Celebrating Common Things Through Creativity

Raspberries_(Rubus_Idaeus)Pablo Neruda, Nobel prize winning Chilean poet, early in his writing life wrote serious political poems which actually got him exiled from Chile for a time. One line from his poem I’m Explaining a Few Things written in 1935 during the Spanish Civil War has long stayed with me capturing the intensity of Neruda’s work, …and the blood of children ran through the streets/without fuss, like children’s blood…

Later in his life, as if weary of the burden of protesting atrocities and political corruption, he began to write Odes about everyday things: salt, cat, dog, dictionary, tomato, to name a few. His Odes celebrate the ordinary in an extraordinary way. I have a hard bound collection of Odes to Common Things, the original Spanish facing the English translation. I cherish this book because, beyond the fact that the poems are an exquisite, playful honoring of the everyday, those things we take for granted, the things we no longer really see; they remind us to pay attention and look at common things with new eyes and imagination.

You could do this too in whatever form your creativity takes. Play with it and see if it doesn’t brighten and expand your world.

Here’s one of my favorites by Neruda:

Ode to the Artichoke

The artichoke
With a tender heart
Dressed up like a warrior,
Standing at attention, it built
A small helmet
Under its scales
It remained
By its side
The crazy vegetables
Their tendrils and leaf-crowns,
Throbbing bulbs,
In the sub-soil
The carrot
With its red mustaches
Was sleeping,
The grapevine
Hung out to dry its branches
Through which the wine will rise,
The cabbage
Dedicated itself
To trying on skirts,
The oregano
To perfuming the world,
And the sweet
There in the garden,
Dressed like a warrior,
Like a proud
And one day
Side by side
In big wicker baskets
Walking through the market
To realize their dream
The artichoke army
In formation.
Never was it so military
Like on parade.
The men
In their white shirts
Among the vegetables
The Marshals
Of the artichokes
Lines in close order
Command voices,
And the bang
Of a falling box.

With her basket
She chooses
An artichoke,
She’s not afraid of it.
She examines it, she observes it
Up against the light like it was an egg,
She buys it,
She mixes it up
In her handbag
With a pair of shoes
With a cabbage head and a
Of vinegar
She enters the kitchen
And submerges it in a pot.

Thus ends
In peace
This career
Of the armed vegetable
Which is called an artichoke,
Scale by scale,
We strip off
The delicacy
And eat
The peaceful mush
Of its green heart.

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