There have been many Pablos in history, and Pablo Neruda
is one to exceed Picasso in the prolific production of great
works, as well as in the depths of his proletarian empathies.
I meet this Pablo in the Hotel Havana
Libre (once the Havana Hilton) in 1959 in the first days
of revolutionary euphoria, and that night he spoke his poetry
to several thousands of multi-ethnic Fidelistas (still in
combat clothes) in the great government hall where the late
dictator had held forth. His rapport with the masses was
evident in every poem he spoke (with standing ovations),
just as poems in this book speak to us all, Spanish-speaking
Neruda had told me before the reading,
I love your wide-open poetry by which
he meant, I believe, the poetry of the Beat Generation that
we had published in San Francisco and some of which had
been published in translation in Lunes de Revolución
(the Monday literary supplement to the big daily).
And I answered, You opened the door.
I hope this edition will open the door for the greater North
American public. We all need these messages.
San Francisco, January 2004