Original Book Reviews, Recommendations and Discussions

Serendipitous Book Discoveries

Every so often a couple more books get added to our already overfull home library, as a result of us going for a little browse in a bookshop. Sometimes I buy a familiar author, other times it’s the look and feel of a book that I like, or it is on sale, or it looks intriguing. And to be honest, sometimes those spur-of the-moment book buys are disasters – a real waste of money. Other times, they are a pleasant surprise, like coming upon a little island gem in the middle of an ocean. The Princess of Nowhere by Prince Lorenzo Borghese, reviewed on this website, was one such. It was amongst the sale books, and it was only the author’s name that got my attention. It turned out to be an unexpectedly enjoyable read.

Pablo Neruda - Love Poems:  Beauty on every page

Pablo Neruda – Love Poems: Beauty on every page

The same can be said of a pretty little publication of Love Poems – Pablo Neruda (Penguin Books Canada, 2008) that was on a table amongst other Valentine’s Day paraphernalia in Chapters. I knew of Neruda, but I am always loath to read poetry, since it requires attention and effort to understand. But this pocket-sized little book, with its pink cover with elegant gold illustrated lettering by Marian Bantjes,  said “take me home”. I believe the translations by Donald D. Walsh managed to retain the beauty and rhythm of Neruda’s words, and there wasn’t a single line or stanza that did not touch me. Few poets can express passion, intimacy and longing so clearly, so touchingly. Any person who has ever been in love, will feel his words resonate in them and take them back into those moments of togetherness. I have always wished that I were born with the talent, the words, the way of putting them together, to adequately express love. I keep trying, but Neruda captures so beautifully and tenderly moments of love, that his words speak for me. Those last four lines are just plain gorgeous.

Your hands (Tus manos)


When your hands go out,
love, towards mine,
what do they bring me flying?
Why did they stop at my mouth, suddenly,
why do I recognise them
as if then, before,
I had touched them,
as if before they existed
they had passed over
my forehead, my waist?

Their softness came
flying over time,
over the sea, over the smoke,
over the spring,
and when you placed
your hands on my chest,
I recognised those golden
dove wings,
I recognised that clay
and that color of wheat.

All the years of my life
I walked around looking for them.
I went up the stairs,
I crossed the roads,
trains carried me,
waters brought me,
and in the skin of the grapes
I thought I touched you.
The wood suddenly
brought me your touch,
the almond announced to me
your secret softness,
until your hands
closed on my chest
and there like two wings
they ended their journey.

This is SkiingAnother lovely visit to the Isle of Serendip, was the discovery of an e-book, This is Skiing – the Impossible Romance of Sliding Over Snow, by Lito Tejada-Flores & Linde Waidhofer (, 2012), stumbled upon when searching on-line for tips on skiing in Spring “crud”. This was obviously written by people who are both serious skiers and talented artists – Tejada-Flores, the writer, and Waidhofer, the photographer.

This book really struck a chord with me because the subject is so unusual. It isn’t love poetry and prose about a person, but about skiing. Waidhofer’s photography is impressive and joyful, but to my mind Tejada-Flores has perfectly expressed the observations and the emotions of skiing, and the nature of snow when you ski, in his prose and poetry that accompany the photos. I have never read something so lyrical, yet also direct, about skiing. (One does not, after all, expect sportsmen also to be poets.) His prose is lovely, but his poetry is quite remarkable – simple in form, yet elegantly expressed and touching. I particularly liked Who skis whom? and New Season’s Resolutions;

Try— to become a beginner once again
Begin— to unlearn techniques one must explain…

How true, and how well said. He has done what all poets and painters strive for – to elicit an echoing response in their viewers or readers. Reading it all in one sitting was like a headful of the love poems of Pablo Neruda – but the loved one is snow and skiing.  You feel immersed in all the emotions and relive your own moments on the slopes all over again.

Who skis whom?

So many seasons
riding my skis
round these round
& perfect arcs,
always believing
it was the skier,
not the skis, leaving
such pure marks
on empty snow.
How could I know
skis too have reasons
for the way they move?
For them too a round
& perfect turn
is magic.
In love
with perfect turns
I failed to see
all these years
my skis were skiing me.

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