Page 31


Please Join People For the American Way Foundation in honoring Justice Bea Ann Smith Horton Foote at the 2006 Lone Star Spirit of Liberty Celebration with Host Robert Foxworth and Featuring Shirley Knight Deece Eckstein Ralph G. Neas Friday, September 29, 2006 The Four Seasons Hotel 98 San Jacinto Blvd., Austin APEOPLE FOR THE wo k im?, AAMERICAN WAY For further event information, please contact [email protected] FOUNDATION 6:30 pm Cocktails 7:30 pm Dinner & awards epic poetsincluding two Nobel Prize winners, Gabriela Mistral and Pablo Nerudaand actually to meet the revolutionary Nicanor Parra, former physics professor and winner of international renown for his “anti-poetry,” published in translation in New York by New Directions Press. After my first trip to Chile, I returned the following year and formed a deep and abiding relationship with the country when I married my Chilean wife, Maria. Over the years we have returned to Chile numerous times, and I met with Parra several times. It was my special wish that the students who accompanied me to Chile on my most recent trip would have the unique experience of visiting the anti-poet, who on September 5 turned 92. Happily, they were able to visit Parra’s home on the Pacific Coast, listening to him as he recited from memory a Mexican border corrido and as he spoke of his great love of Shakespeare, whose King Lear he has translated into Chilean Spanish. While we were reading Chile’s poets, the country’s secondary students were engaged in a nationwide protest over the conditions under which they are being educated. Paralyzing parts of the capital, Santiago, students marched with banners proclaiming their discontent with everything from bus fares needed to navigate the far-flung city, which exceeds New York City in area, to the inequality among schools that do not receive the same level of fundingreminiscent of our own Robin Hood controversy. Some of our group found the protest the most exciting part of the trip, though they soon decided that it wasn’t so safe to be in the line of fire of the so-called guanacos, water-spouting police vehicles named for the Chilean animal that spits at its opponent. It was clear to our group that Chile’s form of democracy allows for such protests, in which students take over a school and close it, under the protection of Chilean law. University students also shut down their campuses in symbolic solidarity with their high school fellows, which meant we were unable to visit classes at the Universidad Metropolitana. We did, however, meet with a group of Chilean students from the Universidad de Desarrollo who were intrigued by the fact that we were studying their national poets. They felt that their own countrymen did not recognize fully the value of their own literature. This, I pointed out, is perhaps the case universally, even though it does seem that Chileans are quite aware of their country’s impressive poetry traditioneven taxi drivers know who Parra is. It is perhaps ironic that Chile has produced so many fine poets with international reputations by denigrating the traditional view of poetry as beautiful, if useless, language. As Parra has written, “poetry for the older generation was a luxury, for us it’s an absolute necessity,” even if he terms it “anti-poetry.” 30 THE TEXAS OBSERVER SEPTEMBER 22, 2006