Berkeley Commemorates Famed Poet’s 100th Birthday

Friday July 09, 2004

I am weary of the strong sea 

and of the mysterious earth 


I am weary of chickens: 

no one knows what they’re thinking, 

and they look at us with dry eyes 

and consider us unimportant 


These and many other verses written by the world renowned poet and novelist Pablo Neruda will be heard ‘round Berkeley as the city commemorates the great poet’s 100th birthday with a full week of events starting Sunday with a Nerudathon at the La Peña Cultural center. Beginning at noon, readers are invited to help La Peña fill 12 straight hours with the poems of Neruda to celebrate the Chilean poet’s birthday. 

“We wanted to be part of the celebration,” said Fernando Torres of La Peña. “We all love Neruda. We believe that it’s not the voice of poetry, it’s the voice of something else. He was always in touch with the reality of all Latin America.” 

The event is sponsored by a group called the Colectivo de Amigos de Neruda, or the Friends of Neruda Collective, which gathers regularly at each other’s houses to eat and read Neruda’s poetry. 

At the event, Neruda’s poetry will be read in various translations including English, German, French and Arabic. On Thursday, La Peña will sponsor a film and then two more musical performances next Friday and Saturday. For more information contact La Peña at 849-2568 or www.lapena.org. 

Neruda died in 1973, two years after winning the Nobel Prize for literature. During his lifetime he served as an elected member of the Chilean Senate as well as a member of the Chilean Communist Party. 

Other commemorative events throughout the week include a performance by guitarist Rafael Manriquez, who will sing Neruda’s poetry set to original music that he composed. Alisa Peres will recite the selections in English. The event is from 12:15 p.m. until 1 p.m. this Monday at the Central Berkeley Public Library and is sponsored by the Friends of the Berkeley Library. For more information call 981-6100. 

This Monday at 8 p.m., Ignacio Chapela will read Neruda’s poetry at the Lothlorien co-op at 2405 Prospect St.