Neruda’s Seashells

Along with being a political activist and Nobel Prize winner, Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda was also an avid collector of seashells. His love for the exoskeletons of molluscs is something that I share deeply, so I was fascinated to discover this, particularly after recently penning the poem, Morning Song, enamoured by the ocean’s quiet music that (for me) shells are such an integral part of.

Neruda has been quoted as saying:

“The best thing I have collected in my life are my shells,” the poet once wrote. “They gave me the pleasure of their prodigious structure, the lunar purity of their mysterious porcelain.”

And for the first time ever, more than four hundred of Neruda’s estimated 9000 seashells (amassed over a period of two decades) are on display at the Instituto de Cervantes in Madrid. It is times like this I dream of teleportation…

So while I may not get to see the display, this news has made me pull out several of my Neruda collections and rediscover my love for his words… his ability to capture passion and pin it to a page…

I will leave you with one of my very favourites:


Don’t Go Far Off, Not Even For A Day 
                                                  by Pablo Neruda

Don’t go far off, not even for a day, because —
because — I don’t know how to say it: a day is long
and I will be waiting for you, as in an empty station
when the trains are parked off somewhere else, asleep.

Don’t leave me, even for an hour, because
then the little drops of anguish will all run together,
the smoke that roams looking for a home will drift
into me, choking my lost heart.

Oh, may your silhouette never dissolve on the beach;
may your eyelids never flutter into the empty distance.
Don’t leave me for a second, my dearest,

because in that moment you’ll have gone so far
I’ll wander mazily over all the earth, asking,
Will you come back? Will you leave me here, dying?



Filed under poetry & publishing

6 responses to “Neruda’s Seashells

  1. ‘wander mazily’ – how perfect a description!

  2. 9000 shells!!! My goodness. My family has a small collection – who wouldn’t when living at the beach – there were 3 large baskets full of beautiful shells when we moved into our house 3 years ago, which we have added to. They are endlessly fascinating and a miracle of nature and Pablo Neruda’s poem is exquisite. Neruda’s ‘Sometimes I write the saddest lines’ narrated by Andy Garcia on youtube is my favourite online poem. Thanks Graham.

    • gnunn

      I too love that poem Gabe. Garcia’s voice seems to me the perfect fit. If you haven’t already, make sure you check out the links to the images of the gallery that Dhyan posted in his comment. Very beautiful!

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