Último Brindis / The Last Toast

Nicanor Parra Sandoval (born September 5, 1914) is a Chilean mathematician and poet who is not only popular in his native Chile but across Latin American and probably one of the more important poets of the Spanish language literature. He describes himself as an “anti-poet,” due to his distaste for standard poetic pomp and function—after recitations he would exclaim Me retracto de todo lo dicho, or, “I take back everything I said”.

I can’t remember when I first read his words,  in both Spanish and English…but they blew me away.  I was going to say this is one of my favorite among his poems – but that would be a lie…since almost every time I read Nicanor Parra, it could be one of my favorite poems.

Primero la versión original en español –

 

ÚLTIMO BRINDIS

 

Lo queramos o no

Sólo tenemos tres alternativas:

El ayer, el presente y el mañana.

 

Y ni siquiera tres

Porque como dice el filósofo

El ayer es ayer

Nos pertenece sólo en el recuerdo:

A la rosa que ya se deshojó

No se le puede sacar otro pétalo.

 

Las cartas por jugar

Son solamente dos:

El presente y el día de mañana.

Y ni siquiera dos

Porque es un hecho bien establecido

Que el presente no existe

Sino en la medida en que se hace pasado

Y ya pasó…,

como la juventud.

 

En resumidas cuentas

Sólo nos va quedando el mañana:

Yo levanto mi copa

Por ese día que no llega nunca

Pero que es lo único

De lo que realmente disponemos.

 

 

And the English translation –

 

THE LAST TOAST

 

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.

 

En una entrevista, Parra dijo, “no tan solo el poeta es la voz de la tribu, sino también la conciencia de la tribu. O sea que el poeta tiene que estar en condiciones de señalar el camino.”

He said, when interviewed, “the poet isn’t merely the voice of the tribe…he is also the conscience of the tribe. That is to say, the poet has to be ready…to show the way.”

Parra dice de su poesía: “Además, ¿quién es el que habla en estos textos? Escribí una frase que vale la pena: Je est personne, Yo es nadie. En oposición a la gran frase de Rimbaud: Je est un autre, Yo es otro.

Parra asks, about his own poems: “And really, who is the person who is talking in these lines? I once wrote something that I believe in: Je est personne, I is nobody. Which of course is the opposite of Rimbaud’s famous words: Je est un autre, I is someone else.”

Tomorrow.  The day that never arrives. For someone who is no one.

I’ll sleep on that.

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