We want to share with you this Ode to Olive Oil by Pablo Neruda, one of the most important writers of the 20th century. Gabriel García Márquez declared him the greatest poet of the 20th century in any language. In the poetry review “Caballo Verde”, Pablo Neruda said: “Let that be the poetry that we search for…poetry impure as the clothing we wear, or our bodies, soup-stained, soiled with our shameful behaviour, our wrinkles and vigils and dreams, observations and prophecies, declarations of loathing and love, idylls and beasts, the shocks of encounter, political loyalties, denials and doubts, affirmations and taxes.”

Front cover of “New Elementary Odes” which includes “Ode to Olive Oil”

This beautiful poem Ode to Olive Oil belongs to the New Elementary Odes 1956 collection. It was at the suggestion of Miguel Otero Silva, editor of the Caracas newspaper “El Nacional”, that he began to write “Odes”, for a weekly poetry collaboration. He accepted the condition that this collaboration would not form part of the literary supplement, but that the poems would be placed in the column pages:

“In this way, I managed to publish a history of the time, of diverse things, trades, people, fruits, and flowers, of life and my vision, of the struggle, in fact of all that I could take in through this vast cyclic urge of my creation”.

Without further ado, we leave you these lines, laden with history and beauty:

Ode to Olive Oil

Near the murmuring
In the grain fields, of the waves
Of wind in the oat-stalks,

The olive tree

With its silver-covered mass
Severe in its lines
In its twisted
Heart in the earth:
The graceful
By the hands
Which made
The dove
And the oceanic
Of nature
And there
The dry
Olive groves
So alone
The sky, blue with cicadas
And the hard earth
The prodigy
The perfect
Of the olives
With their constellations, the foliage: 
Then later,
The bowls,
The miracle,
The olive oil.

I love
The homelands of olive oil, 
The olive groves
Of Chacabuco, in Chile, 
In the morning
Feathers of platinum
Forests of them
Against the wrinkled
Mountain ranges.
In Anacapri, up above,
Over the light of the Italian sea
Is the despair of olive trees, 
And on the map of Europe, 
A black basketful of olives 
Dusted off by orange blossoms
As if by a sea breeze.

Olive oil,
The internal supreme
Condition for the cooking pot, 
Pedestal for game birds, 
Heavenly key to mayonnaise, 
Smooth and tasty
Over lettuce
And supernatural in the hell
Of king mackerels like archbishops.
Olive oil, in our voice, in
ur chorus
Powerful smoothness
You sing:
You are the Spanish language; 
There are syllables of olive oil
There are words
Useful and rich-smelling
Like your fragrant material. 
It’s not only wine that sings
Olive oil sings too, 
It lives in us with its ripe light
And among the good things of the earth
I set apart
Olive oil,
Your ever-flowing peace, your green essence, 
Your heaped-up treasure 
Which descends
In streams from the olive tree.

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