Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) was perhaps the greatest Spanish poet of the 20th century. The poet known as Pablo Neruda was named Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto at his birth in 1904. He signed his work "Pablo Neruda" (although he did not legally adopt that name until 1946) because his father, a railroad worker, disapproved of the son's poetic interests. Neruda grew up in southern Chile and in 1921 moved to Santiago and enrolled in college with the intention of preparing himself for a career as an instructor of French. He left soon after, however, in order to devote more time to poetry, which had already become his central interest. His first book, Crepusculario (Twilight Book), was published in 1923, and the following year he published Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada (Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair), a book of intensely romantic and erotic poems. This became his most popular work, more than a million and a half copies of which were published in Spanish alone before his death. Neruda also insisted that he was specifically a Latin American poet. Canto general, which he considered his principal work, celebrates his Latin American heritage. That volume includes "Alturas de Macchu Picchu" ("The Heights of Macchu Picchu"), possibly Neruda's greatest poem.
Source: Gale in Context/Biography