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The Dirty Goat – 2007

The Dirty Goat, published by Host Publications of Austin, Texas, is dedicated primarily to featuring literature from around the globe. This issue includes original works in Russian, Spanish, and Portuguese among other languages with English translations. There is also unique work by U.S. writers, none of whom I have heard of before. There is no editorial, but visual artists and translators provide commentary.

The Dirty Goat, published by Host Publications of Austin, Texas, is dedicated primarily to featuring literature from around the globe. This issue includes original works in Russian, Spanish, and Portuguese among other languages with English translations. There is also unique work by U.S. writers, none of whom I have heard of before. There is no editorial, but visual artists and translators provide commentary.

Most thought-provoking to me about this issue was the section on “The New Chilean Poetry and Its Nonagenarian Antipoet.” Translator Dave Oliphant discusses the history of a tradition that begins more or less with Vicente Huidobro and Gabriela Mistral in the late 19th Century and runs through the present. He describes the movement strongly influenced by Huidobro called “antipoetry,” which rejects the “classical, mythological lens” in favor of a “realistic, surrealistic or ‘antipoetic’” vision. His essay made me feel I had a better context for understanding other modern Latin American poetry I’d been reading, for example, Mexico’s Rosario Castellanos. Though discussed in terms of Chile, this movement has had broad influence.

Oliphant doesn’t try to neatly fit all the poets he translates within the confines of “antipoetry”; however, featured poems share certain characteristics: free verse that seldom nods at all to traditional forms, a lack of punctuation, a fusion of sensory details with bold statements, and giddy homages to poets, singers, artists, and mythical figures.

The poem that grabbed me most for its playfulness is an excerpt from “Also Sprach Altazor” by the nonagenarian himself, Nicanor Parra, who speaks of his poetic god/hero, Huidobro:

What would become of Chilean poetry with out this duende [Huidobro]
It’s easy to imagine
Certainly there would be no freedom of speech
we would all be scribbling Sonnets
Elemental Odes
Or groans

Praised be his Holiness!

In another section, Parra’s poem, asks: “What is Poetry?” And answers: “Life in words / an enigma that refuses to be deciphered by professors / A little truth and an aspirin / You yourself are antipoetry.”

We may have seen such spirited, unabashed declarations in Whitman and the Beats, but seldom would they make it out of an MFA workshop today. This issue of The Dirty Goat, beyond the Chilean section, offers a varied sample of writing that is outside the box.
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