Manifesto - Nicanor Parra

Manifesto - Photographic Portrait of Nicanor Parra
Photographic Portrait of Nicanor Parra

The poem entitled Manifesto was written by the outstanding Chilean poet Nicanor Parra (5 September 1914 – 23 January 2018) and was first published in 1963 in Número journal, Uruguay. In 1969 it was included in the poetry collection Obra Gruesa, published by Editorial Universitaria publishing house, Chile.

Nicanor Parra - Manifesto

Ladies and gentlemen
This is our last word
– Our first and last word –
The poets have come down from Olympus.

For the oldest
Poetry was a kind of luxury
For us, however
First need is:
We can’t live without poetry.

Unlike the older ones
– And I say this with all due respect –
We support
That the poet is not an alchemist
The poet is a man, too
A builder who builds his wall:
A door and window manufacturer.

We talk
In the language of everyday
We don’t believe in cabbalistic signs

And something else:
The poet is here
So the tree doesn’t grow crookedly.

This is our message.
We denounce the poet creator
The cheap poet
The rat in the library poet.
All these gentlemen
– And I say this with all due respect –
Should be accused and judged
For building castles in the air
For waste space and time
Composing sonnets for the moon
For grouping words together at random
According to the latest Paris fashion.
For us not:
Thought is not born in the mouth
It is born in the heart of the heart.

We renounce
The poetry of dark glasses
The poetry of the cape and the sword
The poetry of the shadow of a big wing.
Instead, we favour
The poetry of the naked eye
The poetry of the uncovered chest
The poetry of the naked head.

We do not believe in nymphs or tritons.
Poetry must be this:
A girl surrounded by sprigs
Or, it is absolutely nothing.

Now, at a political level
These are our direct ancestors
Our good direct ancestors!
They were refracted and dispersed
Passing through a crystal prism.
Some of them became communists.
I do not know if they really were.
Suppose, however, they were.
What I know is this:
They were noτ folk poets
They have been venerable bourgeois poets.
Things must be called by their name:
Only one or two
Have touched people heart.
Whenever they found the opportunity
They were expressed in words and in action
Against guided poetry
Against the poetry of today
Against the poetry of proletariat.

Even if we accept as they were communists
Their poetry was a disaster
Second hand surrealism
Third hand decadentism,
Old planks returned by the sea.
Poetry of the adjectives
Poetry nasal, laryngeal
Poetry arbitrary
Poetry copied from books
Poetry based
In the revolution of words
While it should be based
In the revolution of ideas.
Vicious cycle poetry
for a half a dozen chosen ones
“Absolute freedom of expression”

Today we cross ourselves asking
Why did they write these things,
To scare the petty bourgeois?
Miserably wasted time!
The petty bourgeois don’t react
Unless it’s about their stomach.

Do not they scare with poems!

Things are as follows:
While they supported
A poetry of the twilight
A poetry of the night time
We recommend
The poetry of dawn.
Our message is this:
The flashes of poetry
Must arrive to everyone, equally
Poetry is enough for everyone.

Nothing further, companions
We condemn
– And I say this with all due respect –
Poetry of the little god
Poetry of the sacred cow
Poetry of the furious bull.

Against the poetry of the clouds
We set up
The poetry of solid ground
– Cold head, warm heart
We are decidedly solid-groundists –
Against the poetry of the cafe
We set the poetry of nature
Against the poetry of the loungeroom
The poetry of the public square
The poetry of social protest.

The poets have come down from Olympus.

Translation: Agroikos

Manifesto is a poem from the collection Obra Gruesa of 1969

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