To commemorate the centennial of the birth of famed Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, a new web site and non-profit organization has emerged. Red Poppy, named for the favored use of the flower in Neruda’s poetry, states that its mission is to be “committed to fostering peace, justice and all human rights.” The organization also aims to facilitate progressive development projects which self-sustain the local economy, environment and culture of Latin America.

The founding mission of Red Poppy was the production of a new documentary film about Neruda titled “Pablo Neruda ¡Presente!” It premieres July 12, Neruda’s birthday, at the Festival Neruda SF in San Francisco. The film, narrated by Isabel Allende, will include archival photographs, excerpts from Neruda’s work and interviews with friends and colleagues. The documentary is expected to be first of many such projects with the goal of progressive social change through the use of the art of documentary.

Red Poppy has four components. The first is the production of documentary films. The second includes several micro-projects of peace, justice, human rights and sustainable development. The third includes an on-line journal and book projects.

The first book project to be completed is a new translation of nearly 50 selected poems. The translations are vibrant and are printed on opposing pages with the original Spanish text for comparison. Edited by Red Poppy’s executive director, Mark Eisner, “The Essential Neruda,” published by San Francisco’s City Lights Publishers, has garnered rave reviews.

The fourth and maybe most exciting aspect of Red Poppy is the Art House located at 23rd and Folsom in San Francisco’s Mission District. This center features a range of work in fine arts, film, poetry, live music and dance with a Latin American focus. Adult and children’s art classes are available for a minimal fee. The Art House is also the hub of the Mission Arts & Performance Project, a bi-monthly collaboration between visual artists, musicians and performers.

Red Poppy is a dynamic tribute to the life and work of Neruda. With the soon-to-be-released documentary and a full slate of new projects, the words, ideals and humanity of the great communist and people’s poet should become well known to a new generation.

Information about the Festival Neruda SF, July 12-18, can be found on the web site also. The festival looks to be a must-not-miss event featuring poetry reading, panel discussions, art, music and dance.

The author can be reached at dbaldinger@pww.org.

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