W hat poet described Chile as a long, thin ship? Neruda. — Collapse

What poet was nominated for the Chilean presidency in 1970, but in the end threw his support to Salvador Allende? Neruda.

Same poet who 31 years before was personally responsible for saving over 2,200 lives. Neruda. Here’s the scoop.

As the tragic endgame of the Spanish Civil War played itself out in and around Barcelona in 1939, hundreds of thousands of Republicans tried to flee across the border into France. Those who made it found themselves imprisoned in concentration camps. France was taking no chance of angering its new fascist neighbour.

Neruda convinced the Chilean president to appoint him Special Consul in Paris for Immigration. He found an old French cargo ship, the Winnipeg, that had been making the Marseilles–North Africa run for years, fitted out for no more than 20 passengers. He had
it modified to hold thousands.

He, his wife and a few others set to reviewing and assembling the passenger list. One of the goals was to reunite broken families that had ended up in different camps.

On September 3, 1939, the Winnipeg departed for Chile. A month later the ship arrived in Valparaiso.

Neruda wrote at the time that if the critics erased all his other poems, the poem that was the Winnipeg could never be erased.

Most of those who remained in the French camps met the same fate as Lorca had two years earlier.

Jim Smith is the author of Back Off, Assassin! New and Selected Poems. He writes, “I am collecting odd anecdotes about writers for a potential new project. If you have some nifty little piece of information, I’d be pleased as Punch to hear from you! Here’s a bonus one — the Salvadoran poet Roque Dalton is the direct descendant of one of the Dalton gang, who fled south following the Jesse James fiasco. Write me c/o info@mansfieldpress.net.”

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