The Nobel Prize
The Nobel Prize for Reading
should be awarded to me
I am the ideal reader,
I read everything I get my hands on:
[And then follows a list of everything this fellow reads, the usual stuff, although he avoids the cliché of the cereal box]
I need to interrupt for a moment. I’d been planning to spend the week writing about, oh, other things. Sailing on a big lake. Building siege machines. Riding through the woods. Breathing poisonous fumes. That will have to wait until next week. Instead, I wrote about writing, about how to write, and, really, about reading.
We all – I beg you to correct me if I’m wrong – we all want to write well and read well. I sometimes pick up hints that suggest otherwise, but I must misunderstand them.
for a person like me
the word is something holy
members of the jury
what would I gain by lying
as a reader, I’m relentless
These lines are from an anti-poem by Chilean anti-poet Nicanor Parra, found in the anti-collection Antipoems: How to look better & feel great (New Directions, 2004), anti-translated by Liz Werner. Please do not confuse this book, as is only natural, and as I did myself, with Parra’s Poemas y Antipoemas (1954).
The "anti-" of the anti-poem is not meant to suggest the word "against" as much as to create an analogy with anti-matter (Parra is a physicist and mathematician). If the poem ever meets the anti-poem, they will both be annihilated.
Reading the anti-poem is perhaps a mistake. I should anti-read it, and then anti-write about it on my anti-blog. Perhaps I should abandon reading entirely in favor of anti-reading. I have enough trouble reading well, though. I fear it is too late to master the skill of anti-reading, much less anti-writing. If only I had taken up anti-reading years ago, decades ago.
The great reader in the poem understands:
of course these days I don’t read much
I simply don’t have the time
but – oh man – what I have read
that’s why I’m asking you to give me
the Nobel Prize for reading
as soon as impossible
Do not hesitate to visit Parra’s anti-website. Readers of Robert Bolaño not well-versed in South American anti-verse, readers of Nazi Literature in the Americas and The Savage Detectives, will find a glance at Parra to be most instructive.
I suppose, for lack of a better idea, lack of imagination, I will continue reading, relentlessly.