Antipoems: How to Look Better and Feel Great

Antipoems: How to Look Better and Feel Great

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Author: Nicanor Parra

Translator: Liz Werner

Publisher: New Directions (2004)

"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."