Nicanor Parra

powerful, eloquent, timeless….I love Nicanor Parra 

Nicanor Parra, who was a professor of theoretical physics at the University of Chile in Santiago, is one of Latin America’s most notable and innovative poets. Describing himself as an “antipoet,” he writes in a wry, colloquial, and accessible mode that eschews the rhetorical inflation and florid gestures associated in the popular mind with verse. His sister Violeta was one of Chile’s most renowned folk singers. Born in 1914, Parra is now in his mid-90s.

 

I SHARE THREE GREAT POEMS FROM NICANOR PARRA BELOW

 

Acacias 
Strolling many years ago

Down a street taken over by acacias in bloom

I found out from a friend who knows everything

That you had just gotten married.

I told him that I really

Had nothing to do with it.

I never loved you

— You know that better than I do —

Yet each time the acacias bloom

— Can you believe it? —

I get the very same feeling I had

When they hit me point-blank

With the heartbreaking news

That you had married someone else.

— translated by David Unger

 

I Take Back Everything I’ve Said 

Before I go

I’m supposed to get a last wish:

Generous reader

burn this book

It’s not at all what I wanted to say

Though it was written in blood

It’s not what I wanted to say.

No lot could be sadder than mine

I was defeated by my own shadow:

My words took vengeance on me.

Forgive me, reader, good reader

If I cannot leave you

With a warm embrace, I leave you

With a forced and sad smile.

Maybe that’s all I am

But listen to my last word:

I take back everything I’ve said.

With the greatest bitterness in the world

I take back everything I’ve said.

— translated by Miller Williams

THE MAN HE IMAGINED
 
 

The man he imagined 
lives in a mansion he imagined 
in the middle of trees he imagined 
on the banks of a river he imagined

on the walls he imagined 
hang old paintings he imagined 
unmendable cracks he imagined 
pictures of worlds he imagined 
in times and places he imagined

every afternoon-afternoons he imagined 
he climbs the stairs he imagined 
and goes out to the balcony he imagined 
to look at the landscape he imagined 
the valley he imagined 
surrounded by hills he imagined

ghosts he imagined 
come down the road he imagined 
singing songs he imagined 
to the setting sun he imagined

and on the nights when there’s a moon he imagined 
he dreams about the woman he imagined 
who gave him the love he imagined 
he feels the old pain 
the same pleasure he imagined 
and his heart begins beating again 
the heart of the man he imagined

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