Chilean poet Pablo Neruda wanted to be 'a poet of my land'; Passions and Impressions, by Pablo Neruda. Translated by Margaret Sayers Peden. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux Inc. 396 pp. $25.
Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (1904-73), winner of the 1971 Nobel Prize for Literature, vividly exemplified the modern, politically ''committed'' writer. His vigorous, occasionally strident free-form verses angrily expostulate political repression and loudly celebrate ''the misery, the blood, and the victories of my people.''Skip to next paragraph
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Neruda's miscellaneous prose writings, collected here, reveal a broad range of interests coexistent with his obsessively passionate leftist principles. The volume's contents include several of his lyrical and romantic prose poems, an assortment of ''Travel Images'' (of which ''A Day in Singapore'' is especially appealing), and a section on ''Literary Friendships and Enmities.'' Besides drumbeating for indigenous ''revolutionary'' poets, Neruda frequently restates his admiration for activist poets like Whitman, Garcia Lorca, and Vladimir Mayakovsky, whom he values for having written ''with all the violence of a soldier engaged in battle.''
Among essays gathered together under the heading ''The Struggle for Justice, '' the most outstanding examples are his bold Zolaesque ''I Accuse'' speech of 1947 - an impressively documented and sustained indictment of the then-Chilean President - and his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, ''Poetry Shall Not Have Sung in Vain,'' which affirms his longstand-ing wish to have been ''no more than . . . a poet of my land and my people.'' Pablo Neruda was that, and more than that, as this rich collection clearly shows.