Sunday, August 28, 2005


Last Tuesday, A.D. broke his self-imposed exile from blogland to post this marvellous translation he did of a Nicanor Parra poem. (Since then he has posted other minimal things, so I don't know if he is "off" or "on": the blogging addiction is hard to break…maybe someone should design a twelve-step program!)

The poem I reproduce here, in case (who knows?) he pulls the plug on "Ironic Points of Light".

The imaginary man
lives in an imaginary mansion
surrounded by imaginary trees
bordering an imaginary river

on the walls that are imaginary
hang old imaginary paintings
unmendable imaginary cracks
that represent imaginary deeds
done in imaginary worlds
in imaginary times and places

every afternoon-imaginary afternoons
he ascends the imaginary stairs
and shows himself to the imaginary balcony
to look at the imaginary landscape
that consists of an imaginary valley
encircled by imaginary hills

imaginary shadows
come down the imaginary path
chanting imaginary songs
to the death of the imaginary sun

and on imaginary moonlit nights
he dreams of the imaginary woman
who offered him her imaginary love
he feels that same pain again
that same imaginary pleasure
and his heart
the heart of the imaginary man
beats again.

The following is some e-mail correspondence we had about the poem:

This poem hinges a fabulous idea. One of those that
makes me say, damn it, why didn't I think of that????
Thanks for translating it! And am I glad you stepped
back into blogland to share it with us!

Posted by Brian Campbell to Ironic points of light. at
8/25/2005 01:33:10 AM



I think the most powerful lines/arguments of the poem
are those which omit the "imaginary". It's so simple,
yet so subtly forceful.


Hi Adam.

You're absolutely right! The constant repetition of "imaginary" builds expectation, and when that expectation is surprised, awareness is quickened, the heart may even skip a beat -- even if the "conscious" mind is unaware. (It's a principle I see practiced in some songs -- deliberate minor variation of a refrain.) Look too at the lines where it is omitted (I'm sure you saw it, you translated it!) -- the suggestion is that among all these imaginary things, the pain is real, the heart is real (tho imaginary).

I've printed out the poem and am saving it for my next reading. (I always read at least one poem by someone else.)

Thanks again.


A.D. wrote,

There is another poem by Parra that mentions the
reality of verbs vs. nouns etc. I'll have to see if I
can find it. It's interesting to note how none of the
actions are deemed imaginary.

Also, the last two lines of the Spanish original I
have are translated literally as "and it beats again /
his heart of the imaginary man", which is oddly
suggestive. Unfortunately, I think this is a typo and
the lines should read "y vuelve a palpitar / el
corazón del hombre imaginario."


Hi Adam,

I think this discussion would be of value as a blog post. Would you care if I post it on my blog? (That would ensure that you continue your hiatus unbroken -- unless it become a hernia...)



AD wrote,

I was mistaken concerning the other poem:

In reality there are no adjectives
nor conjunctions nor prepositions
who has ever seen an And
outside of Bello's Grammar?
in reality there are only actions and things
a man dancing with a woman
a woman nursing her baby
a funeral--a tree--a cow
the interjection is given by the subject
the adverb is given by the professor
and the verb 'to be' is a hallucination of the philosopher.
from Sermones y predicas del Cristo de Elqui

I believe I had posted this to my blog at one point and then deleted it.

Post as you'd like.

P.S. Since posting the above, AD has removed the post saying he was stopping his blog -- and the post with the "imaginary man" too. I suppose we're all imaginary men.

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