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Young Poets -- Nicanor Parra

(Poem #190) Young Poets
 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 the blank page.
-- Nicanor Parra
       (trans. by Miller Williams)

Today's poem - or, rather, antipoem[1] - is surely the final word on the
'prescriptive poetry' front. I don't think I need say very much about it,
except that the last line is a beautifully and slyly unexpected conclusion,
with which I agree wholeheartedly.

A quick note on form - I've gone into the difference between free verse and
unstrutured verse before (see, for example the comments at poem #54),
but the antipoem is by its very nature unstructured - the form here is a
deliberate formlessness that, while not my favourite poetic style, can be
refreshingly original if done well.

[1] The biography describes the concept nicely, so I won't repeat it here.

Biographical Note:

Parra, Nicanor

 b. Sept. 5, 1914, San Fabian, Chile

  one of the most important Latin-American poets of his time, the originator
  of so-called antipoetry (poetry that opposes traditional poetic techniques
  or styles).

  Parra studied mathematics and physics at the University of Chile in
  Santiago, at Brown University, Providence, R.I., U.S. (1943-45), and at
  the University of Oxford. From 1952 he taught theoretical physics at the
  University of Chile.

  Although Parra later renounced his first book of poetry, Cancionero sin
  nombre (1937; "Songbook Without a Name"), his use of colloquial, often
  irreverent language, the light treatment of classical forms, and his
  humorous tone in that volume presage his later antipoetry.

  With Poemas y antipoemas (1954; Poems and Antipoems), Parra's attempts at
  making poetry more accessible to the masses gained him national and
  international fame. These verses treat common, everyday problems of a
  grotesque and often absurd world in clear, direct language and with black
  humour and ironic vision.

  After experimenting with the local speech and humour of the Chilean lower
  classes in La cueca larga (1958; "The Long Cueca [Dance]"), Parra
  published Versos de salón (1962; "Verses of the Salon"), which continued
  the antipoetic techniques of his earlier works. Obra gruesa (1969; "Big
  Work") is a collection of Parra's poems, excluding his first book. Its
  tone of dissatisfaction is intensified by the use of prosaic language,
  cliché, and ironic wordplay.

  In 1967 Parra began to write experimental short poems that he later
  published as a collection of postcards entitled Artefactos (1972;
  "Artifacts"). In these he attempted to reduce language to its simplest
  form without destroying its social and philosophical impact. Later
  collections include Sermones y prédicas del Cristo de Elqui (1977; Sermons
  and Homilies of the Christ of Elqui) and Hojas de Parra (1985; "Leaves
  [Pages] of Parra").

        -- EB

And finally, a bonus poem that delivers a rather trenchant comment on


   Like Nicanor Parra I write antipoetry
   antipoems for antipeople in antibooks
   antipoems for anticritics for antireaders
   antipoetry for antiassholes in the antimatter
   antielectrons in the antiatoms for antideaf
   in my antiadaptation to the literary world
   in the antigroup of the antiliterature
   antipoetry for antieditors for antiprizes
   for antilectors for anticorrectors for antipublishers
   and it is not because I don't like poetry or
   because I don't like critics, it is because,
   like any other antipoet I only know
   how to write

          -- Moshe Benarroch


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