"Oda al mar" de Pablo Neruda: An Interactive Launchpad

The Life, the Man  |  The Poet  |  A Closer Look: “Ode to the Sea”  |  EDSITEment Resources  |  Spanish Version

Poet Pablo NerudaPablo Neruda (1904–1973), received the Nobel Prize in 1971. Find information on the life of poet Pablo Neruda through the official page of the Nobel Prize and through EDSITEment-reviewed Academy of American Poets. Neruda was a multi-faceted poet stylistically, writing unforgettable love poems, odes to everyday objects, as well as poetry dealing with the labors and struggles of the common man. Critic John Leonard of the New York Times said of Neruda: he “was, I think, one of the great ones, a Whitman of the South,” according to Neruda’s biography page from EDSITEment-reviewed The Poetry Foundation. This interactive Launchpad will guide you through several resources to learn about Neruda’s life, works, and one of his poems from Odas elementales, “Oda al mar.”

The Life, the Man: Who Was Pablo Neruda?

Pablo Neruda was born on July 12, 1904, in Parral, Chile, the son of a railway employee and a teacher. His mother died shortly after his birth. Resources from The Academy of American Poets and the Nobel Prize official page paint a general picture of the life of the great poet. In Spanish, the University of Chile presents, on its page on the life of Pablo Neruda, the different life stages of the poet, with a collection of photographs. Using these sources, and in particular, the Neruda biography available through the Nobel Prize official page, answer the biographical questions, below.

  • Where did Pablo Neruda spend his childhood and his teenage years?
  • Who did he meet in his early formative years who was a great influence on and inspiration to him?
  • When did Pablo Neruda start using his pen name? What was his real name? Why did he choose the pen name “Neruda”?
  • To what important honorary consulships was Neruda appointed, and to what countries?
  • Why did Neruda have problems with the government and why did he have to leave Chile?


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The Poet: What Is Neruda’s Place among the World’s Poets?

New York Times Book Review critic Selden Rodman, in the EDSITEment-reviewed resource The Poetry Foundation, said, “No writer of world renown is perhaps so little known to North Americans as Chilean poet Pablo Neruda.” As unknown as he may be, Neruda has been praised as the greatest Spanish-speaking poet of his lifetime. An interview with the poet in Spanish is available through the University of Chile. You can use this interview to learn more about the poet and his creative process. You can also hear the poet reciting some of his most famous poems in Spanish on this page from the same site. Finally, with the help of The Poetry Foundation and Pablo Neruda’s biography page from the Nobel website, answer the following questions about Neruda:

  • In 1924, Pablo Neruda published what important poetic anthology? What are the poems about?
  • The Spanish Civil War and the murder of Spanish poet Federico García Lorca, whom Neruda knew, caused Neruda to join what movement? How was this personal choice significant for his poetry? What characterized Neruda’s poetry during this time period?
  • After being appointed Consul General in Mexico, what important work did Neruda rewrite? (Hint: it was published in 1950.) Why was it significant? You can find this information through the Nobel Prize page on Pablo Neruda.)
  • During 1954 and 1959, Pablo Neruda compiled his Odas elementales. What is the main theme or subject of these odes? In what order are they presented? (You can find this information through the Nobel Prize page on Pablo Neruda.)
  • In a few sentences, discuss the subject of Pablo Neruda’s Nobel Lecture delivered in 1971 (available in English and Spanish), which can be found on this page of the Nobel Prize.


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Studying “Oda al mar”

The poem “Oda al mar” was featured in the popular, world-acclaimed Italian film Il postino, in which Pablo Neruda was played by French actor Philippe Noiret. It appeared in the collection Odas Elementales (1954), and is available via the University of Chile. Odas Elementales reveals Neruda’s poetry as a way to appreciate everyday things for their individual essence or value and their relationship to the lives and struggles of the common man. The Odas Elementales explore the struggle of individuals and their connection with daily life and the universal. A translation of the poem in English is available through Calque, a literary translation journal. Follow the instructions to complete the exercises and questions below:

  • Go to “Oda al mar” on the University of Chile site. You can construct a general definition of an “ode” through the glossary of the EDSITEment-reviewed site Representative Poetry Online. As you answer the following questions, measure Neruda’s approach to an ode against your definition.
  • List three or more words or phrases Neruda uses to discuss the subject of this poem.
  • Count the number of syllables in each verse (meter). Do you see any pattern?
  • Point out three poetic devices used in the poem. You can explore this EDSITEment-created glossary and the EDSITEment-reviewed Silva Rhetoricae to learn more about poetic devices or resources.
  • Is there more than one voice in this poem? Who speaks? What is discussed?
  • How many different sections can you find in this ode? Discuss each, using some verses as your examples.


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