Nicanor Parra is a Chilean poet, born in Chillan. He qualified as a teacher of mathematics and physics in 1938, in 1943 he studied physics in the U.S.A. and returned to Chile as a professor at the University of Chile. He is one of the best known Chilean poets after Pablo Neruda. His sister Violeta was one of Chiles most renknowed folk singers. He himself has described himself as an anti-poet, due to to his distaste for standard poetic pomp and function. Influenced by the everyday, as well as a potent mix of Marxist politics, now 97, his poems have power I believe, because he is accessible and understood by ordinary people. He utilised the speech patterns of the Chilean lower classes in much of his poetry, combining provocativeness with a gentle playfulness. His poetry speaks too of inner struggles as well as the struggles going on in his own country.
Foremost his poems speak fom the heart, using humour and cynicism to convey his dissatisfaction with the world, allowing him to embrace the political as well as the human pulse. This allows his poetry to be accessible to all, reaching out to as wide an audience as possible, beyond the confines of literary convention and the corridors of academia.
He once said " Poetry is all around us" "It is in the graffito on the walls, I walk around and write down the graffiti, those are my poems."
Still breaking through the barriers,metamorposing language with all it's possibilities.He has been nominated several times for the Nobel Prize in Literature. I personally am reminded of the American Beat poets, and the late Allen Ginsberg himself announced Parra as one of the most influential poets of our time, which is sweet enough for me.
The vices of the modern world
Are authorised to convene daily in parks and gardens.
Equipped with powerful binoculars and pocket watches
They break into kiosks favoured by death
And install their laboratories among the rosebshes in
From there they direct the photogrrapher and beggars
that roam the neighbourhood
Trying to raise a small temple to misery
And, if they get a chance, having some woebgone
The cowed police run from these monsters
Making for the middle of town
Where the great year's end fires are breaking out
And a hooded hero is robbing two nuns at gun point.
The vices of the modern world:
The motor car and the movies,
The extermination of the Indian,
The manipulation of high finance,
The catastrophe of the aged,
The clandenstine white-slave trade carried on by
Self-advertisement and gluttony,
Personal friends of his Excellency,
The elevation of folklore to a spiritual category,
The abuse of soporifics and philosophy,
The softening upof men favoured by fortune,
Auto-eroticism and sexual cruelty,
The exaltation of the study of dreams and the sub-
conscious to the detriment of common sense,
The exaggerated faith in serums and vacines,
The deification of the phallus,
The international spread-legs policy patronised by the
The unbounded lust for power and money,
The gold rush,
The fatal dollar dance,
Speculation and abortion,
The destruction of idols,
Overdevelopment of dietics and pedagogical psychology,
The vices of dancing, of the cigarette, of games of chance,
The drops of blood that are often found on the sheets of
The madness of the sea,
Agraphobia and claustrophobia,
The disintigration of the atom,
The gory humour of the theory of relativity,
The frenzy to return to the womb,
The cult of the exotic,
Incinerations, mass purges, retention of passports,
All thisjust because,
To produce vertigo,
And the spread of radiomania.
As has been demonstrated
The modern world is composed of artificial flowers
Grown under bell jars like death,
It is made of movie stars
And bloo-smeared boxers fighting by moonlight
And nightingale-men controling the economic lives of
With certain easily explained devices;
Usually they are dressed in black like precursors of
And cat roots and wild herbs.
Meanwhile the wise, gnawed by rats,
Rot in the crypts of cathedrals
And souls with the slightest nobility are relentlessly
persecuted by the police.
The modern world is an enormous sewer,
The chic restaurants are stuffed with disgusting corpses
And birds flying dangerously low.
That's not all; the hospitals are full of imposters,
To say nothing of those heirs of the spirit who found
colonies in the anus of each new surgical case.
Modern industrialists occasionally suffer from the effects
of the poisoned atmosphere.
They are stricken at their sewing machines by the
terrifying sleeping sickness
Which eventually turn them into angels, of a sort.
They deny the existence of the physical world
And brag about being poor children of the grave.
And yet the world has always been like this.
Truth, like beauty, is neither created nor lost
And poetry is in things themselves or is merely a mirage
of the spirit.
I admit that a well-planned earthquake
Can wipe out a city rich in traditions in a matter of
And that a meticulous aerial bombardment
Smashes trees, horses, thrones, music,
But what does it matter
If, while the world's greatest ballerina
Is dying, poor and abandoned, in a village in southern
Spring restores to man a few of the vanished flowers.
What I say is, let's try to be happy, sucking on the
miserable human rib.
Let's extract from it the restorative liquid,
Each one following his personal inclinations.
Let's cling to this divine table-scrap!
Panting and trembling,
Let's suck those maddening lips.
The lot is cast.
Let's breathe in this enervating and destructive perfume
And for one more day live the life of the elect.
Out of his armpits man extracts the wax he needs to
mould the face of hios idols
And out of woman's sex the straw and the mud for his
I grow a louse on my tie
And smile at the imbeciles descending from the trees.
Write as you will
In whatever style you like
Too much blood has run under the bridge
To go on believing
That only one road is right.
In poetry everything is permitted.
With only this condition, of course:
You have to improve on the blank page.
In case of fire
Do not use elevators
unless otherwise instructed
No radio playing
unless otherwise instructed
Please Flush Toilet
After Each Use
Except When Train
is Standing At Station
Of The Next Passenger
Onward Christian Soldiers
Workers of the World unite
we have nothing to lose
but our life Glory to the Father
and to the Son and the Holy Ghost
unless otherwise instructed
By the way
We also hold these truths to be
That all nan are created
That they have been endowed
by their creator
With certain inaliable rights
That among these are: Life
Liberty and the pursuit of happiness
and last but not least
that 2 and 2 makes 4
unless otherwise instructed.
Nicanor Parra: Poems & Anti Poems
New Diections, 1985
Anti-Poems: how to look better and feel good
-Nicanor Parra, New Directions, 2004
After Dinner Reservations - Nicacor Parra
Host Publications, 2007
Some useful links
The technique of Anti-Poetry
Literature and Revolution - Fernando Alegria