Pablo Neruda's Ode To A Large Tuna In The Market

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The ode is a poetic form meant to praise or exult a certain individual, usually in regards to their athletic ability. Historically, there have been odes to Olympians, leaders, and even Grecian urns, but in Pablo Neruda’s poem “Ode to a Large Tuna in the Market,” he is commending a dead fish amidst a sea of spoiling vegetation. He praises the tuna for being the premier fish in the sea, and how even the dead fish is magnificent in comparison to the surrounding prosaic goods; Neruda insists it is a shame that such a creature was killed. While a fish isn’t an outrageously irregular subject for an ode, the message is conveyed through a unique poetic form. Neruda decides to write the poem in a vertical style, with each line being a few words, so the poem is much longer reading down the paper than it is reading across. If the poem is turned 90 degrees to the left, the pattern of shorter and longer lines creates a series of waves, but when the poem is read from top to bottom, it is representative of sinking through the layers of the sea. The poet Neruda purposefully decides to format his poem this way by creating the image of the ocean with his words, and so the poem reflects the tuna’s natural habitat. In essence, the poem is the ocean, and his words are the fish swimming in the sea.

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