The great Chilean poet and one of the most important Latin American lyric voices, Nicanor Parra, is celebrating his birthday. And not just any birthday. It is his 100th. He was born on September 5th, 1914 in the town of San Fabian de Alico, in the Bio Bio Region. This poet published “Poemas y Antipoemas” (Poems and Anti-poems) in 1954, work that produced a radical cut in the Chilean and Latin American poetry scene, producing the emergence of the anti-poetic culture.
His poetic work has been studied in many important universities of the United States, and among them “Artefactos” (Artifacts, 1972), “Sermones y prédicas del Cristo de Elqui” (Sermons and preaches of the Elqui Christ, 1977), “Chistes para desorientar a la poesía: Chistes para desorientar a la policía” (Jokes to disorient poetry: Jokes to disorient the police, 1983), “Coplas de Navidad” (Christmas Four-line Verse, 1983), “Poesía Política” (Political Poetry, 1983), and “Hojas de Parra” (Vine Leaves, 1985). He plays with the meaning of Parra in his last title, as it translates vine as well as being his last name.
This extensive career has positioned him as one of the main characters of the Chilean literature during the second half of the 20thcentury and in 1969 he received the National Award of Literature. He has also been recognized with the Pablo Neruda Poetry of Ibero-America Award (2012), the Miguel de Cervantes Award (2012), Queen Sofia (2001), and Juan Rulfo (1991).
Known as the “anti-poet”, Nicanor Parra is now living in the small coastal town of Las Cruces, an hour and a half of Santiago, the capital. He no longer assists public events and according to his grandson Cristobal Ugarte, the literate leads a very simple life and in good health. It was he who read his grandfather´s words of gratitude when he received the Cervantes Award in Spain during 2012.
With his profound irreverence, Parra made poets come down from Olympia, putting street talk into value, “the language of the tribe” as he calls it.
“Did you expect this award”, he was asked when reading one of his brief poems during the Cervantes ceremony. “No/ Awards are/ like the Dulcineas of Toboso/ While we think of them/ far/ deaf/ enigmatic./ Awards are for the free spirited/ for the judge´s friends/”, Parra said with his usual sarcasm.
There are several cultural activities with which Chile is celebrating the anti-poet´s Centennial Birthday. One of them is the graphic and visual exhibition called “Voy y Vuelvo” (Going and Coming Back), inaugurated in the Nicanor Parra Library of the Diego Portales University, remaining opened to public until December 2014.