Yesterday, on Twitter, ZJonesSpanishZachary Jones tweeted: The #firstlineofmyfavoritepoem is “Puedo escribir los versos más tristes esta noche”. What’s yours? And I replied that Neruda’s Poema XX was one of my favorites, too, and perhaps I should do a blog post on it.
Last February, prior to Valentine’s Day, I was searching for something to do with my Spanish IV class that would relate to love and the spirit of Valentine’s Day. I found a lesson format online, and I took it and modified it for my purpose. Unfortunately, I do not know whom I should credit with the original plan. The lesson that I used with my students involved: some images for Valentine’s Day, five youtube videos, some clips from various “romantic” movies that were currently playing, some quotes from Neruda, a short biography of Neruda, and eventually the use of Todaysmeet (which I explained in an earlier post) and each students’ blog.
We started by talking about the meaning of Valentine’s Day, how they felt about it, and by looking at some images that contrasted the sweetness and romantic nature with the more commercial and sarcastic value:
We looked at a few clips; among which were the Spanish trailer for Gnomeo y Julieta and True Grit. We talked about love in the movies, and then we talked about set phrases that we use in English that relate to love. I then shared with them this first quote: “Es tan corto el amor y tan largo el olvido.” We discussed what they thought it meant and who would have written such a statement and why. Interesting discussion to have with teenagers! Next, I had them divide into groups of three and I gave them nine more quotes from Neruda. For the next few minutes they talked in their small groups about what they thought each quote meant, and finally I asked them to each pick a favorite quote and to decide as a group which one to share with the class. Next, we read a very brief biography of Neruda, who wrote Poema XX when he was 20, just 3 years older than my students. Then we examined Poema XX. We looked at the poem to try to understand as much as possible without translating. Here are the documents ( Pablo Neruda ) that I used to this point. The last thing we did that day was to watch our first video on the poem, and that video really helped to bring the poem to life.
The next day we read through the poem silently, and then I had each one of them read it aloud at the same time, without reading to anyone. I asked them to focus on the sound and flow of the words, the meaning of the words, and the emotion that might lie behind the words. Having already set up a Todaysmeet room, I used the four following videos to have them share their reactions to each version of Poema XX. They were to address the differences in the versions: what difference the music, the language, the voice, etc. made. Lastly, they were to choose which was their favorite. At that point in time, we switched to their blogs, and they posted about their favorite version and why it was their favorite. We had just enough time at the end to read the poem aloud once again, but this time with a partner. The difference in the manner in which they read the poem was enormous. Reading through their blogs, it was also interesting to note that each of the four versions was the favorite of someone, and their reasons were as varied as their personalities.
The version of Poema XX with the actual voice of Pablo Neruda
The version of Poema XX with Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and the written word only
The version of Poema XX with words in English but the music is “Unchained Melody” by the Righteous Brothers, but in Spanish, Desencadenada by Ynidio
The version of Poema XX read by Alex Ubago with additional words in Spanish projected with the images.