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the Complete Review
the complete review - poetry

How to Look Better & Feel Great

Nicanor Parra

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To purchase Antipoems

Title: Antipoems
Author: Nicanor Parra
Genre: Poetry
Written: (Eng. 2004)
Length: 133 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: Antipoems - US
Antipoems - UK
Antipoems - Canada
Antipoems - India
  • Antitranslated by Liz Werner

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Our Assessment:

B+ : clever, amusing -- though collection as a whole rather slight

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       This bilingual edition of Antipoems: How to Look Better & Feel Great collects twenty-three poems originally published in Hojas de Parra (1985), two from Páginas en Blanco (2001), and thirty-two previously unpublished poems; none of the poems have been published in English before. (Several volumes of Antipoems by Parra have been published in English; it can get confusing .....)
       An Introduction ('The Authorized Antitranslation') provides a bit of antipoetic information, including the claim that, while antipoetry had been around for a while, Parra was: "the first to carry the concept to its limits." The works collected here are not the purest examples of his antipoetry, but are clearly still meant to shake things up and challenge conventions; often, too, there's a humorous aspect to them.
       The poem Notes on the Lessons of Antipoetry is a useful starting and reference point (though one of the notes is: "Antipoems should be read in the same order in which they were written"). Most importantly: "In antipoetry, it is poetry that is sought, not eloquence". And he suggests:

Often our pleasure in antipoetry is impaired by our curiosity: we attempt to understand and dispute when we shouldn't do either.
       The quick, straightforward pieces don't seem to require much work (on the part of the reader), and much of the pleasure of the texts is in their well-turned simplicity and directness. Let's cut the bullshit is -- beginning already with the title -- typical in its cut-to-the-chase directness:
In Chile we have never had democracy
And never will:

They are all dictatorships, my dear friend
The only thing that we're allowed
Is to elect
Between their dictatorship & ours
       There's a great deal of variety, including a literal (by-the-numbers) accounting of a life (Mission Accomplished), and a sublime elliptical summing up in the Final Poem.
       In Apropos of Nothing, one of the longer pieces, Parra insists:
POETRY POETRY it's all poetry
we make poetry
even when we're going to the bathroom
       And it closes nicely with the appeal:
DESTROY THIS PAPER after reading it
poetry is tailing you
and me too
       it's after all of us
       While his writing always remains approachable, Parra constantly plays with the form and tries to push it to its limits. The shorter second part of the collection consists of Visual Artefactos, in which simple (and very similar) line-drawings and brief (handwritten lines of) poetry are combined. The text of 1973, for example, reads:
who's going to liberate us from the liberators?
       While clever enough as poetry, not very much is gained in the drawn presentation in these pieces.
       A solid if relatively slim introduction to Parra, Antipoems is certainly a worthwhile collection -- but it's only a sliver of his work.

- M.A.Orthofer, 6 January 2010

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Antipoems: Reviews: Nicanor Parra: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Chilean poet Nicanor Parra was born in 1914.

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