can't i paste a link in here?

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