Sunday, August 23, 2015

Three (or fewer) choices

Here is a link to an anthology of English translations of work by Chilean poet and mathematician, Nicanor Parra.   Some rank Nicanor Segundo Parra Sandoval (born 5 September 1914) among the most important poets of Spanish language literature.   Parra describes himself as an "anti-poet," having a distaste for poetic pomp and function; after recitations he exclaims "Me retracto de todo lo dicho" ("I take back everything I said").  I posted Parra's small poem "Thoughts" here in October, 2010-- and below I offer another example of Parra's play with ideas and words and numbers:   

       The Last Toast   by Nicanor Parra

       Whether we like it or not,
       We have only three choices:
       Yesterday, today and tomorrow.  

       And not even three
       Because as the philosopher says
       Yesterday is yesterday
       It belongs to us only in memory:
       From the rose already plucked
       No more petals can be drawn.

       The cards to play
       Are only two:
       The present and the future.

       And there aren't even two
       Because it's a known fact
       The present doesn't exist
       Except as it edges past
       And is consumed...,
       like youth.

       In the end
       We are only left with tomorrow.
       I raise my glass
       To the day that never arrives.

       But that is all
       we have at our disposal.

Although "The Last Toast" is not posted at Parra's website, I found it here at  (No translator is named and I am supposing that the English is by Parra.)

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