The great physicist, mathematician and “anti-poet” Nicanor Parra turns – believe it or not! – 97 today. Celebrate the birthday of one of the world’s great living pataphysical geniuses.
Allen, speaking at a reading in Boulder, Colorado, in July of 1990, sandwiched between readings by Nicaraguan poet, Daisy Zamora (with English translations read by Margaret Randall) and Lawrence Ferlinghetti: “Nicanor Parra is an old friend of (Lawrence) Ferlinghetti and myself. In fact, Ferlinghetti published his first book in the United States, Antipoems (Pocket Poets #12, City Lights, 1960), and we both worked on translations of one long poem, or middle-sized poem, of that time (“Soliloquio del Individuo” – “The Soliloquy of the Individual” or “The Individual Soliloquy”)
“In 1977..Parra (who, incidentally is the world’s foremost expert… the world’s leading expert in Newtonian physics, and applying the data of modern times to the Newtonian system – a very.. elegant, and witty man – picked up on a historic, primitive figure in Chile, a preacher who preached in the street and in the countryside, and so he wrote a series of poems in that persona – “From the Sermons and Preachings of the Christ of Elqui”
Antipoemshas appeared in various manifestations. The most recent version, 2004’s Antipoems – How To Look Better And Feel Great (translated by Liz Warner) following on from David Unger’s 1985 selection for New Directions, Antipoems: New & Selected Poems.
A new edition of his “Complete Works” (Obras Completas II“) has just been published in Spanish.
Allen’s reading (of “The Individual Soliloquy”, and of several other poems) can be accessed here. He comes on approximately 36 minutes in (tho’ Zamora and Ferlinghetti too, it has to be said, are well worth catching).
Here’s “the voice of the poet” – Parra reading “Hay Un Dia Feliz“, “Advertencia al Lector“,“Es Olvido”, “La Vibora”, “Desorden En El Cielo”,“Oda A Unas Palomas“,“Cancion”, “Autorretrato”, “San Antonio” and “Epitafio”.
Here’s some of the classic documentary footage of him – from Guillermo Cahn’s 1981 Cachureo.
For more on Parra, his University of Chile web-site is well worth a visit
We end, suitably perversely, with the Nicanor Parra milk commercial! – Happy Birthday, Nicanor Parra!