As might be expected, there are several antipoems directed toward our sitting president. One is entitled “How Right Was the Owl When She Said,” and continues with another of Parra’s frequent allusions to Hamlet: “Not Mohammed and not Bush: // Hamlet! / The Champion of Methodical Doubt: // I doubt therefore I am.” An artefact entitled “The War in Iraq” is pricelessly and sadly true: “My mouth is hanging open / I doubt that I can ever close it again.” On a wider scale than the Bush Administration and the Republican Party’s campaign of misinformation is the final artefact that closes the book: “Shut the Hell Up!” This one-line antipoem says it all: “2000 years of lies is more than enough!” This, of course, is to be contrasted with the truths that antipoetry tells, or with its very different program in terms of a literary objective. As to the “rewards” of telling the truth, these are catalogued in a section of “Apropos of Nothing”: I nearly screwed myself over being so sincere optimism got me nothing but trouble for being compassionatefor being humble the kick in the ass was double That’s what you get for being a fool That’s what happens when you preach the upstanding and good But then, as so often in Parra’s antipoetry, we see the other side of the coin: 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 The antipoet always manages to go both ways in revealing his/our contradictory natures. But a single instance of this balanced view is his antipoem entitled “Seven Voluntary Labors and One Seditious Act!’ Here the seventh “labor” inverts the very order of things: “the damned poet / amuses himself by throwing birds at stones!’ The one seditious act is perhaps a contradiction in itself: “the poet slits his wrists / in homage to the country of his birth.” Parra’s attitude toward Chile can be both critical and adulatory, though the former surely predominates, as in the antipoem entitled in antitranslation “Yup” \(for the Here Werner alters the specific reference to “Viva Chile” in the original to “America! God shine his grace on thee;’ which takes the kind of liberty that Parra seems to have enjoyed in working with his antitranslator. Nonetheless, Werner manages to suggest, through her use of “America the Beautiful;’ the ambiguous attitude of this antipoem. It begins with M that changes the sense by making the first two letters into the word “my” and running it into another word without its mierMoplay on words inspired the antitranslator to come up with the very “apropos” patriotic song and to use it so imaginatively in rendering the original’s ambiguity through “YOU PIECE OF SH… ining see p arra’s writing career spans more than 70 years. At the age of 40 he had already revolutionized poetry in Spanish. His unique talents were publicly recognized early on by both Gabriela Mistral and Pablo Neruda, Chile’s two Nobel Prize poets. The winner of the highest literary awards from both Spain and Mexico, as well as his native land, Parra has been snubbed by the Nobel committee time and again. But the antipoet has had his revenge by penning a number of antipoems in response, one of which appears in this new collection: The Nobel Prize for Reading should be awarded to me I am the ideal reader, I read everything I get my hands on: I read street names and neon signs and new price-lists …for a person like me the word is something holy members of the jury what would I gain by lying as a reader, I’m relentless …of course these days I don’t read much I simply don’t have the time Butoh manwhat I have read that’s why I’m asking you to give me the Nobel Prize for Reading as soon as impossible In the same vein of Parra’s contradictory views is another poem that has to do with reading. This antipoem is also entitled “Yup!” but reads: “The greatest truths of the twentieth century / Can’t be found in books // You can read them / On the bathroom walls // Vox populi Vox Dei 1/ This, of course, I read in a book.” Most characteristic of Parra’s doubleedged vision is his take on poetry itself, which he has both attacked for its shortcomings as a form of honest expression and praised for its capacity to live up to its name. “Apropos of Nothing” contains several sections that address the nature it like it is. That is, the antipoet satirically recommends that one avoid calling a spade a spade \(“the word makes the “Military Decree” instead of “coup d’etat,” they won’t “look down their noses!’ He goes on to observe that “yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s the truth / the man who says steed instead of horse / already has his future guaranteed!’ At times, as here, the antipoet sounds like a salesman, whereas at other times he speaks in the voice of the Christ of Elqui \(his fictionalized version of the wandering evangelist Domingo &irate continued on page 26 MARCH 4, 2005 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23
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