cuban man literature

How to Use Poetry to Improve Your Spanish Before Traveling to Cuba

Learning some Spanish before traveling to Cuba will greatly enhance your experience by exposing you to aspects of Cuban culture that you would otherwise miss if you could not communicate directly with Cuban people.

Poetry contains essential elements of culture and lots of vocabulary that is likely missing in structured language learning tools.  Plus, encoding foreign words and phrases through poetry is easier because the poetry adds an aspect of imagery and emotion.

Cubans are welcoming, artistic people, yet their isolation has resulted in fewer knowing English and other languages than you might find in other Caribbean countries.

Pablo Neruda was a Chilean poet and one of the most well-known Latin poets. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1917 and is the equivalent of someone like Robert Frost (though Frost may disagree!). Neruda is perhaps best knows for the imagery and metaphors in his love poems.

Here is an example, “10” from Neruda’s Twenty Love Poems:

Hemos perdido aun este crepúsculo.
Nadie nos vio esta tarde con las manos unidas
mientras la noche azul caía sobre el mundo.

He visto desde mi ventana
la fiesta del poniente en los cerros lejanos.

A veces como una moneda
se encendía un pedazo de sol entre mis manos.

Yo te recordaba con el alma apretada
de esa tristeza que tú me conoces.

Entonces, dónde estabas?

Entre qué gentes?
Diciendo qué palabras?
Por qué se me vendrá todo el amor de golpe
cuando me siento triste, y te siento lejana?

Cayó el libro que siempre se toma en el crepúsculo,
y como un perro herido rodó a mis pies mi capa.

Siempre, siempre te alejas en las tardes
hacia donde el crepúsculo corre borrando estatuas.

Here is the translation, by WS Merwin:

We have lost even this twilight.
No one saw us this evening hand in hand
while the blue night dropped on the world.

I have seen from my window
the fiesta of sunset in the distant mountaintops.

Sometimes a piece of sun
burned like a coin between my hands.

I remembered you with my soul clenched
in that sadness of mine that you know.

Where were you then?
Who else was there?
Saying what?
Why will the whole of love come on me suddenly when I am sad and feel you are far away?

The book fell that is always turned to at twilight
and my cape rolled like a hurt dog at my feet.

Always, always you recede through the evenings
towards where the twilight goes erasing statues.

Here are some of highlights from the Spanish version:

  • crepúsculo = twilight
  • las manos = hands (irregular because manos uses feminine article “la”)
  • conoces = you know (use this term to ask if someone knows something, “conoces este restaurante?”: Do you know this restaurant?)

Use Google Translate to translate this Neruda poem, “Yo Volveré”:

Alguna vez, hombre o mujer, viajero,
después, cuando no viva,
aquí buscad, buscadme
entre piedra y océano,
a la luz proceleria
de la espuma.
Aquí buscad, buscadme,
porque aquí volveré sin decir nada,
sin voz, sin boca, puro,
aquí volveré a ser el movimiento
del agua, de
su corazón salvaje,
aquí estaré perdido y encontrado:
aquí seré tal vez piedra y silencio

David Soul is an American-British actor and singer. He is known for his role as Detective Kenneth “Hutch” Hutchinson in the ABC television series Starsky & Hutch from 1975-1979. He’s also a singer and lover of Neruda’s Poetry.

David also happens to be a huge Hemingway fan. In darkly comic film (still under development), Cuban Soul follows David’s intrepid odyssey as he embarks on a mission to restore Ernest Hemingway’s lost and recently unearthed 1955 Chrysler New Yorker Deluxe convertible.

Here is Spanish for The Fickle One or Fickle Man (EL INCONSTANTE):

Los ojos se me fueron
detrás de una morena que pasó.

Era de nácar negro,
era de uvas moradas,
y me azotó la sangre
con su cola de fuego.

Detrás de todas
me voy.

Pasó una clara rubia
como una planta de oro
balanceando sus dones.
Y mi boca se fue
como una ola
descargando en su pecho
relámpagos de sangre.

Detrás de todas
me voy.

Pero a ti, sin moverme,
sin verte, tú distante,
van mi sangre y mis besos,
morena y clara mía,
alta y pequeña mía,
ancha y delgada mía,
mi fea, mi hermosura,
hecha de todo el oro
y de toda la plata,
hecha de todo el trigo
y de toda la tierra,
hecha de toda el agua
de las olas marinas,
hecha para mis brazos,
hecha para mis besos,
hecha para mi alma.

Read about the Soul connection between Neruda, Hemingway and Cuba.

How to Use Poetry to Improve Your Spanish Before Traveling to Cuba was last modified: October 16th, 2016 by Simons Chase