Paying Homage to Nicanor Parra
On Tuesday 1 May, Oxford paid homage to the Chilean writer, physicist and mathematician, Nicanor Parra (Honorary Fellow and alumnus of St Catherine’s Society). Creator of ‘Anti-Poetry’ and one of the most influential poets in contemporary Hispanic literature, Parra died earlier this year aged 103.
Organised by the University of Oxford Spanish sub-faculty and the Oxford Chilean Society, the ‘Homage to Nicanor Parra’ event took place in the Taylor Institution Library and featured a range of poetry readings, presentations and displays. The evening, chaired by Dr Dominic Moran (Tutor in Spanish, Christ Church), started with greetings from the Chilean Ambassador to the UK, Rolando Drago, followed by a talk by Professor Ben Bollig (Fellow and Tutor in Spanish, St Catz), poetry readings in Spanish and English of Parra’s poem Warning to the Reader, and a video and vinyl with some of Parra’s thoughts and poetry readings. The event was well attended, gathering an enthusiastic audience of students, professors, and Chilean nationals living locally.
As well as hosting the event, the Taylor Institution Library was home to a book display throughout May, curated by Ben Bollig and Spanish subject librarian Joanne Ferrarian. It featured early editions of some of Parra’s most important works, as well as later anthologies and examples of the innovative formats of his publications.
The event was an opportunity to remember his life and work at the University that he called home from 1949 to 1951. Parra studied Cosmology at St Catz, where he wrote Poems and Antipoems (initially titled Oxford 1950). In 2000, Parra was elected an Honorary Fellow of St Catz, and in 2011 he was awarded the Cervantes Prize, largely considered the most prestigious award in Hispanic literature. His work has been recognised all over the world, renowned for its use of colloquial, frank and ironic language nearer to ‘the common people’, aiming, as Parra put it, “to lower the poets from Olympus”.
Article and photos provided by: Elisa Ariztía (Cultural Events Officer, Oxford Chilean Society) and Ángeles Molina (Communications Officer, Oxford Chilean Society)
Header photo: Alamy