Antipoems: How to Look Better and Feel Great

Antipoems: How to Look Better and Feel Great

by Nicanor Parra

The first major collection in almost twenty years of new work by one of Latin America's greatest poets.
"Real seriousness," Nicanor Parra, the antipoet of Chile, has said, rests in "the comic." And read in that light, this newest collection of his work is very serious indeed. It is an abundant offering of his signature mocking humor, subverting received


The first major collection in almost twenty years of new work by one of Latin America's greatest poets.
"Real seriousness," Nicanor Parra, the antipoet of Chile, has said, rests in "the comic." And read in that light, this newest collection of his work is very serious indeed. It is an abundant offering of his signature mocking humor, subverting received conventions and pretensions in both poetry and everyday life, public and private, ingeniously and wittily rendered into English in an antitranslation (the word is Parra's) by Liz Werner. Of the fifty-eight pieces in Antipoems, the first twenty-three are taken from Parra's 1985 collection, Hojas de Parra ("Vine Leaves" or "Leaves of Parra"), two others appeared in his Paginas en Blanco ("Blank Pages," 2001), while the rest come straight out of his notebooks and have never been published before, either in Spanish or English. The book itself is divided into two sections, "Antipoems" (im)proper and a selection of Parra's most recent incarnation of the antipoem, the hand-drawn images of his "Visual Artefactos."
As his anti-translator Liz Werner explains in her Introduction, Parra's scientific training infuses his work. "Viewed through the lens of antimatter," she writes, "antipoetry mirrors poetry, not as its adversary but as its perfect complement."

Editorial Reviews

Jesse Tangen-Mills - Bookslut
“Includes a great introduction to Parra and his work by the translator that effortlessly mixes personal anecdote and historical context.”
Pablo Neruda
“One of the great names in the literature of our language.”
American Poet
“The effectiveness of [Parra's] blade-like lines, his sardonic wit, and his unembarrassed humanity surprises again and again.”
Dave Oliphant - Texas Observer
“Witty, irreverent, and penetrating insights into the absurdities and contradictions of modern life.”
Mark Strand - The New York Times Book Review
“A poet with all the authority of a master.”
Mark Strand
“A poet with all the authority of a master.”
Library Journal
Nonagenarian Parra is the exponent of structurally innovative and thematically controversial antipoetry; in unlyrical, natural discourse, it persuades readers to look "outside the box" to reexamine their quotidian values and prosaic surroundings. Witness the characteristic novelty and whimsical charm of the two-line "A Resounding Zero": "It all came down to nothing/ & of the nothing, there is very little left." Even the subtitle (not in the original) is not what one would normally expect from a volume of verse. Symbols (&, numerals, @, 2b) often replace meaning that words alone cannot convey. If the first 40 or so poems aren't unusual enough, the last 20 are even more anarchic; they are visual "artefactos," faintly political mixed-media outcries unified by a squiggly triangular figure who resembles one of the spies from Mad magazine's Spy vs. Spy. This bilingual edition marks the first new collection of antipoems in English in almost 20 years and the first time these particular pieces have been translated. In keeping with the poet's intent, the translator calls her efforts "antitranslations"; they freely convey the figurative if not the literal sense of the poems. Highly recommended. Lawrence Olszewski, OCLC Lib., Dublin, OH Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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New Directions Publishing Corporation
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Read an Excerpt


How to look better & feel great
By Nicanor Parra


Copyright © 2004 Nicanor Parra
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-8112-1597-0

Chapter One

CAMBIOS Cambio lola de 30 x 2 viejas de 15 Cambio torta de novia x un par de muletas electricas Cambio gato enfermo de meningitis x aguafuerte del siglo XVIII Cambio volcan en erupcion permanente x helicoptero poco uso Cambio gato x liebre Cambio zapato izquierdo x derecho. EXCHAHGES I exchange one 30-year-old girl 4 two old ladies of 15 exchange wedding cake 4 a pair of electric crutches exchange cat sick with meningitis 4 etching from the XVIII century exchange volcano in permanent eruption 4 little-used helicopter I exchange a knock-off 4 a name-brand I exchange the left shoe 4 the right OJO COH EL EVAHGELIO DE HOY Ojo con el evangelio de hoy el que habla no sabe el sabio chino se mantiene en silencio mas de 3 sacudidas es pagina 2 paralelas que se cortan siempre constituyen matrimonio perfecto rio que fluye contra su propia corriente no llegara jamas a feliz termino todo esta permitido libertad absoluta de movimiento claro que sin salirse de la jaula 2+2 no son 4: fueron 4: hoy no se sabe nada al respecto WATCH OUT FOR THE GOSPEL OF THE TIMES Watch out for the gospel of the times he who speaks doesn't know the Chinese sage keeps silent more than 3 strokes of the pen is mastur-page-tion 2 parallel lines that always intersect create a perfect marriage a river that flows against its own current never arrives at a happy end everything is permitted absolute freedom of movement that is, without leaving the cage 2+2 doesn't make 4: once it made 4 but today nothing is known in this regard

QUE GANA UN VIEJO CON HACER GIMNASIA que ganara con hablar por telefono que ganara con hacerse famoso que gana un viejo con mirarse al espejo Nada hundirse cada vez mas en el fango Ya son las tres o cuatro de la madrugada por que no trata de quedarse dormido pero no-dele con hacer gimnasia dele con los llamaditos de larga distancia dele con Bach con Beethoven con Tchaikovsky dele con las miradas al espejo dele con la obsesion de seguir respirando lamentable-mejor apagara la luz

Viejo ridiculo le dice su madre eres exactamente igual a tu padre el tampoco queria morir Dios te de vida para andar en auto Dios te de vida para hablar por telefono Dios te de vida para respirar Dios te de vida para enterrar a tu madre Te quedaste dormido viejo ridiculo! pero el anciano no piensa dormir no confundir llorar con dormir

WHAT DOES AN OLD MAN GAIN BY EXERCISING what will he gain by talking on the phone what will he gain by going after fame, tell me what does an old man gain by looking in the mirror Nothing each time he just sinks deeper in the mud It's already three or four in the morning why doesn't he try to go to sleep but no-he won't stop doing exercise won't stop with his famous long-distance calls won't stop with Bach with Beethoven with Tchaikovsky won't stop with the long looks in the mirror won't stop with the obsession about continuing to breathe pitiful-it would be better if he turned out the light Ridiculous old man his mother says to him you and your father are exactly alike he didn't want to die either may God grant you the strength to drive a car may God grant you the strength to talk on the phone may God grant you the strength to breathe may God grant you the strength to bury your mother You fell asleep, you ridiculous old man! but the poor old wretch does not intend to sleep Let's not confuse crying with sleeping

UN ABOGADO DE SU PROPIA CAUSA llega a una tumba equis del Cementerio Metropolitano con un ramito de claveles rojos Se descubre con gran solemnidad y a falta de florero deposita su ofrenda en un modesto tarro duraznero que sustrae de una tumba vecina AN ADVOCATE FOR HIS OWN CAUSE arrives at a grave marked "x" in the Metropolitan Cemetery with red carnations in a small bouquet tips his hat with great solemnity and in the absence of a vase deposits his offering in a modest peach can that he removes from a neighboring grave 1979 Macul con Irarrazaval a 3 o 4 cuadras del Pedagogico brumo carabineros armados hasta los dientes una mujer escarba la basura autos pasan en todas direcciones y los temibles platanos orientales esta ciudad esta condenada a desaparecer es el mundo me dicen no te preocupes es el ano 1979 1979 Macul and Irarrazaval 3 or 4 blocks from Teacher's College a tear-gas fog police officers armed to the teeth a woman digs through the trash cars go by every which way and the awful asthma trees this city is doomed to disappear it's the world, they tell me don't worry it's the year 1979

LA MUERTE SUPERSONICA pasa a toda velocidad en direccion al Asilo de Ancianos sin concederme la menor importancia como si yo fuera un adolescente de labios rojos a sabiendas que soy su prometido y que ya no hago otra cosa que bostezar muerte evasiva-muerte displicente eres la mas coqueta de todas SUPERSONIC DEATH zooms by at high speed in the direction of the old folks' home without paying any attention to me as if I were a red-lipped teenager when death knows full well I'm her fiance and all I do these days is yawn evasive death-indifferent death you are the biggest flirt of all A PROPOSITO DE ESCOPETA HAY QUE PAVIMENTAR la cordillera pero no con cemento ni con sangre como supuse en 1970 hay que pavimentarla con violetas hay que plantar violetas hay que cubrirlo todo con violetas humildad igualdad fraternidad hay que llenar el mundo de violetas O EL JILGUERO CHILENO-creo yo- tiene la obligacion de mantenerse en silencio mientras no recupere su libertad y no pensar en nada que no sea la libertad la puerta de la jaula actos y no palabras deliciosas o recupera su nombre de pajaro que significa amor a la libertad o se hace acreedor al de reptil el colmo de los colmos es ponerse a cantar versos de ciego como si en Chile no ocurriera nada


POR SINCERO casi me jodo por optimista me embrome por compasivo-por humilde recibo mi buen puntapie: eso me pasa por pelotudo por andar predicando el bien Menos mal que todo ha cambiado ahora que robo a granel medallas de oro y de plata ahora que como por cien: todos me respetan ahora que no pido ni doy cuartel Soy el regalon de la Chimba ahora que perdi la fe espero que me canonicen de un momento a otro. Amen O

17 ELEMENTOS SUBVERSIVOS fueron sorprendidos ayer en los alrededores de La Moneda transportando naranjas y un ejemplar de la Sagrada Biblia 3 de ellos se dieron a la fuga no sin antes batirse con la policia que se vio obligada a actuar en defensa propia los delincuentes resultaron muertos

O DIGASE LUPANAR y no prostibulo meretriz en lugar de prostituta Nuestro Senor en vez de Jesucristo Via Lactea-no Rio Jordan la palabra es el hombre no diga nunca sol diga astro rey diga Pronunciamiento Militar y vera como le suben los bonos si dice golpe lo miraran de reojo feo decir bachicha diga mejor ciudadano italiano mas respetuoso mucho mas cristiano lo que oyen senoras y senores el que dice corcel en vez de caballo tiene su porvenir asegurado O POESIA POESIA todo poesia hacemos poesia hasta cuando vamps a la sala de bano palabras textuales del Cristo de Elqui mear es hacer poesia tan poesia como taner el laud o cagar o poetizar o tirarse peos y vamos viendo que es la poesia

palabras textuales del Profeta de Elqui O

Y POR FAVOR destruye este papel la poesia te sigue los pasos a mi tambien a todos nosotros

APROPOS OF NOTHING WE HAVE TO PAVE OVER the mountain range but the choice isn't between cement and blood as I thought in 1970 it must be paved over with violets we have to plant violets we have to cover everything with Violetas Parra humility equality fraternity we have to fill the world with Violetas O

THE CHILEAN GOLDFINCH-in my book- has an obligation to keep quiet until he has regained his liberty and not to think about anything but freedom the door of the dungeon action, not just more delicious words either he wins back the name "bird," that means love of liberty, or he deserves to be called reptile the last straw is to start singing lyrics of the blind as though in Chile there was nothing wrong O

I NEARLY screwed myself over being so sincere optimism got me nothing but trouble for being compassionate-for being humble the kick in the ass was double That's what you get for being a fool, it's clear That's what happens when you preach the upstanding and good Luckily everything's changed as much as it possibly could now that I steal silver and gold patron-saint charms by the truckload and eat for a hundred, instead of for one: everybody respects me for real now that I don't ask for or show mercy Across the river in la Chimba I'm the favorite son now that I've lost my faith I'm waiting for them to canonize me any minute.


Excerpted from ANTIPOEMS by Nicanor Parra Copyright © 2004 by Nicanor Parra. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Born in 1914 in the southern city of Chillán, Nicanor Parra studied at the University of Chile, Brown, and Oxford, and spent many years as a teacher of mathematics and a professor of physics.

Liz Fania Werner has lived and studied in Valparaíso, Chile. She recently completed an antiwar public poetry installation, "Blackout
Poems," and is currently working on her first novel and conducting poetry-writing workshops in a juvenile detention center in her native
New York City.

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