By Jason Wilson

Without doubt it is one of the most interesting books of poetry ever written in Castilian, or any other language. It took its author more than two decades to write it and publish it. It came out in three volumes: 1933, 1935 and 1947. In this fully fledged essay, Professor Wilson explores Neruda’s primordial music which he used to tap into a collective «auditory imagination» and evoke that savage beating drum where all poetry really begins

Octavio Paz once pejoratively wrote that Pablo Neruda was a man of few ideas. If he meant that Neruda was not an intellectual, did not accompany his poetry with self-justifying critical essays, then he was right. He was wrong if he meant that Neruda did not think in his poems. I will explore Neruda’s ontological thinking in some poems of Residencia en la tierra I and II, written during the most creatively thoughtful period of his life. I will focus on Neruda’s conscious tapping into the sources of creativity, for him, as a sensation and an experience of the origins. Neruda’s poems embody what T. S. Eliot, in 1933, articulated as the ‘auditory imagination’, in terms of how a poet penetrates far below the ‘conscious levels of thought and feeling’ and sinks to the ‘most primitive and forgotten, returning to the origin and bringing something back’. This primitive auditory imagination as a journey inwards does not invoke melody, the sound of verse, that sound-meaning fusion that describes all poetry. The word ‘sonnet’ etymologically comes from sound, but involves the traditional music / poetry analogy, lyric poetry. There are plenty of references in Neruda’s Residencias to music just in his titles: sonata, barcarola, madrigal, serenata, tango, cantares, oda. The auditory imagination does not suggest French symboliste aesthetics, Baudelaire’s  Correspondances, that secret and dark harmonic ideal, though Neruda grew up as a poet out of modernismo and Verlaine’s rich rhymes. Neruda is far from Rubén Darío’s ideal music (‘Como cada palabra tiene un alma…’). The auditory imagination begins in the amniotic waters of the womb as heart-beat and voice vibration, it suggests that language is first of all meaningless sound, phoneme, pure vowels, mother’s voice. Steven Pinker has surveyed this developmental process in infants, from babble (sounds or phonemes), to one word (or morphemes), to two words, phrases and sentences by three years old. These early non-linguistic modes of vocal communication, according to Terence Deacon, have co-evolved with language. There seem to be two kinds of sounds in unison: the very ancient non-linguistic vocal or vowel calls (common to humans, whales, monkeys, birds etc) and language as a fusion of vowels and consonants, ie words, sentences, syntax etc, that is dependent on specific human anatomy. T. S. Eliot’s concept reverses this developmental process: ‘Poetry begins, I dare say, with a savage beating a drum in a jungle, and it retains that essential of percussion and rhythm’. However, he did not connect that savage with the foetus in a womb, though he did link the source of poetry with black culture, jazz, African masks, pre-European origins that excited early twentieth-century avant-garde thinking. Neruda did not need to read Eliot’s criticism, though he did read The Waste Land during his long five-years diplomat’s exile in the Far East between 1927 and 1932, his years in the desert. He didn’t need to read Eliot the critic, because he tapped into this source through sexual initiation, breaking through his Catholic guilt with different Burmese lovers, especially Josie Bliss. What Eliot talked about, Neruda experienced. George Steiner has best explored this kind of thinking by starting with the dilemma of how to inquire into the sources of language with language, a circular or mirror process. His solution is ‘metaphor’, relating unrelated areas of experience. Citing Wittgenstein and Benjamin, he privileges poetry as going to ‘the roots of language’. But Steiner does not envisage this as an erotic journey. ‘Pienso’ wrote Neruda in ‘Unidad’ and later ‘yo examino sin arrogancia’ and later still ‘… absorbiendo y pensando…’; we’ll see what this self-conscious thinking means.

               Neruda convinced his reader that he became a poet before he could write poems; that he was a natural poet: ‘Yo tendría unos diez años, pero ya era poeta. No escribía versos, pero me atraían los pájaros, los escarabajos…’. This organic, Romantic notion of the birth of a poet could derive from Neruda’s isolation in Temuco; it clearly ties in with the omnipresence of nature, the wind, rain and forests of this frontier region. But, more crucially, it evokes the ‘auditory imagination’. The sound of rain on a corrugated metal roof is more than the sweet music of rain in Verlaine’s Il pleure dans mon coeur: O bruit doux de la pluie / Par terre et sur les toits. It is more John Cage territory, sound, noise. Cage once defined a composer as an organiser of sounds; he explored noises and percussion and told of the din his body made in the anechoic chamber at Harvard (his nervous system, his blood circulating); probably as close as you can get to the womb sounds. Neruda, in comparison with Cage’s focussing on sound and randomness, is a bizarre mixture of traditional bard in love with melody and song with a modern, dissonant, percussive sound register. Neruda’s ‘defamiliarising abruptness’ (Seamus Heaney’s phrase) emerges from this clash between melody and noise. Neruda was aware of this divergence of melody from noise; it anguished him as a poet that the world didn’t rhyme with the word. In the poem Débil del alba, from 1926, the poet reveals his awareness of sound deeper than melody: ‘Yo lloro en medio de lo invadido, entre lo confuso, / entre el sabor creciendo, poniendo el oído / en la pura circulación’ [I weep amid invasion, among confusion/among the swelling taste, lending an ear/to the pure circulation]. In the elegy Ausencia de Joaquín, he overhears ‘un ruido / un determinado sordo ruido siento producirse’ . Inside his heart, he says in Barcarola, you can hear a ruido oscuro, con sonido de ruedas de tren con sueño [and I hear/a sound, a persistent, deep sound come forth]. So much for anguishing noise. The powerful word ‘campana’ [bell] that cuts across all Neruda’s writing, associating Catholic rituals with Edgar Allen Poe, became during his exile ‘una campana un poco ronca’[a slightly raucous bell], out-of-tune, avant-garde music. In his post Josie Bliss poem ‘Arte poética’, the anguish is evident in the shift from ‘todo sonido que acojo temblando’[every sound that I welcome trembling] to un oído que nace [a nascent ear]. Neruda hears his own scary ‘auditory imagination’. Hearing is the sense that most stimulates the imagination; orality  is at the source of all literature, and every child’s development; you hear first. Hernán Loyola picked on the verbs ‘oír’ and ‘escuchar’ as nodal terms in Neruda’s opaque vocabulary; I aim to associate them with a self-conscious practice. Neruda hears his way inside; ‘escucho en mi interior’, and oddly, hears his dream (Yo oigo el sueño).

               I want to focus on two moments of sounds picked up by Neruda’s ears. The first appears in his extraordinary lament about sexual isolation, ’Caballero solo’, written possibly in Wellawata in early 1930. In the despair of his sexual envy, every form of life in the tropics from young homosexuals to widows to hoarse cats to masturbating priests to bees and even flies surround the poet ‘como un collar de palpitantes ostras sexuales’ [like a necklace of throbbing sexual oysters]. This strikingly odd simile, hinting at D. H. Lawrence, aphrodisiacs and sexual organs as a weird necklace, hinges on the verb ‘palpitate’, or even palpitations, the inner savage and his drum, that out-of-control heart-beat, inner sound. All about the solitary poet there’s a hyperbolic ‘rumor de medias de seda acariciadas’[a rustle of stroked silk stockings] (Eliot returns in this line). Neruda hears the sound of sex as anguish. In what I believe is Neruda’s most startling poem, ‘Tango del viudo’, where Neruda is Nerval’s ‘desdichado’, we have another odd simile in the final stanza of this male lament or tango of cowardice and guilt. He is writing directly to his ex-lover Josie Bliss (the Lawrencian name he gave her suggesting sexual bliss) from on board a ship taking him from Rangoon to Wellawatta (though in reality the poem was penned in Calcutta in 1928). The poet would swap the sea winds ‘por tu brusca respiración / oída en largas noches sin mezcla de olvido’ [for your brusque breath/heard in long nights with no mixture of oblivion]; the auditory memory of her brusque, even violent breathing replaces inevitable natural forgetting. In this particular moment of writing, the intensity of memory takes over from the noises of everyday life, and the poet ‘heard’ her respiration at night. It’s hearing her, in his mind, that hurts. The verb ‘oír’ returns twice immediately in the poem, for it’s a poem about hearing, about the auditory imagination:

Y por oírte orinar, en la oscuridad, en el fondo de la casa

como vertiendo una miel delgada, trémula, argentina, obstinada,

cuántas veces entregaría este coro de sombras que poseo,

Y el ruido de espadas inútiles que se oye en mi alma

[And to hear you making water in the darkness, at the back of the house/as if spilling a thin, tremulous, silvery, perisitent honey/how many times would I give up this chorus of shadows that I possess,/and the noise of useless swords that is heard in my hear]

The poet offers to exchange what he hears inside himself in his inner ear, useless swords, a male’s pointless sexual machismo, for the real sounds of love, Josie Bliss urinating in the dark. This is first conveyed as consciousness of sound (‘Por oírte orinar…’), then the release of simile where the lover’s freed imagination metamorphoses her urine into silvery honey, nectar, ambrosia, reversing the conventions of feminine beauty. That sound incident is synecdochic for the auditory imagination. The only path there was a lover’s acute suffering. Josie Bliss had initiated Neruda into the mysteries. ‘There’ is what Neruda in a prose poem El joven monarca called his new found land, his ‘territorio amoroso’. I cite the prose poem’s second paragraph:

Patria limitada por dos largos brazos cálidos, de larga pasión paralela, y un sitio de oros defendidos por sistema y matemática ciencia guerrera. Sí, quiero casarme con la más bella de Mandalay, quiero encomendar mi envoltura terrestre a ese ruido de la mujer cocinando, a ese aleteo de falda y pie desnudo que se mueven y mezclan como viento y hojas’.

[Fatherland limited by two long warm arms, of long parallel passion, and a place of diamonds defended by a system, and mathematical warlike science. Yes, I want to marry the most beautiful woman in Mandalay, I want to entrust my earthly wrapping to that noise of the woman cooking, to that fluttering of skirt and bare foot that move and mix like wind and leaves]

The patria discovered by Neruda, the auditory imagination, is imbued with what Eliot ignored, sexual passion and bliss, yoked together as simultaneous paths to the origins. Note how this is a ‘sitio de oro’, and how ‘oro’ is hidden in ‘sonoro’. Note also in this paragraph how the noun ‘ruido’ and then ‘aleteo’ of dress and bare foot point us to sound and depth and emotion. The poem ends, like Tango del viudo, with a sense of loss: ‘escucho a mi tigre y lloro a mi ausente’. [I listen to my tiger and I weep for my absent one] The poet is a lover who is a listener, for listening is the way in and down. One anecdotal source for this erotic revelation comes from Neruda and Alvaro Hinojosa’s few days in Paris on their way to Rangoon in 1927, where both make love to the same nameless woman with a ‘misterioso don’, evoked by Neruda as ‘algo indescriptible que brotaba de su profundidad, que se remontaba al origen mismo del placer, al nacimiento de una ola, al secreto genésico de Venus’. But the crucial point is the language he uses to evoke this experience as a journey to the source.

               What sexual initiation and poetic creativity share is a language of inner descent, ‘sinking’, going deep in, eyes closed, into the ‘dark night of the soul’, tapping into the real self, which is pure sensation and nothing, beyond meaning, as we’ll see. André Breton, in his second surrealist manifesto of 1929, reminded his readers that his brand of surrealism was best evoked as a descente vertigineuse en nous, an illumination des lieux cachés in the mind. The axial metaphor invokes what lies hidden from view, caché / oculto. The vertigo of the fall inside dissolves the social, mask-like persona. This inner journey into the origins of sex and sound is one towards ecstasy, an emotional language of vowels, phonemes, grunts, exclamations, apostrophes, sighs, that ur-sprache underlying all speech and rhythm, drums in the night in the jungle. Those intense arousal calls, that subsong that is, according to Deacon, innate, an auditory template. The poet and lover return from their inner journey enriched with these primal sounds and a new expressive freedom. Neruda’s random lists, his free-associations, reflect his lover’s bliss. Neruda acts out André Breton’s first surrealist manifesto’s call to free la pensée, to expand our limited reality into surreality, but not through automatic writing. Rather, it’s through the liberated lover’s bliss. The reader of Neruda’s poems starts with the end-results, the sounds and prosodic rhythms that underlying his poems. We work backwards towards the primal origins, similar to how the five year old Aureliano Buendía would forever evoke Melquíades as  ‘alumbrando con su profunda voz de órgano los territorios más oscuros de la imaginación’. Note the age of the listener.

               The intensely lyrical and traditional love song ‘Angela Adónica’, with no traces of place, ‘de índole esencial e intemporal’ as Loyola succintly writes, in its title alludes, perhaps, biographically to his Chilean muse Albertina Azócar, the ‘A’s, a lover who abandoned Neruda, his Albertine. But in the collection the poem is strategically placed between the gloomy ‘Sistema sombrío’ and ‘Sonata y destrucciones’ and thus can be read as antidote to despair. That ‘Adónica’ in the title refers to an ancient song to the god Adonis, a Sapphic strophe that plunges the poet back into the lyric tradition and thus origin of all poetry as erotic. The muse in the poem is ‘una joven pura’, her breasts are a fire of two flames, her body ripens into fruit and a ‘clima de oro’ (second time that Neruda hints at inner gold, and the poet-lover as a kind of prospector). The last line evokes both sexual and poetic knowledge ‘y oculto fuego’. I cite that last stanza:

Un clima de oro maduraba apenas

las diurnas longitudes de su cuerpo

llenándolo de frutas extendidas

               y oculto fuego

[A climate of gold scarcely ripened/the diurnal lenghts of her body/filling it with extended fruits/and hidden fire]

Here is the origin, the hidden fire of sexual passion that once tapped releases the poetry. One just has to say ‘y oculto fuego’ aloud to hear the link between sound and sense, yoking the stressed dipthong that was originally an ‘o’ of the earlier line-ending ‘cuerpo’ with ‘fuego’. That ‘oculto’ is both verb and adjective simultaneously, a breaking of syntactic expectations; more importantly, it’s also a sequence or preponderance of vowels, pure exhalations, barely stopped by the consonants, and vowels are physiologically far more ancient. This poem is Neruda’s equivalent to Eliot’s essay on the auditory imagination. Paz just didn’t listen to Neruda’s poems, although he thought this particular poem Neruda’s greatest. Neruda’s thinking, his consciousness of sound and sexual origins is the poem itself, moving sinuously from hidden depths of vowel sounds to surface words. Neruda’s awareness of this sonar process is clear in his having become the ‘ardiente testigo’, where ardour and burning confirm a lover’s witnessing.

               Neruda’s explorations of sound become the opening poem ‘Un día sobresale’ of the second volume of his Residencia en la tierra, possibly written in 1933. Here Neruda coins a term from a unique Spanish construction of a noun from an adjective, lo sonoro. The poem opens ‘De lo sonoro salen números’, and this phrase shifts to ‘en lo sonoro’ and ‘a lo sonoro’, and more traditionally turns into ‘silencio’, pre-language. Neruda now knows where poetry is born, and how to contact this ‘oculto fuego’. Loyola’s note to this poem confirms Neruda’s poetico-philosophical understanding: ‘Tal insistencia busca proponer en lo sonoro el principio o fundamento de la vida, el origen cósmico de lo existente, y a la vez su manifestación’, confirming how profoundly Neruda speculated within his art. What Loyola does not state is the way Neruda came to this source through sexual initiation, that both sexual ecstasy and poetic inspiration emerge from the same ‘oculto fuego’

Lo sonoro, then, is Neruda’s term for the poetic unconscious, the Chest of Language, the sonar or, a string of vowels, ‘o’s. Its closest analogy in the poem is the word-concept ‘ocean’, and perhaps Verlaine’s L’océan sonore / palpite sous l’oeil. In his later lament for the death of his close friend ‘Alberto Rojas Giménez viene volando’, the poet makes this link explicit: ‘te oigo / venir volando bajo el mar sin nadie, / bajo el mar que me habita, oscurecido’. ‘Oscuro’ and ‘oculto’ merge in this inner sea. Out of lo sonoro, then, come dying numbers, codes of dung, humid lightning bolts, the night itself like a widow, even day and light. Out of this inner bag of sound comes ‘un viento de sonido como una ola retumba’; out of this ocean of sonority emerge sharks and ‘salmones azulados de congelados ojos’. It’s like a flea-market, a junk-shop, with tools, carts of vegetables, ‘rumores de racimos aplastados’, violins full of water, submerged motors, factories, kisses, and surprisingly, ‘botellas palpitantes’. Neruda extracts from lo sonoro a random, heterogeneous list, a literal chaotic enumeration, and all of it as sounds:

En torno a mí la noche suena,

El día, el mes, el tiempo,

Sonando como sacos de campanas mojadas

All this and more wakes up in this abandoned, inner sea. The poem suggests that the dream is analogous to the ocean, to inner silence and to lo sonoro (a chain of synonyms). This surrealist poetics invokes sleeping machines and ‘trenes de jazmín desalentado y cera’.  Neruda offers his version of Lautréamont’s new beauty, the chance meeting of an umbrella and a sewing machine on an operating table where meaning has to be found, it’s a process, not a given. Here it’s train, jasmine and wax. Even the soul emerges from this inner silence.

At a more mundane level, the poem records the birth of a day. The poet hears day-time activities begin, with ‘zapatos bruscos, bestias, utensilios / olas de gallos duros derramándose, / relojes trabajando como estómagos secos … y water-closets blancos despertando’ his last, Neruda’s version of Duchamp’s urinal, the W. C. with its wooden eye (the lid), its twisted pigeons (pipes), and drowned throat (bowl), sounding suddenly like waterfalls (pulling the plug). Neruda’s hearing, his ears, make sense of a waking world.

               The following poem in the collection, Sólo la muerte, explores this sonorous unconscious in terms of death, that ‘oscuro, oscuro, oscuro’ that Neruda locates ‘hacia adentro’.  For death too is a ‘sonido puro’. The poet repeats his crucial phrase, A lo sonoro llega la muerte / … / llega a gritar sin boca, sin lengua, sin garganta, too deep down for language and poetry (the next poem in the collection ‘Barcarola’ also employs ‘de lo sonoro’). The last stanza couples death with the ‘catre’, with blankets and ‘sopla un sonido oscuro que hincha sábanas’. The concept ‘oculto’ brings us back to ‘Angela Adónica’.

The way back and down into this ‘oculto fuego’ is sexual, as I’ve stressed. The poem ‘Material nupcial’ has the poet staring at a girl ‘temblando y respirando y blanca’. He enumerates her nipples and her ‘rosal reunión’ where ‘su sexo de pestañas nocturnas parpadea’. As the poet stares at this image, he feels words sinking in his mouth and drown in the ocean, en lo sonoro. He will open this girl’s legs until death, will make her retreat with her eyes closed into a thick river of green semen (‘espeso río de semen verde’). Making love will drown her with amapolas, rodillas, labios, crimen and pelos empapados, dragging her down into the speechless inner world, ‘hacia nunca, hacia nada’. Neruda knows, as an introspective and experimenting poet, that lo sonoro means nothing, it’s just pure sound, and is nowhere, outside time, the inner senselessness of sound without referents, without words. There’s no transcendence, just sensation (and Neruda’s vast difference from a D. H. Lawrence or an Octavio Paz). The poet fights his way down there through her, and the poem closes:

y con gotas de negra materia resbalando

como pescados ciegos o balas de agua gruesa.

What is this slippery black matter in drops but ink and sperm fused?  The poet, like the lover, is immersed in his unconscious like a blind fish, his weapons are his sound-words, the bullets. The last phrase in the poem ‘agua gruesa’, not quite heavy water, but sound, say it aloud, ‘agua gruesa’, again opens out through vowels. There’s also meaning, despite the unpredictable adjective ‘gruesa’, and it suggests the prime life element ‘water’, inspiration in the inner desert.

The poem that follows Material nupcial in section three of Residencia II is a coda on this notion of water and sex, even in its title Agua sexual. The sexual drops (perhaps sweat) fall biting, smash the axis of symmetry, ‘pegando en las costuras del alma’, breaking abandoned things ‘empapando lo oscuro’. We arrive in Neruda’s thinking at another adjectival noun, lo oscuro. Inner darkness is given attributes of liquid, sweat and movement, the deliquescent release of fluids during copulation and inspiration. This inner darkness is where the poet actually can see. Neruda sees in this dark, thanks to his kind of cognitive sexual witnessing. The poem moves forward on this visionary wave of the verb ‘veo’, where he sees ships, the summer, cellars, rooms, girls, blood, stockings, man’s hair, beds, blankets, hotels (there’s a coded story there). The poet also sees back into time ‘y también los orígenes’, those origins that Eliot referred to in his ‘auditory imagination’. For Neruda sees what shouldn’t be seen, with that dramatic simile ‘como un párpado atrozmente levantado a la fuerza / estoy mirando’. When you are able to stare with your eyelids forcibly kept open, you don’t see, but hear. The succeeding stanza opens:

Y entonces hay este sonido:

un ruido rojo de huesos,

un pegarse de carne,

y piernas amarillas como espigas juntándose.

Yo escucho entre el disparo de los besos,

escucho, sacudido entre respiraciones y sollozos’.

The poet, to borrow a famous title by Walter de la Mare, is a listener. The poet sees with his ears, the red noise of bones, the pistol shots of kisses.

Neruda has tried to think the unthinkable, to find a language to evoke experiences that an Eliot or a Paz can only ironise about (there’s never irony in Neruda). He comes up with a series of linked expressions that must be read aloud, lo sonoro, lo oscuro, oculto fuego, agua gruesa and that can be translated conceptually as silence, the unconscious, the inner ocean, inspiration, the origin of language. To get there, you don’t think, you listen, eyes shut but open. Sexual initiation in Rangoon with Josie Bliss, and many others, knotted sexual knowledge with writing poetry. Neruda’s 1934 poem ‘Las furias y las penas’ confirms this quest; the poet is guided by his lover’s legs and kisses and led down into a ‘húmeda sombra’ and rebirth into a deeper self that is mindless: ‘Nada sino esa pulpa de los seres / Nada sino esa copa de raíces’. In this poem, Neruda coins a term for his thinking: ‘una sorda ciencia con cabello y cavernas’ as his new knowledge found in ‘las grandes coronas genitales’. An experiential ‘nada’ that was the ‘pulpa de los seres’, the origins.

In a much-commented poem ‘Entrada a la madera’ the poet falls into inner darkness, in his sensualist, materialist way, ‘Con mi razón apenas, con mis dedos’, discarding reason and feeling his way in, as if caressing his lover, into this eroticised matter to reach his true self: ‘Es que soy yo’ and ‘Soy yo’, he repeats. Deep inside, he sees and hears: ‘Oigo tus vegetales oceánicos’. The poem repeats the verb ‘caer’ and ends with the ‘nosotros’ of two lovers:

y hagamos fuego, y silencio, y sonido,

y ardamos, y callemos, y campanas.

To burn in passion is to experience silence and sound simultaneously, which is poetry, that ecstatic ‘campanas’ that rings out in our ears. We expect a third verb following ‘arder’ and ‘callar’ and unpredictably it’s a noun that is almost a verb, ‘campanemos /campanas’. Loyola’s note points out that Neruda’s first book-length critic Amado Alonso interpreted this use of ‘campanas’ as synonym for ‘lo sonoro’. Recently, Jaime Concha said that this poem is one of Neruda’s most controversial poems, generating inane comments. He despairs: ‘Es probable que nunca se sepa con exactitud lo que el poeta trató de expresar’. Also, that Neruda hardly ever reached such a pitch of verbal expression again. Arturo Fontaine, in a detailed analysis of this same poem, thought that Neruda had meant to write ‘cantemos’, a third verb, and notes this ‘acierto extraordinario que es ese sorpresivo “y campanas”’ as the last word of the poem. What’s clear from my understanding of Neruda’s visceral explorations of sound and sex is that he then backed away from this kind of metaphoric thinking for the rest of his life as a poet. He did not expose himself again to such isolation, to such painful introspection, to such shattering dissolution. Who would? But he did continue with his emphasis on sound as understanding, working against modern poetry’s tendency to be ‘seen’, to be printed and silently read, by always working with voice. If you don’t understand Finnegan’s Wake said Joyce, then read it aloud. In a letter to La Rubia cited by Loyola, he begs her to get their friend Amado Villar to read ‘Alberto Rojas Giménez viene volando’ aloud in his ‘voz acongojada’. In his Ode to Lorca, echoing Lorca’s 1926 Oda a Salvador Dalí as site of deep friendship, Neruda claims that Lorca’s poetry also lives from voice: ‘por tu poesía que sale dando gritos’. There’s a hint of being born in that line, like William Blake’s naked baby leaping into the world. Without forcing word-play on Neruda and to conclude, I would add that sexual plunging into inner depths, the sexual waters, is where the poet finds his ‘son’ and ‘oro’, which links with ‘tesoro’, which in Spanish is also the poet’s thesaurus.

Jason Wilson is an Emeritus Professor at University College, London. He has published numerous books, including Octavio Paz. A study of his Poetics (CUP, 1979, into Spanish in 1980, reprinted in 2009) and Octavio Paz (Twayne, 1986), Jorge Luis Borges (Reaktion Books and Chicago University Press, 2006, translated into Portuguese 2009, Chinese, 2011 and Turkish 2011), A Companion to Pablo Neruda. Evaluating the Poetry (Tamesis, 2008 and paperback, 2014), He has edited and translated Alexandre von Humboldt’s Personal Narrative of a Journey to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent (Penguin Classics, 1995), His most recent publication is Living in the Sound of the Wind. A Personal Quest for W. H. Hudson, Naturalist and Writer from the River Plate (Constable, 2015, paperback 2016, into French 2018 and into Spanish, 2023, with Ateneo). He spends his time between London and Buenos Aires. He is currently writing on how he became a hispanist.