You may never know where your life will end up. For Mark Eisner, it led in directions he never imagined possible. After graduating from college, he was able to bartend to get enough money to backpack through Latin America. On this trip he took a copy of Pablo Neruda’s poetry translated from Spanish. He came back and went to graduate school, only to go back to Chile to work on a ranch. While their, he fell in love with an engaged woman who worked at one of the three Neruda museums in Chile, and she told him of the need of a new English translation of Neruda’s poetry. And that’s just where his story begins.
It seems like fate was in play, as Eisner called up City Lights Press on a whim. The Press, which published authors such as Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, listened to his pitch over the answering machine and called him back with a book deal. He then started gathering a team to translate, some professional translators, others poet laureates, and a few Chileans who had immigrated to the United States. With his team, they tried to match, not only Neruda’s intent, but also his poetic rhythm and style.
Now that the book has become a best-seller, Eisner finds himself with Neruda again, attempting to make a documentary on Neruda’s life and legacy. As one of the most iconic poets of Latin America, Neruda is famous all over the world. His funeral was even broadcast by the Swiss media, among others. In attempting to gain rights to all of the footage, Eisner has interviewed some Neruda experts for the film and continues to push through, as this is his 12th year on the project. You never know where life might take you, but the world of literature is never boring.
by Marissa Bouska
For more about Eisner, visit www.poetryfoundation.org