Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Nicanor Perra, from "How to Look Better and Feel Great"

"The Last Toast"
(Nicanor Perra)

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.

Nicanor Perra turned 97 years old yesterday, September 5. His 2004 book with translations by Liz Warner is Antipoems - How To Look Better And Feel Great. Allen Ginsberg, 1990: "Nicanor Parra is an old friend of (Lawrence) Ferlinghetti and myself. In fact, Ferlinghetti published his first book in the United States, Antipoems (Pocket Poets #12, City Lights, 1960), and we both worked on translations of one long poem, or middle-sized poem, of that time ('Soliloquio del Individuo' - 'The Soliloquy of the Individual' or 'The Individual Soliloquy'." A recording of the author reading it in its original Spanish may be heard here. Here's the Ginsberg-Ferlinghetti translation.

(Ginsberg quote and links from the Allen Ginsberg Project website. Photograph by Claudio PĂ©rez.)

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