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Nicanor Parra

Nicanor Parra Nicanor Parra[2†]

Nicanor Parra, born Nicanor Segundo Parra Sandoval on September 5, 1914, in San Fabian, Chile, was one of the most influential Latin American poets of his time[1†][2†]. He was also a mathematician and physicist[1†][3†][4†]. Parra was often compared with Pablo Neruda, another renowned Chilean poet[1†][2†]. He was known for his unique style of writing, which he referred to as "antipoetry"[1†][2†]. This style was characterized by its opposition to traditional poetic techniques or styles[1†]. Parra’s work was recognized globally, and he was nominated several times for a Nobel Prize in Literature[1†][3†].

Parra’s educational background was in mathematics and physics, which he studied at the University of Chile in Santiago, Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, U.S., and the University of Oxford[1†]. He taught theoretical physics at the University of Chile from 1952 until his retirement in 1991[1†][2†].

Despite his scientific background, Parra’s passion for poetry was evident in his work. His first book of poetry, “Cancionero sin nombre”, was published in 1937[1†][2†]. His collection “Poemas y Antipoemas”, published in 1954, gained him national and international fame[1†][2†]. This collection is considered a classic of Latin American literature and one of the most influential Spanish poetry collections of the twentieth century[2†].

Parra passed away on January 23, 2018, in Santiago, Chile, at the age of 103[1†][2†].

Early Years and Education

Nicanor Segundo Parra Sandoval was born on September 5, 1914, in San Fabián de Alico, near Chillán, in Chile[2†]. He was the son of a schoolteacher[2†]. His family was artistically prolific, with many members being performers, musicians, artists, and writers. His sister, Violeta Parra, and his brother Roberto Parra Sandoval were both folk singers[2†].

Parra won a scholarship to a prestigious high school in Santiago[2†][5†]. After graduating, he entered the Instituto Pedagógico of the University of Chile in 1933[2†]. There, he qualified as a teacher of mathematics and physics in 1938[2†][1†][2†]. This was also the year when he published his first book of poetry, "Cancionero sin nombre"[2†][6†].

After teaching in Chilean secondary schools for five years, Parra decided to further his education abroad[2†][6†]. In 1943, he enrolled at Brown University in the United States to study physics[2†]. Then, in 1948, he attended the University of Oxford to study cosmology[2†].

Parra’s early years and education were a blend of arts and sciences. His family’s artistic background and his own scientific pursuits shaped his unique style of poetry, which he later referred to as "antipoetry"[2†][1†][2†].

Career Development and Achievements

Nicanor Parra’s career was a unique blend of science and literature. After completing his education, he returned to Chile and served as a professor of theoretical physics at the University of Chile from 1952 until his retirement in 1991[2†][1†][6†][7†]. He was also a visiting professor at Louisiana State University, New York University, and Yale University[2†].

Despite his scientific pursuits, Parra’s passion for poetry remained undiminished. His first book of poetry, “Cancionero sin nombre”, was published in 1937[2†][1†]. However, it was his collection “Poemas y Antipoemas”, published in 1954, that gained him national and international fame[2†][1†]. This collection is considered a classic of Latin American literature and one of the most influential Spanish poetry collections of the twentieth century[2†].

Parra’s work was recognized and promoted by Gabriela Mistral and Pablo Neruda, two other renowned Chilean poets[2†]. Mistral, in particular, introduced him to important people in Santiago as a poet of future global renown[2†]. Neruda arranged for Parra’s collection “Poemas y Antipoemas” to be published in Buenos Aires[2†].

Parra’s unique style of writing, which he referred to as “antipoetry”, was characterized by its opposition to traditional poetic techniques or styles[2†][1†]. His work was often filled with black humor and an ironic vision of the common, everyday problems of a grotesque and often absurd world[2†][1†].

Throughout his career, Parra published dozens of books and read his poetry in England, France, Russia, Mexico, Cuba, and the United States[2†]. His work has been cited as an inspiration by American Beat writers such as Allen Ginsberg[2†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Nicanor Parra’s literary career was marked by a series of significant publications that have left an indelible mark on Latin American literature[2†][8†][9†]. Here are some of his main works:

Parra also translated King Lear into Spanish as Lear Rey & Mendigo (2004)[2†][8†].

Each of these works represents a unique facet of Parra’s “antipoetry,” characterized by its direct, lucid language, and its treatment of everyday problems with a black humor and an ironic vision[2†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Nicanor Parra’s work has been the subject of extensive analysis and evaluation[10†][11†][12†]. His unique style, which he termed “antipoetry,” has been both controversial and influential[10†][11†]. While some critics have denounced his antipoetry as non-poetry, recent criticism has been favorable[10†][11†].

Parra’s antipoetry is characterized by a desire to communicate directly and to name things clearly without the highly stylized language and imagery of traditional poetry[10†][11†]. His verses are often aggressive, wounding, sarcastic, and irritating[10†]. He has plowed new terrain in Latin American poetry using a store of methods that traditional poetry rejects or ignores[10†].

An expert on Parra’s work analyzes the evolution of his poetry from its rejection of thematic and syntactic structures to the development of a unique yet mutable voice that responds to its social and political environment[10†]. Parra’s work is attacked as boring, disturbing, crude, despairing, ignoble, inconclusive, petulant, and devoid of lyricism[10†]. The antipoet generally agrees with these points of criticism, but begs the reader to lay aside what amounts to a nostalgic defense of worn-out traditions and join him in a new experience[10†].

Despite the controversy, Parra has established himself firmly in a prominent position in Hispanic American literature, influencing both his defenders and detractors[10†]. His corrosive verses, caustic irony, and black humor have goaded readers to share his response to human existence[10†][12†].

Personal Life

Nicanor Parra was born on September 5, 1914, in San Fabián de Alicom, Chile, as Nicanor Segundo Parra Sandoval[2†][13†]. He was part of a large and artistically prolific family of eight children, several of whom became noted artists[2†][14†][7†]. His sister, Violeta Parra, was a well-known folk singer, as was his brother Roberto Parra Sandoval[2†].

Parra spent most of his childhood in the suburbs of Chillán[2†][14†][7†]. His father was a music teacher, and his mother sang folkloric songs[2†][14†][7†]. This environment likely nurtured his artistic inclinations from a young age.

In his personal life, Parra was married to Ana Delia Troncoso and Inga Palmen[2†][13†]. However, details about his relationships and family life are not extensively documented in the public domain.

Parra once said that he taught physics to earn a living, but wrote poetry to stay alive[2†][13†]. This statement reflects the deep passion he had for poetry and the arts, which remained a constant throughout his life.

Parra passed away on January 23, 2018, in La Reina, Santiago de Chile, at the age of 103[2†][1†]. His death marked the end of a remarkable life that had a significant impact on Latin American literature and beyond[2†][1†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Nicanor Parra’s legacy in the literary world is indelibly associated with the groundbreaking movement he pioneered: "antipoetry"[15†]. This movement represented a seismic shift in the realm of poetry, challenging entrenched traditions and redefining the very essence of poetic expression[15†]. Parra’s deadpan humor and rejection of poetry’s traditional language and style have solidified his reputation as a non-conforming poet who challenged the system[16†]. Known as the father of antipoesia, or antipoetry, Parra’s legacy is defined by everything he isn’t[16†].

Parra was one of the most important Latin American poets of the 20th century, heralded for his biting, ironic, lucid style—what he called "anti-poetry"[8†][2†]. Parra claimed poetry as a colloquial, irreverent art[8†]. “I always associated poetry with the voice of a priest in the pulpit. … Let the birds do the singing,” he once said[8†]. His collections of poetry include Poemas y antipoemas (1954), Obra gruesa (1969), Artefactos (1972), Hojas de Parra (1985), Obras completas & algo (2006), and Obras Completas, II & algo más (2011), among many others[8†][2†].

Parra’s work has been translated into English in the collections Poems and Antipoems (1967), Antipoems: New and Selected (1985), Antipoems: How to Look Better & Feel Great (trans. Liz Werner, 2004), and After-Dinner Declarations (trans. Dave Oliphant, 2009)[8†]. He died in 2018 at the age of 103[8†][2†].

Parra’s unique style of writing, his contributions to literature and academia, and his influence on Latin American poetry make him a notable figure in the world of literature and beyond[8†][2†][15†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Britannica - Nicanor Parra: Latin-American poet [website] - link
  2. Wikipedia (English) - Nicanor Parra [website] - link
  3. Simple Wikipedia (English) - Nicanor Parra [website] - link
  4. Poetry International - Nicanor Parra [website] - link
  5. The Independent - Nicanor Parra: Chilean physicist who became the father of ‘anti-poetry’ [website] - link
  6. eNotes - Nicanor Parra Biography [website] - link
  7. AP News - Chilean poet, physicist Nicanor Parra dies at 103 [website] - link
  8. Poetry Foundation - Nicanor Parra [website] - link
  9. ActualidadLiteratura - Biography and works of Nicanor Parra, the Chilean antipoet. [website] - link
  10. eNotes - Nicanor Parra Analysis [website] - link
  11. JSTOR - Nicanor Parra: Antipoetry, Retraction and Silence [website] - link
  12. eNotes - Nicanor Parra Critical Essays [website] - link
  13. CelebsAgeWiki - Nicanor Parra Biography, Age, Height, Wife, Net Worth, Family [website] - link
  14. USA TODAY - Chilean 'anti-poet' Nicanor Parra dies at 103 [website] - link
  15. Totallyhistory.com - Nicanor Parra: The Renowned Chilean Poet and Anti-Poet - Totally History [website] - link
  16. Culture Trip - Why is Chile the Land of Poets? [website] - link
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